Government

Two Years Later, White House Responds To 'Pardon Edward Snowden' Petition 472 472

An anonymous reader writes: In June of 2013, a petition was posted to Whitehouse.gov demanding that Edward Snowden receive a full pardon for his leaks about the NSA and U.S. surveillance practices. The petition swiftly passed 100,000 signatures — the point at which the White House said it would officially respond to such petitions. For two years, the administration was silent, but now they've finally responded. In short: No, Edward Snowden won't be receiving a pardon.

Lisa Monaco, the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said, "Mr. Snowden's dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it. If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions."
Businesses

Trillion-Dollar World Trade Deal Aims To Make IT Products Cheaper 96 96

itwbennett writes: A new (tentative) global trade agreement, struck on Friday at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, eliminates tariffs on more than 200 kinds of IT products, ranging from smartphones, routers, and ink cartridges to video game consoles and telecommunications satellites. A full list of products covered was published by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which called the ITA expansion 'great news for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture, and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles.' The deal covers $1.3 trillion worth of global trade, about 7 percent of total trade today. The deal has approval from 49 countries, and is waiting on just a handful more before it becomes official,
Bitcoin

Winklevoss Twins Get Closer To Launching Their Bitcoin Exchange 92 92

An anonymous reader writes: Reuters has an update on the Winklevoss twins plan to launch a regulated Bitcoin exchange called Gemini. The two have filed a New York trust application necessary for them to launch their Gemini bitcoin exchange. If approved, the exchange would be able to accept deposits, and issue loans. The twins say they want to make digital currency mainstream in the United States.
United States

Modernizing the Copyright Office 49 49

An anonymous reader writes: Joshua Simmons has written a new article discussing the growing consensus that it is time to modernize the Copyright Office. It reviews the developments that led to the last major revision of the Copyright Act; discusses Congress's focus since 1976 on narrower copyright bills, rather than a wholesale revision of U.S. copyright law, and the developments that have led to the review hearings; and considers the growing focus on Copyright Office modernization.
Google

Plan To Run Anti-Google Smear Campaign Revealed In MPAA Emails 246 246

vivaoporto writes: Techdirt reports on a plan to run an anti-Google smear campaign via the Today Show and the WSJ discovered in MPAA emails. Despite the resistance of the Hollywood studios to comply with the subpoenas obtained by Google concerning their relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (whose investigation of the company appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves) one of the few emails that Google have been able to get access to so far was revealed this Thursday in a filling. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google.

The lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories. One email reads: "Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed."

As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. This makes it pretty clear that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works.
Education

Senate Passes 'No Microsoft National Talent Strategy Goal Left Behind Act' 132 132

theodp writes: Microsoft is applauding the Senate's passage of the Every Child Achieves Act, a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying the move will improve access to K-12 STEM learning nationwide. The legislation elevates Computer Science to a "core academic subject", opening the door to a number of funding opportunities. The major overhaul of the U.S. K-12 education system, adds Microsoft on the Issues, also "advances some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," its "two-pronged" plan to increase K-12 CS education and tech immigration. Perhaps Microsoft is tackling the latter goal in under-the-radar White House visits with the leaders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, like this one, attended by Microsoft's William "It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway" Kamela and FWD.us President Joe "Save Us From Just-Sort-of-OK US Workers" Green.
The Courts

Georgia Lawmakers Sue Carl Malamud For Publishing Georgia Law 292 292

TechDirt reports that the state of Georgia is unhappy enough with Carl Malamud for publishing the state's own laws that it's sued Malamud for doing so. From the article: The specific issue here is that while the basic Georgia legal code is available to the public, the state charges a lot of money for the "Official Code of Georgia Annotated." The distinction here is fairly important -- but it's worth noting that the courts will regularly rely on the annotations in the official code, which more or less makes them a part of the law itself. The article uses the word "ridiculous" only 10 times; they're taking it easy on the poor legislators.
Wireless Networking

