Author Archives: binghamboatwright

About binghamboatwright

newshound, tech adventurist, with an interest in anything electricity goes into and out of.

Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means

As the ball dropped over Times Square last night, all copyrighted works published in 1923 fell into the public domain (with a few exceptions). Everyone now has the right to republish them or adapt them for use in new works.

It’s the first time this has happened in 21 years.

In 1998, works published in 1922 or earlier were in the public domain, with 1923 works scheduled to expire at the beginning of 1999. But then Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It added 20 years to the terms of older works, keeping 1923 works locked up until 2019.

Many people—including me—expected another fight over copyright extension in 2018. But it never happened. Congress left the existing law in place, and so those 1923 copyrights expired on schedule this morning.

And assuming Congress doesn’t interfere, more works will fall into the public domain each January from now on.

Next January, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue will fall into the public domain. It will be followed by The Great Gatsby in January 2021 and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in January 2022.

via Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means | Ars Technica

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Google’s New Fuchsia OS to Support Android Apps

FuchsiaOSAlthough there is no official announcement that Google is actively working on its Fuchsia OS besides repositories available on Github, on Google Git, and the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), everyone knows by now that the new OS will most probably be able to run on anything from mobile phones to computers and IoT devices.

We also know that Fuchsia OS will not be running on a modified version of the Linux kernel, the new operating system will use a custom microkernel dubbed Zircon which is derived from Little Kernel, an OS initially developed for embedded devices.

Fuchsia OS features a futuristic user interface

Furthermore, even though at first Fuchsia OS did not come with a user interface of its own, it eventually evolved enough to allow the guys from to build it as an .

via Google’s New Fuchsia OS to Support Android Apps

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Mastercard and Microsoft Conspire to Control All Our Data

Heads up! In their next move toward assuming global control of digital financial systems, debt merchant Mastercard and monopolistic software vendor Microsoft have announced they are teaming up to help us all manage all our bank account logins and other online passwords by adding an extra service to their product lines: identity verification.

In a press release dated December 3, 2018, the two corporate giants revealed their “strategic collaboration to improve how people manage and use their digital identity.”

This sounds innocent enough on the surface, but already we know these two money-hungry companies are taking a long view of their opinion as to how the rest of us handle our online accounts.

Today, if you want to check your bank account balance from your computer or mobile device, you navigate to the login screen and enter your user id and password to gain entry to the protected site.

The site is password-protected because it stores enough of your personal information – name, address, phone numbers, email address, date of birth, social security number, and perhaps even family members – to create a fake you. That’s why creating a password that is complex (a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols) and hard to guess is so important.

Identify theft is rampant these days, according to LifeLock. In 2017, 16.7 million people felt the sting of identity theft. A total of $16.8 BILLION (with a ‘B’) was stolen.

continue Mastercard and Microsoft Conspire to Control All Our Data – The Daily Conspiracy

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Organizers cancel Women’s March Jan. 19 due to ‘overwhelmingly white’ participants

EUREKA, Calif. (KRCR) — The organizers of the annual Women’s March have decided not to hold a rally in Eureka on Jan. 19, as previously planned, because they say participants do not represent the diversity of the area.

“This decision was made after many conversations between local social-change organizers and supporters of the march,” organizers said in a press release.

They said organizers will continue to meet and discuss how to broaden representation to create an event that represents Humboldt County.

“Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community,” the press release went on to say. “Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organizing team will take time for more outreach. Our goal is that planning will continue and we will be successful in creating an event that will build power and community engagement through connection between women that seek to improve the lives of all in our community.”

via Organizers cancel Women’s March Jan. 19 due to ‘overwhelmingly white’ participants | WPMI

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Sex robots with real brains could be granted human rights

sex-robot-human-rights-748890Robotics developers, academics, ethicists and lawmakers are deeply divided over the legal status of artificially intelligent androids able to speak, learn and move with a degree of autonomy.

At present, the creation of fully autonomous robots designed to replicate human appearance and thinking is not possible given the technology available.

Yet, the idea of giving AI cybrogs “personhood” has gained traction in recent years as technological advances have caused legal uncertainty.

The proposal to classify robots as “electronic persons” was first proposed in a draft report published by the EU parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs in May 2016.

A debate about what rights robots should be given, if any at all, has ensued since the publication of the report, which dealt with issues surrounding the liability of self-learning machines.

BRAVE NUDE WORLD: Sex robots are becoming more advanced as technology improves (Pic: GETTY)
If the EU’s recommendations were to become law, self-learning robots would be granted status as “legal persons”, meaning they could be held liable for damages in court.

Legal experts opposed to the controversial proposals have claimed their implementation as a regulatory framework would effectively “grant human rights to robots”.

