NASA Chief Says Ban On Chinese Partnerships Is Temporary 62

An anonymous reader writes: Current head of NASA Charles Bolden has spoken out against the 4-year-old ban on collaborating with China. According to Bolden working with the Chinese is vital to the future of space exploration. Reuters reports: "The United States should include China in its human space projects or face being left out of new ventures to send people beyond the International Space Station, NASA chief Charles Bolden said on Monday. Since 2011, the U.S. space agency has been banned by Congress from collaborating with China, due to human rights issues and national security concerns. China is not a member of the 15-nation partnership that owns and operates the station, a permanently staffed research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, but Bolden says working China will be necessary in the future."

Electoral System That Lessig Hopes To Reform Is Keeping Him Out of the Debate ( 227

schwit1 writes: Lessig has raised a million dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he's being given the cold shoulder by the Democrats when it comes to participating in the debates. I think he's got a good argument for being included — he's certainly as serious a candidate as some of the others, and I'm hearing a lot about his campaign.

Why are they keeping Lessig out? According to Lessig, it's for the same reason he wants in: "My view is that if we can get this message [of reform] into the debate it would change the dynamics of this Democratic primary entirely. This issue framed in this way totally blows up the Democratic primary."

Hillary and Bernie, he says, are promising the moon to voters, but can't deliver. Lessig told me, "If I can get on that stage and say the rocket can't get off the ground, and we have to change this dynamic first," the narrative shifts in a way that the leading candidates can't address.

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2016 Election Cycle Led By Billionaire Donors 363

Nicola Hahn writes: The pluralist stance of American politics contends that true power in the United States has been constitutionally vested in "the people" through mechanisms like the electoral process, freedom of speech, and the ability to establish political parties. The traditional view is that these aspects of our political system result in a broad distribution of power that prevents any one faction from gaining an inordinate amount of influence. And today the New York Times has revealed the shortcomings of this narrative by publishing the names of the 158 wealthy families that have donated almost half of the money spent towards the 2016 presidential race. This group of donors is primarily Republican and is dominated by interests in the banking industry. These facts lend credence to the idea that national policy making is influenced heavily by a relatively small group of people. That the American body politic is largely controlled by a deep state.

Another Drone Crashes Near White House ( 57

An anonymous reader writes: A man has been given a citation for flying a Drone near the Washington Monument and crashing on the Ellipse, a grassy area outside of the security perimeter near the White House South Lawn. Howard Solomon III said he had been trying to take pictures of the monument and that the wind blew the drone across a street that divides the Ellipse from the grounds of the Washington Monument. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Park Police says Solomon didn't appear to be doing anything 'nefarious' but added, hat this was the ninth time a drone has been flown in a national park in the greater Washington area in 2015 and the 26th since 2013.

NASA Releases 'Journey To Mars' Plan -- But Not a Budget ( 167

MarkWhittington writes: NASA released a document describing the steps involved in its Journey to Mars program (PDF). But, as the Wall Street Journal suggests, the "plan" has a conspicuous lack of specifics. It doesn't go into how much the program will cost or what intermediate steps have to be taken before human beings set foot on Mars in the 2030s. This is likely because of the upcoming and subsequent changes of governing administrations — the space agency's deep space exploration goals are likely to get a reevaluation. The plan serves as a public relations document more than anything else.

China Arrests Hackers At Behest of US Government ( 74

An anonymous reader writes: For the first time, the Chinese government has arrested a group of hackers at the request of the United States. The hackers are suspected of having "stolen commercial secrets" from companies in the U.S., which were then passed on to Chinese competitors. "The arrests come amid signs of a potential change in the power balance between the U.S. and Chinese governments on commercial cyberespionage, one of the most fraught issues between the two countries. For years, U.S. firms and officials have said Beijing hasn't done enough to crack down on digital larceny." It's a big first step in establishing a functional cybersecurity relationship between the two nations. Now, everyone will be watching to see if China follows up the arrests with prosecution. "A public trial is important not only because that would be consistent with established principles of criminal justice, but because it could discourage other would-be hackers and show that the arrests were not an empty gesture."

US Government Will Not Force Companies To Decode Encrypted Data... For Now ( 108

Mark Wilson writes: The Obama administration has announced it will not require companies to decrypt encrypted messages for law enforcement agencies. This is being hailed as a "partial victory" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation; partial because, as reported by the Washington Post, the government "will not — for now — call for [such] legislation." This means companies will not be forced to build backdoors into their products, but there is no guarantee it won't happen further down the line. The government wants to continue talks with the technology industry to find a solution, but leaving things in limbo for the time being will create a sense of unease on both sides of the debate. The EFF has also compiled a report showing where the major tech companies stand on encryption.

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 479

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 143

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 176

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

EU Court of Justice Declares US-EU Data Transfer Pact Invalid 203

Sique writes: Europe's highest court ruled on Tuesday that a widely used international agreement for moving people's digital data between the European Union and the United States was invalid. The decision, by the European Court of Justice, throws into doubt how global technology giants like Facebook and Google can collect, manage and analyze online information from their millions of users in the 28-member bloc. The court decreed that the data-transfer agreement was invalid as of Tuesday's ruling. New submitter nava68 adds links to coverage at the Telegraph; also at TechWeek Europe. From TechWeek Europe's article: The ruling was the court’s final decision in a data-protection case brought by 27-year-old Austrian law student Max Schrems against the Irish data protection commissioner. That case, in turn, was spurred by Schrems’ concerns over the collection of his personal data by Facebook, whose European headquarters is in Ireland, and the possibility that the data was being handed over to US intelligence services.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached 278

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that negotiators have finally reached agreement over the Trans-Pacific Partnership from the U.S. and 11 other nations. The TPP has been in development for eight years, and has the potential to dramatically strengthen U.S. economic ties to east Asia. Though the negotiations have been done in secret, the full text of the agreement should be published within a month. Congress (and the legislative houses of the other participating countries) will have 90 days to review it and decide whether to ratify it. The TPP has been criticized in tech circles for how it regards intellectual property and facilitates website blocking, among other issues.

