Court Rejects FCC Request To Delay Net Neutrality Case

2 days 5 hours ago
A federal appeals court denied the FCC's request to postpone oral arguments in a court battle over the agency's decision to repeal its net neutrality rules. The FCC had asked for the hearing to be postponed since the commission's workforce has largely been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. The hearing remains set for February 1. The Hill reports: After the FCC repealed the rules requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally in December of 2017, a coalition of consumer groups and state attorneys general sued to reverse the move, arguing that the agency failed to justify it. The FCC asked the three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to delay oral arguments out of "an abundance of caution" due to its lapse of funding. Net neutrality groups opposed the motion, arguing that there is an urgent need to settle the legal questions surrounding the FCC's order.

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Adding New DNA Letters Make Novel Proteins Possible

2 days 5 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Economist: The fuzzy specks growing on discs of jelly in Floyd Romesberg's lab at Scripps Research in La Jolla look much like any other culture of E. coli. But appearances deceive -- for the dna of these bacteria is written in an alphabet that has six chemical letters instead of the usual four. Every other organism on Earth relies on a quartet of genetic bases: a (adenine), c (cytosine), t (thymine) and g (guanine). These fit together in pairs inside a double-stranded dna molecule, a matching t and c, g. But in 2014 Dr Romesberg announced that he had synthesised a new, unnatural, base pair, dubbed x and y, and slipped them into the genome of E. coli as well. Kept supplied with sufficient quantities of X and Y, the new cells faithfully replicated the enhanced DNA -- and, crucially, their descendants continued to do so, too. Since then, Dr Romesberg and his colleagues have been encouraging their new, "semisynthetic" cells to use the expanded alphabet to make proteins that could not previously have existed, and which might have properties that are both novel and useful. Now they think they have found one. In collaboration with a spin-off firm called Synthorx, they hope to create a less toxic and more effective version of a cancer drug called interleukin-2. Interleukin-2 works by binding to, and stimulating the activity of, immune-system cells called lymphocytes. The receptor it attaches itself to on a lymphocyte's surface is made of three units: alpha, beta and gamma. Immune cells with all three form a strong bond to interleukin-2, and it is this which triggers the toxic effect. If interleukin-2 can be induced to bind only to the beta and gamma units, however, the toxicity goes away. And that, experiments have shown, can be done by attaching polyethylene glycol (PEG) molecules to it. The trick is to make the PEGs stick. This is where the extended genetic alphabet comes in. Using it, Synthorx has created versions of interleukin-2 to which PEGs attach themselves spontaneously in just the right place to stop them linking to the alpha unit. Tested on mice, the modified molecule has exactly the desired anti-tumor effects. Synthorx plans to ask permission for human trials later this year.

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Jack Bogle, the Man Who Revolutionized Investing, Dies At 89

2 days 6 hours ago
Thelasko shares a report from MarketWatch: You can thank Thomas Edison for the light bulb casting light in your home, Henry Ford for your affordable, mass-produced car, and Apple's Steve Jobs for the astonishing computer in your pocket. And Jack Bogle, who died Wednesday [at the age of 89]. The low-cost mutual funds he helped pioneer at Vanguard aren't as sexy or dramatic as other inventions. And you can't really touch or see them. But their effect on everyday lives has been enormous. Bogle's low-cost index funds, and the imitators they have inspired, may have saved ordinary Main Street Americans a staggering $250 billion, or more, in mutual fund fees over the last forty years. According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), there are now about 450 index mutual funds with around $3.4 trillion in assets. There are also 1,800 exchange-traded funds, also with around $3.4 trillion in assets.

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Twitter Bug Exposed Some Android Users' Protected Tweets For Years

2 days 7 hours ago
Twitter disclosed on its Help Center page today that some Android users had their private tweets revealed for years due to a security flaw. "The issue caused the Twitter for Android app to disable the 'Protect your Tweets' setting for some Android users who made changes to their account settings, such as changing the email address associated with their account, between November 3rd, 2014 and January 14th, 2019," reports The Verge. From the report: Though the company says the issue was fixed earlier this week and that iOS or web users weren't affected, it doesn't yet know how many Android accounts were affected. Twitter says it's reached out to affected users and turned the setting back on for them, but it still recommends that users review their privacy settings to make sure it reflects their desired preferences.