Last year, a sophisticated humanoid android called Sophia became the first robot in the world to be given citizenship by Saudi Arabia.

via Sex robots with real brains could be granted human rights | Daily Star

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Google wins U.S. approval for radar-based hand motion sensor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google unit won approval from U.S. regulators to deploy a radar-based motion sensing device known as Project Soli.

Google signage is seen at the Google headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in an order late on Monday that it would grant Google a waiver to operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than currently allowed. The FCC said the sensors can also be operated aboard aircraft.

The FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”

A Google spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Tuesday, citing the New Year’s Day holiday.

The FCC said the Soli sensor captures motion in a three-dimensional space using a radar beam to enable touchless control of functions or features that can benefit users with mobility or speech impairments.

Google says the sensor can allow users to press an invisible button between the thumb and index fingers or a virtual dial that turns by rubbing a thumb against the index finger.

via Google wins U.S. approval for radar-based hand motion sensor | Reuters

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The oral history of the Hampsterdance: The twisted true story of one of the world’s first memes

What started 20 years ago in Nanaimo, B.C. spawned hit songs, worldwide LOLs and a giant hairball of drama

Leah Collins · CBC Arts · December 27



It’s a chapter of pop-culture history that could only have started in 1998, a time when more people than ever before were making sense of the internet for the first time. And that includes the folks you’re about to hear from. (Leah Collins/CBC Arts)
What, exactly, is the Hampsterdance? If you were online around the turn of the millennium, you probably think you know the answer to this question. I did, anyway. And the first, seemingly obvious definition is that it’s a website. It’s the kind of website you probably haven’t seen in a decade, at least — lost to the pixels of time along with stuff like and the emo rants you used to publish on LiveJournal. But it’s a website, just the same. One page with one purpose: deliver 392 animated GIFs of dancing rodents and the most infuriating .wav file ever uploaded — a sound that, way back when, threatened to blast out of your speakers every time you checked your email.

It’s weird to think about now — weirder than a website devoted to hundreds of cartoon rodents. But 20 years ago, the Hampsterdance was revolutionary, an example of “going viral” before anyone was even using the phrase. Want to make someone LOL? Send them the Hampsterdance. Want to prank your boss? Teacher? Roommate? Get everyone to load the page at the same time. It infiltrated the culture, both online and off, even popping up in a TV ad for Earthlink. And it made its conquest before iPhones, before social media — spreading through email and old-timey word of mouth.

The original Hamsterdance site. (YouTube)
When you consider all that, it’s fair to call it the world’s first online meme — or one of the first, depending on your source. And that’s the beginning of where things get tricky, because getting a handle on what a meme actually means can be strange business. It’s a thing — an image, a video, a concept, a website, some cultural object — that spreads wildly, mutating and evolving as it’s passed along.  So when it comes to memes, we’re all authors, and we’re all the audience. Keep that in mind. It’s what makes this whole “Hampsterdance” question difficult. What is it — who made it — if we’ve all had a paw in there somewhere?

via The oral history of the Hampsterdance: The twisted true story of one of the world’s first memes | CBC Arts

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What Is Shadowbanning and Could It Happen to You?

In the past few years, social media platforms have experienced tremendous growth. Social networks are more than happy to welcome new users. However, more users mean it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s behavior on the site.

When it comes to social media, if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get to use the platform. This is made pretty clear to all users. However, there has been one practice that has been shrouded in mystery for years, so much so that users are confused as to if it actually exists or not.

We are, of course, talking about shadowbanning. So, what is shadowbanning? And what can you do to prevent a social media platform from shadowbanning you?

What Is Shadowbanning?
Social media platforms can ban users in a few different ways. Either you lose access to your account for a short period of time, or indefinitely. They can also ban you from making a new account if the offense was serious enough for an IP ban, which is when the platform shuts you out based on your IP address.

These bans have one thing in common, and that is that the users know that they have been banned. This is precisely what sets shadowbanning apart. Shadowbanning, also known as ghost banning, or stealth banning, is commonly defined as the practice of blocking a user or their content, fully or partially, in a way that it will not be obvious to the user.

This way, the user retains access to their account and can see posts from other users. They can even post as usual, but the social network partially or completely “shadows” the posts, making them invisible to other users. Shadowbanning is different from Facebook’s shadow profiles, which have also been in the news lately.

The practice dates back to the 1980s when the bulletin board services started employing toggles to grant different users different privileges. One of these toggles was called the “twit bit,” which restricted a user’s privileges for not following the rules. This was to ensure that the troublemakers either left or started following the rules.

This is pretty much the concept behind the modern day phenomenon of shadowbanning. However, the mystery is whether the practice actually really exists in a tangible form.

Are People Really Getting Shadowbanned?
In the last few years, there have been numerous claims of shadowbanning across different social media platforms. With the politically charged environment making it harder than ever to distinguish genuine news from fake news, social media platforms have been accused of having a bias. And using shadowbanning to silent the opinions they dislike.