Proponents will also have to answer broader questions about whether it stifles competition, how it treats individuals versus large corporations, as if it creates environmental problems. To give you an idea of how complex it is: "The Office of the United States Trade Representative said the partnership eventually would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on United States exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products ranging from avocados in California to wheat, pork and beef from the Plains states."

4 Calif. Students Arrested For Alleged Mass-Killing Plot 450

The New York Times reports that four high school students in the small California town of Tuolumne, about 120 miles east of San Francisco, have been arrested, but not yet charged, for planning an attack on their school, Summerville High School. According to the Times, three of the four were overheard discussing this plot, and a fourth conspirator was later identified. Their goal, according to Toulumne sheriff James Mele, was "to shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus"; they had not however been able yet to obtain the weapons they wanted to carry out the attack. From NBC News' version of the story: "Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School," Mele said. "The suspects' plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out."
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US Bombs Hit Doctors Without Borders Hospital 409

Prune writes: According to multiple news sources, U.S. airstrikes partially destroyed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan, killing at least nine staff members and at least 50 overall, including patients, and this after giving its coordinates to U.S. forces multiple times. I'm especially saddened to report this given I had become one of the supporters of this charity after recommendations from Slashdot members in a discussion about choosing charities to donate to a while back.

DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords 399

schwit1 writes: Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor's conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password.
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The FAA Has Missed Its Congressionally Mandated Deadline To Regulate Drones 184

derekmead writes: When Congress passed the FAA Modernization Act in 2012, it gave the agency until September 30, 2015 to fully regulate commercial drones for use in the United States. Well, it's October 1, and we're left with a patchwork of regulatory band-aids, quasi-legal "guidelines," and a small drone rule that still hasn't gone into effect yet. This news shouldn't surprise anyone. The agency has missed most every milestone—both internal and lawmaker mandated—that has been set for it. The last two years have been fraught with lawsuits, confusion on enforcement within its own local offices (some FAA agents have told pilots they can't post videos on YouTube, for example), and various conflicting guidelines as to who can fly a drone where, and for what purposes.

The Global Struggle To Prevent Cyberwar 57

blottsie writes: What constitutes war in the 21st century? In an age of almost constant cyberattacks against major corporations and world governments, the consensus among international-law experts is clear: Nobody knows. This sweeping Daily Dot investigation explores the ongoing struggle to define "cyberwar," the increasing geopolitical aggression in cyberspace, and the major players now attempting to write the rules of online battlefields before it's too late.

"Technical experts and legal scholars repeatedly stress that the idea of a 'cyber Pearl Harbor'—a devastating sneak attack on U.S. infrastructure by a powerful state actor that launched a sustained international conflict—is wildly overblown. Right now, Watts said, 'states bite at one another’s ankles in a way to impede progress or to harass them,' but 'as for the likelihood of a major cyber war, I would rate it pretty low.'

Cyber armageddon may be extremely unlikely, but the many attacks below the level of formal armed conflict have still extracted a staggering price, in both economic and political terms. ... For starters, cyber-arms control is effectively hopeless. There’s no point, experts say, in trying to contain the spread of offensive cyber technology. Instead, the best hope for international law is to focus on reducing the incentives for malicious behavior."

NY Times: Temporary Visas To Import Talent Help Copycats Take Jobs Abroad 231

ErichTheRed writes: A new article from the NY Times surprised me. It describes what we in the IT industry see all the time — H-1B visas being used way outside of their original purpose. I think this is significant because the article describes the problem well and shows how Tata, Accenture, etc. are offshoring regular office work as well as IT work. I feel that showing the average Joe/Jane that their nice safe middle class office job isn't so safe is the only way to sway popular opinion on this important matter! Reader theodp notes that Congress is making H-1B visa less costly for India-based IT services providers.

FBI and DEA Under Review For Misuse of NSA Mass Surveillance Data 86

Patrick O'Neill writes: The FBI and DEA were among the agencies fed information from an NSA surveillance program described as "staggering" by one judge who helped strike the program down. Now the two agencies are under review by the Justice Department for the use of parallel construction as well as looking into the specifics and results of cases originating from NSA tips. (Here's some more on the practice of parallel construction in this context.)
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Raytheon Wins US Civilian Cyber Contract Worth $1 Billion 62

Tokolosh writes: Raytheon is a company well-known in military-industrial and political circles, but not so much for software, networking and cybersecurity. That has not stopped the DHS awarding it a $1 billion, five year contract to help more than 100 civilian agencies manage their computer security. Raytheon said DHS selected it to be the prime contractor and systems integrator for the agency's Network Security Deployment (NSD) division, and its National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS). The contract runs for five years, but some orders could be extended for up to an additional 24 months, it said. Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, said the company had invested over $3.5 billion in recent years to expand its cybersecurity capabilities. He said cybersecurity incidents had increased an average of 66 percent a year worldwide between 2009 and 2014. As you might expect, Raytheon spends heavily on political contributions and lobbying.