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Verizon Blames School Text Provider In Dispute Over 'Spam' Fee

2 days 7 hours ago
Last week, Ars Technica reported that Verizon's new "spam" fee for texts sent from teachers to students might stop working on the network because of a dispute over texting fees that Verizon demanded from Remind, the company that operates the service. Now, it appears that Verizon "has backed down from its original position slightly, and ongoing negotiations could allow the free texting service to continue," reports Ars. From the report: As we reported Monday, the dispute involves Verizon and Remind, which makes a communication service used by teachers and youth sports coaches. Verizon is charging an additional fee, saying the money will be used to fund spam-blocking services. The fee would increase Remind's costs for sending texts to Verizon users from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars per year, Remind said. Remind said it would absorb the cost in order to continue providing the paid version of its service. But most of Remind's 30 million users rely on the free version of the service, and Remind said it could no longer provide free text message notifications over Verizon's network unless the fee is reversed. Verizon issued an announcement today, titled "App provider Remind threatens to eliminate a free texting service for K-12 education organizations (which will cost it nothing)." The title reflects a new offer Verizon said it made on Tuesday, which would reverse the fee for K-12 users of the free Remind service. "Verizon will not charge Remind fees as long as they don't begin charging K-12 schools, educators, parents and students using its free text message service," Verizon said. "Despite this offer, made Tuesday, Remind has not changed its position that it will stop sending free texts to Verizon customers who use the service regarding school closures, classroom activities and other critical information." The report goes on to note that simply limiting the offer to K-12 users means the fee "would still be charged for preschools, day-care centers, and youth sports coaches who use the free Remind service."

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Oklahoma Government Data Leak Exposes FBI Investigation Records, Millions of Department Files

2 days 8 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Researchers have disclosed the existence of a server exposed to the public which not only contained terabytes of confidential government data but information relating to FBI investigations. According to UpGuard cybersecurity researchers Greg Pollock and Chris Vickery, the open storage server belonged to the Oklahoma Department of Securities (ODS), a U.S. government department which deals with securities cases and complaints. The database was found through the Shodan search engine which registered the system as publicly accessible on November 30, 2018. The UpGuard team stumbled across the database on December 7th and notified the department a day later after verifying what they were working with. To ODS' credit, the department removed public access to the server on the same day. In order to examine the security breach, the team was able to download the server's contents. The oldest records dated back to 1986 and the most recent was timestamped in 2016. In total, three terabytes of information representing millions of files. Contents ranged from personal data to system credentials and internal communication records. ODS said in a statement to ZDNet: "All state IP addresses, and many city and county addresses, are registered to OMES, but the agency has no visibility into the computer systems at the Oklahoma Department of Securities. For the past eight years the state has been working to consolidate all IT infrastructure under OMES and ODS had the option to consolidate its systems voluntarily and they did not."

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Google Just Spent $40 Million For Fossil's Secret Smartwatch Tech

2 days 9 hours ago
Google and watchmaker Fossil Group today announced an agreement for the search giant to acquire some of Fossil's smartwatch technology and members of the research and development division responsible for creating it. From a report: The deal is worth roughly $40 million, and under the current terms Fossil will transfer a "portion" of its R&D team, the portion directly responsible for the intellectual property being sold, over to Google. As a result, Google will now have a dedicated team with hardware experience working internally on its WearOS software platform and potentially on new smartwatch designs as well.

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Saturn Put A Ring On It Relatively Recently, Study Says

2 days 9 hours ago
Saturn is famous for its lovely rings, but a new study suggests the planet has spent most of its 4.5 billion years without them. From a report: That's because the rings are likely only 10 million to 100 million years old, according to a newly published report in the journal Science that's based on findings from NASA's Cassini probe. Cassini spent some 13 years orbiting Saturn before plunging down and slamming into its atmosphere. During its final orbits, the spacecraft dove between the planet and its rings. That let scientists measure the gravitational effect of the rings and get a good estimate of the ring material's mass. What they found is that it's only about 40 percent of the mass of Saturn's moon Mimas, which is way smaller than Earth's moon. This small mass suggests that the rings are relatively young. That's because the rings seem to be made of extremely pure water ice, suggesting that the bright white rings have not existed long enough to be contaminated by the bombardment of messy, dirty comets that would be expected to occur over billions of years. Some scientists thought it was possible that darker debris from comets might lie beneath the bright ice, undetectable to their instruments, but this new study shows that isn't the case.

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Some Android GPS Apps Are Just Showing Ads on Top of Google Maps

2 days 10 hours ago
A security researcher with antivirus maker ESET has discovered a collection of 19 Android apps that pose as GPS applications but which don't do anything but show ads on top of the legitimate Google Maps service. From a report: "They attract potential users with fake screenshots stolen from legitimate Navigation apps," said Lukas Stefanko, the ESET researcher who found them, who pointed out the 19 apps have been downloaded more than 50 million times. The apps "pretend to be full featured navigation apps, but all they can do is to create useless layer between User and Google Maps app," the researcher said. Stefanko says that the apps don't have any actual "navigation technology" and they only "misuse Google Maps."