Cell Service At US Airports Varies From 1st Class To Middle-seat Coach 40 40

alphadogg writes with this NetworkWorld story about the wide disparity in wireless coverage available at airports across the U.S.. Atlanta scores very high while Los Angeles International is less than mediocre. According to the story: You can download an episode of your favorite show in less than a minute and a half on Verizon Wireless at Atlanta's airport—or spend 13 hours doing the same over T-Mobile USA at Los Angeles International. The comparison of 45-minute HD video downloads illustrates the wide variation in cellular service at U.S. airports, which RootMetrics laid out in a report for the first half of 2015 that's being issued Thursday. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson is the best place to go mobile and Verizon covers airports best overall, but just like security lines and de-icing delays, it all depends.
United States

"Breaking Bad" At the National Institute of Standards and Technology 98 98

sciencehabit writes: Police are investigating whether an explosion inside a Maryland federal laboratory was the result of an effort to make drugs. Authorities who responded to the explosion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion and if a security guard injured in the blast might have been involved. Sciencemag reports: "Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, got involved today, expressing grave concern over the incident in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. NIST is part of the Commerce Department. 'I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities,' wrote Smith in an accompanying press release. He has requested a briefing with NIST no later than 29 July."
Privacy

US Court: 'Pocket-Dialed' Calls Are Not Private 179 179

itwbennett writes: In a case of a pocket-dialed call, a conscientious secretary, and sensitive personnel issues, a federal appeals court in Ohio has ruled pocket-dialers shouldn't have any expectation of privacy. 'Under the plain-view doctrine, if a homeowner neglects to cover a window with drapes, he would lose his reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to a viewer looking into the window from outside of his property,' the court said. The same applies to pocket-dialed calls, according to the court. If a person doesn't take reasonable steps to keep their call private, their communications are not protected by the Wiretap Act.
The Almighty Buck

19-Year-Old's Supercomputer Chip Startup Gets DARPA Contract, Funding 150 150

An anonymous reader writes: 19-year-old Thomas Sohmers, who launched his own supercomputer chip startup back in March, has won a DARPA contract and funding for his company. Rex Computing, is currently finishing up the architecture of its final verified RTL, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The new Neo chips will be sampled next year, before moving into full production in mid-2017.The Platform reports: "In addition to the young company’s first round of financing, Rex Computing has also secured close to $100,000 in DARPA funds. The full description can be found midway down this DARPA document under 'Programming New Computers,' and has, according to Sohmers, been instrumental as they start down the verification and early tape out process for the Neo chips. The funding is designed to target the automatic scratch pad memory tools, which, according to Sohmers is the 'difficult part and where this approach might succeed where others have failed is the static compilation analysis technology at runtime.'"
Australia

Studies Find Genetic Signature of Native Australians In the Americas 97 97

Applehu Akbar writes: Two new research papers claim to have found an Australo-Melanesian DNA signal in the genetic makeup of Native Americans, dating to about the time of the last glacial maximum. This may move the speculation around the Clovis people and Kennewick man to an entirely new level. Let's hope that it at least shakes loose some more funding for North American archaeology. Ars reports: "The exact process by which humanity introduced itself to the Americas has always been controversial. While there's general agreement on the most important migration—across the Bering land bridge at the end of the last ice age—there's a lot of arguing over the details. Now, two new papers clarify some of the bigger picture but also introduce a new wrinkle: there's DNA from the distant Pacific floating around in the genomes of Native Americans. And the two groups disagree about how it got there."
Youtube

There Is No "Next Great Copyright Act", Remain Calm 93 93

Lirodon writes: A YouTube video has gone viral, particularly around the art community (and the subsection of the art community populated by the same type of people who tend to spread these around to begin with), making bold claims that a revision to U.S. copyright law is being considered, with a particular focus on orphan works. Among other things, this video claims that it would require all works to be registered with a for-profit registry to be protected, that unregistered works would be "orphaned" and be usable by "good faith infringers" and allow others to make derivative works that they would own entirely. Thankfully, this is all just hyperbole proliferated by a misinterpretation of a report on orphan works by the U.S. Copyright Office, as Graphic Policy explains.
The Military