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Michael Cohen Says He Tried To Rig Online Polls 'at the Direction' of Donald Trump

2 days 11 hours ago
Dan Mangan, writing for CNBC: President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday said he tried to rig online polls -- including one conducted by CNBC -- "at the direction and for the sole benefit of" Trump when he was thinking about making a run for the White House. "I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it," Cohen said in a tweet copping to the electronic chicanery to have Trump's name rank higher in online polls than it otherwise would have. Cohen's admission came shortly after The Wall Street Journal published a story detailing how he retained an information technology company to manipulate a 2014 CNBC online poll identifying the nation's top 100 business leaders to bolster Trump's chances of making that list. That effort failed. And Trump himself fumed in 2014 on Twitter about his absence from CNBC's poll results.

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Amazon Launches re:MARS Event Focusing on AI, as Second Stage To Invite-only MARS

2 days 11 hours ago
Amazon's annual invitation-only event on machine learning, automation, robotics and space -- known as Mars -- has become a high-tech highlight for insiders, featuring billionaire founder and CEO Jeff Bezos riding a giant robot or walking a robot dog. From a report: Now a wider circle of tech leaders can get in on a spin-off experience called re:MARS, which is due to make its debut June 4-7 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The event will shine a spotlight on the leading lights and cutting-edge advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Amazon said today in a blog posting. "We're at the beginning of a golden age of AI. Recent advancements have already led to invention that previously lived in the realm of science fiction -- and we've only scratched the surface of what's possible," Bezos said. "AI is an enabling technology that can improve products and services across all industries. We're excited to create re:MARS, bringing together leaders and builders from diverse areas to share learnings and spark new ideas for future innovation."

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Microsoft Will Spend $500M To Address Affordable Housing and Homelessness in the Seattle Region

2 days 12 hours ago
Microsoft is dedicating $500 million to fund construction of affordable homes and homeless services in the Seattle region in an effort to alleviate a growing housing crisis driven by the city's tech boom. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant will commit $475 million for loans to affordable housing developers over three years and another $25 million to services for low-income and homeless residents. It's the largest philanthropic pledge in Microsoft's history. "This is a big problem," Microsoft President Brad Smith and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "And it's a problem that is continuing to get worse. It requires a multifaceted and sustained effort by the entire region to solve. At Microsoft, we're committed to doing our part to help kick-start new solutions to this crisis." Microsoft's announcement comes amid growing pressure on tech companies to mitigate the consequences of growth. Over the past decade, big tech companies have drawn thousands of newcomers to the Seattle tech region with lucrative tech jobs, bidding up housing costs and often squeezing out low-income neighbors.

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Professors From 7 US Colleges, Including MIT and Stanford, Have Teamed Up To Design a Cryptocurrency Capable Of Processing Thousands of Transactions a Second

2 days 13 hours ago
Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that's designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second. From a report: Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies. Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive. That's in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa.

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North Korean Hackers Infiltrate Chile's ATM Network After Skype Job Interview

2 days 13 hours ago
A Skype call and a gullible employee was all it took for North Korean hackers to infiltrate the computer network of Redbanc, the company that interconnects the ATM infrastructure of all Chilean banks. From a report: Prime suspects behind the hack are a hacker group known as Lazarus Group (or Hidden Cobra), known to have associations to the Pyongyang regime, is one of the most active and dangerous hacking groups around, and known to have targeted banks, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency exchanges in the past years. Lazarus' most recent attack took place at the end of December last year but only came to the public's attention after Chilean Senator Felipe Harboe called out Redbanc on Twitter last week for not disclosing its security breach. The company, which has direct lines into the networks of all Chilean banks, formally admitted to the hack a day later in a message posted on its website, but that announcement didn't include any details about the intrusion. However, a day after Redbanc's admission, an investigation conducted by Chilean tech news site trendTIC revealed that the financial firm was the victim of a serious cyber-attack, and not something that could be easily dismissed. According to reporters, the source of the hack was identified as a LinkedIn ad for a developer position at another company to which one of the Redbanc employees applied.

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China Drove 40% of Mobile App Spending and Nearly Half of All Downloads in 2018

2 days 14 hours ago
China may be slowing iPhone sales worldwide, but Chinese people are driving Apple's App Store business. From a report: China accounted for nearly 50 percent of all app downloads in 2018, pushing the global downloads count to reach a record 194 billion, according to research firm App Annie. China, which is the world's largest smartphone market, also accounted for nearly 40 percent of worldwide consumer spend in apps in 2018, App Annie said in its yearly "State of Mobile" report. (Note: Google Play Store is not available in China.) Global consumer spend in apps reached $101 billion last year, up 75 percent since 2016. And 74 percent of all money spent on apps last year came from games. The battle between Silicon Valley companies and Chinese tech giants generated more than half of total consumer spend in the top 300 parent companies in 2018, the report said. The top company for global consumer spend was China's Tencent, which owns stake in several startups, companies, and games -- including last year's sleeper hits PUBG and Fortnite.

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Google Maps Deterring Outback Tourists, Say Small Firms

2 days 15 hours ago
Tourism operators in Australia claim inaccuracies in Google Maps are deterring potential visitors, by making remote attractions appear further away than they actually are. From a report: The Queensland government in north-east Australia has complained to Google, which says it will look into the issue. Firms looking to promote their small towns as remote tourist destinations say Google Maps inflates travel times. Outback businesses say errors in the map app can add hours to a journey. "People aren't coming to places because they think it takes too long, or they're missing opportunities to refuel and they're getting sent off on another road that has no fuel [outlets]," Robyn Mackenzie, of the Eromanga Natural History Museum, told national broadcaster ABC. "People will get frightened of travelling in the outback, because they don't have any confidence in the mapping," the general manager of the small town museum added.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls For Laws To Tackle 'Shadow Economy' of Data Firms

2 days 15 hours ago
Apple's chief executive has called for regulation to tackle the "shadow economy" of data brokers -- intermediaries who trade in the personal information of largely unsuspecting consumers -- as the company continues its push to be seen as supportive of privacy. Tim Cook, in an op-ed for Time Magazine published on Thursday, said: One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer -- something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn't tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a "data broker" -- a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer. The trail disappears before you even know there is a trail. Right now, all of these secondary markets for your information exist in a shadow economy that's largely unchecked -- out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers. Let's be clear: you never signed up for that. We think every user should have the chance to say, "Wait a minute. That's my information that you're selling, and I didn't consent." Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That's why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.

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US CEOs Are More Worried About Cybersecurity Than a Possible Recession

2 days 16 hours ago
With markets uncertain, many onlookers might think a recession is on the way, whether that's most CFOs in the world or voters in the United States. But domestic CEOs don't find heavy economic headwinds their biggest external business worry, according to a new survey by the Conference Board. Instead, it's cybersecurity followed by new competitors. Risk of a recession is third. From a report: After high-profile data breaches experienced over the last two years by such companies as Marriott, Equifax, and Uber, that might seem understandable. But U.S. CEOs stand in stark contrast to those of the rest of the world. Cybersecurity was the sixth most pressing issue for chief executives in Europe. It was seventh in Latin America, eighth in Japan, and 10th in China. Regarding concerns over a potential recession, Europe put that in second place, while Japan, China, and Latin America all rated it number one.

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LG Will Launch a Phone With a Second Screen Attachment

2 days 17 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: LG's next smartphone may have you seeing double. And no, it's not because of a foldable display. The company will launch a smartphone, whose name hasn't been finalized, that will have an option for a second-screen attachment, according to a person familiar with the situation. The attachment, which the person describes as a sort of case with a screen, could potentially double the total screen size of the device. It's one of multiple phones launching at the Mobile World Congress trade show next month, the person said. While the company is mulling the G8 name, it's unclear whether the multiple-screen phone will carry the name of its flagship line. There was some confusion over LG launching a foldable smartphone thanks to a report by Korean-language outlet Naver. But this phone won't fold.

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Elon Musk Wants To Put An AI Hardware Chip In Your Skull

2 days 20 hours ago
"iTMunch reports that Elon Musk apparently believes that the human race can only be "saved" by implanting chips into our skulls that make us half human, half artificial intelligence," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. From the report: Elon Musk's main goal, he explains, is to wire a chip into your skull. This chip would give you the digital intelligence needed to progress beyond the limits of our biological intelligence. This would mean a full incorporation of artificial intelligence into our bodies and minds. He argues that without taking this drastic measure, humanity is doomed. There are a lot of ethical questions raised on the topic of what humanity according to Elon Musk exactly is, but he seems undeterred. "My faith in humanity has been a little shaken this year," Musk continues, "but I'm still pro-humanity." The seamless conjunction of humans and computers gives us humans a shot at becoming completely "symbiotic" with artificial intelligence, according to Elon Musk. He argues that humans as a species are all already practically attached to our phones. In a way, this makes us almost cyborg-like. The only difference is that we haven't managed to expand our intelligence to that level. This means that we are not as smart as we could be. The data link that currently exists between the information that we get from our phones or computers is not as fast as it could be. "It will enable anyone who wants to have superhuman cognition," Musk said. "Anyone who wants." As for how much smarter humans will become with these AI chips, Musk writes: "How much smarter are you with a phone or computer or without? You're vastly smarter, actually," Musk said. "You can answer any question pretty much instantly. You can remember flawlessly. Your phone can remember videos (and) pictures perfectly. Your phone is already an extension of you. You're already a cyborg. Most people don't realize you're already a cyborg. It's just that the data rate [...] it's slow, very slow. It's like a tiny straw of information flow between your biological self and your digital self. We need to make that tiny straw like a giant river, a huge, high-bandwidth interface."

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