Report: US Military Is Wasting Millions On Satellite Comms 154 154

An anonymous reader writes: Fast information exchange is the key to a powerful military, and satellites have been an incredible boon to the commanders of modern fighting forces. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. military is vastly overpaying for its satellite communications, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. They say the Department of Defense "has become increasingly reliant on commercial SATCOM to support ongoing U.S. military operations." You see, every part of the DoD is required to go through the Defense Information Systems Agency when procuring SATCOM equipment. The problem is that this process is incredibly slow, and fraught with red tape. Because of this, many in the military skip DISA and go straight to commercial providers — at a steep markup. The GAO estimates that this cost taxpayers around $45 million extra in a single year.
United States

New Molecular Transistor Can Control Single Electrons 46 46

Eloking writes: An international team of scientists has been able to create a microscopic transistor made up of one single molecule and a number of atoms. Gizmag reports: "Researchers from Germany, Japan and the United States have managed to create a tiny, reliable transistor assembled from a single molecule and a dozen additional atoms. The transistor reportedly operates so precisely that it can control the flow of single electrons, paving the way for the next generation of nanomaterials and miniaturized electronics." The team that conducted the research included teams from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan.
Education

US Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years 280 280

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. won the International Mathematical Olympiad for the first time in 21 years. Gender diversity is brought up in this NPR article because the eight team members on the U.S. team were all male, but they made a point to mention that of the top 12 people participating in the U.S. Math Olympiad, 2 are female, which is better than last year when there were no females in the top 12. "I will say that it's not really a super-great spectator sport, in the sense that if you are watching them, it will look like they are thinking," Po-Shen Loh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and head coach for Team USA says. "Although I will assure you that inside their heads, if you could spectate, that would be quite a sport."
Government

Despite Triage, US Federal Cybersecurity Still Lags Behind 36 36

An anonymous reader writes: According to the NY Times, U.S. government officials will soon announce all the improvements their IT security teams have made to federal systems in response to the OPM breach. Unfortunately, says the Times, these updates only just scratch the surface, and are more to show that the government is "doing something" than to fix the long-standing problems with how it handles security. "After neglect that has been documented in dozens of audits for nearly two decades, the federal government is still far behind its adversaries. And it is still struggling to procure the latest technological defenses or attract the kind of digital security expertise necessary to secure its networks."

It seems each agency has to be hit by a cyberattack, causing it to go into panic-mode independently, before learning to properly safeguard its systems. Officials say far too much money is wasted on figuring out who and what to blame, rather than on ameliorating the problem. "At the Internal Revenue Service, auditors identified 69 vulnerabilities in the agency's networks last year, but when officials there told Government Accountability Office auditors this year that they had fixed 24 of those problems, investigators found only 14 had been resolved."
Government

Antineutrino Detectors Could Be Key To Monitoring Iran's Nuclear Program 79 79

agent elevator writes: Tech that analyzes antineutrinos might be the best way to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program. The technology, which can tell how much of and what kind of plutonium and uranium are nearby, should be ready to serve as a nuclear safeguard in less than two years, according to IEEE Spectrum. In a simulation of the Arak nuclear plant, which the Iran deal requires be redesigned to make less plutonium, a detector parked outside in a shipping container could do the job.
Power

70th Anniversary of Trinity Test: Reflecting On the Bomb 60 60

Lasrick writes: It's the 70th Anniversary of the Trinity atomic bomb test, and Dan Drollette pulls together a series of reflections, over time, by the scientists who were there. The Bulletin reports: "In the middle of May, on two separate nights in one week, the Air Force mistook the Trinity base for their illuminated [training] target. One bomb fell on the barracks building which housed the carpentry shop, another hit the stables, and a small fire started." Other reflections show how perceptions changed over the years. A fascinating history of the beginning of the nuclear age.
United States

US House Committee Approves Anti-GMO Labeling Law 446 446

An anonymous reader writes: The House Agriculture Committee approved a measure banning mandatory GMO labeling as well as local efforts to regulate genetically engineered crops. The decision is a major victory for U.S. food companies and other opponents of labeling genetically modified foods. "This... legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50 state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers," said Pamela Bailey, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said in a statement.