Shadowbanning on Twitter
A large number of users have claimed that Twitter has shadowbanned them. The claims began in 2016, with accusations that Twitter was shadowbanning people that supported the Republican Party in the U.S.

However, the situation escalated in 2018, after Vice News claimed that Twitter was shadowbanning prominent Republican politicians, which was soon followed by a tweet from the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

Twitter was quick to respond, and while Vice News said that Twitter had “fixed” the shadowbans, Twitter claimed in a blog post that they have never actually used the practice. The blog post said that Twitter instead used ranking, which ranked tweets from “bad-faith actors”.

Apparently, Twitter determines these according to several factors which have to do with the authenticity of the account, and how the one uses the account.

Twitter also claimed that political affiliation wasn’t one of these factors and that there was no shadowbanning happening, but rather just a bug which affected hundreds of thousands of accounts, not letting them appear in search auto-suggestions. Twitter resolved this issue, but the accusations continue.

via What Is Shadowbanning and Could It Happen to You?

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A 5-Foot Tapeworm Grew Inside a Man Because He Ate Too Much Raw Salmon


Lovers of raw fish, be warned: The grossest medical malady of 2018 involved a toilet, a tapeworm, and a whole lot of salmon sushi. This story unfolded in January, when the medical podcast This Won’t Hurt a Bit featured a University of California San Francisco doctor with a stomach-churning story to tell. It all started when a patient came into the hospital with a empty toilet paper roll.

Upon closer inspection, the professor of clinical emergency medicine, Dr. Kenny Banh, realized that there was a five-foot-long tapeworm wrapped around the cardboard cylinder. The patient had pulled it out of his rectum. WARNING: There’s an extremely vile photo below.

This is #6 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF stories of 2018.

The tapeworm was brought in on a roll of toilet paper.
As Inverse reported previously, the man was using the bathroom when he noticed the tapeworm wiggling out. He methodically wrapped all five feet of the creature around an empty toilet paper roll and brought it to the hospital, where Banh identified it as a tapeworm. Pressed for details about what might have caused the infection, the patient could think of only one thing.

The one thing I like, that I love, I love sushi, specifically salmon sashimi, and I eat it every day.
“He says, ‘The one thing I like, that I love, I love sushi, specifically salmon sashimi, and I eat it every day,” Banh recounted.

Banh thinks the man might have caught the infection from an infected, uncooked fish, after which the tapeworm gestated for at least six months, growing to that size.

Raw salmon is delicious, but make sure it’s been frozen for an appropriate amount of time before eating it.
Five feet is far from the maximum length a tapeworm can reach. The CDC reports that Japanese broad tapeworms (Diphyllobothrium nihokaiense), which have been shown to infect North American salmon, are the largest tapeworms that can infect people and can grow up to 30 feet long.

Infection can be pretty rough: They include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and the possibility that you might pull an enormous tapeworm out of your rectum.

via A 5-Foot Tapeworm Grew Inside a Man Because He Ate Too Much Raw Salmon | Inverse

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Wellness Guru Calls Looking Directly at the Sun a “Form of Free Medicine”


Australian celebrity chef and Instagram wellness guru Pete Evans has come under fire for saying that “sungazing”, the act of looking directly at the sun, is a one of the best forms of free medicine.

“Every day I love to immerse myself in an experience within the cleansing ocean water as well as a brief gaze into the radiant light of the early rising or late setting sun,” Evans posted on Instagram. “These simple, yet powerful practices have got to be two of the best forms of free medicine on the planet for body, mind and spirit.”

Photo: geralt/Pixabay

Evans, who often shares wellness tips with his nearly 200,000 Instagram followers, is a big supporter of the Paleo diet, and has been criticized for going against doctors’ advice in the past. He once suggested feeding infants a Paleo diet, advises against using sunscreen, calling it “poisonous”, and claims fluoridated water is the cause of all of society’s problems.

While some have defended the Australian influencer, claiming that he only advocates for a “brief gaze” at the sun, at sunrise or sunset, doctors say that looking directly at the sun even for a few seconds is enough to cause irreparable damage to the eye, so follow his advice at your own risk.

via Wellness Guru Calls Looking Directly at the Sun a “Form of Free Medicine”

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Egyptian woman is imprisoned for three years for ‘sexually harassing’ a monkey

Basma Ahmed was charged with 'inciting debauchery' and 'committing an obscene act in publicAn Egyptian court has sentenced a 25-year-old woman to three years in prison for ‘sexually harassing’ a monkey in the country’s north, state daily Al-Ahram reported Friday.

A court in Mansoura city charged Basma Ahmed with ‘inciting debauchery’ and ‘committing an obscene act in public’, a judicial source told the newspaper.

She was arrested in October after a 90-second video of the incident went viral, particularly among young people and students, Al-Ahram said.

Basma Ahmed was charged with ‘inciting debauchery’ and ‘committing an obscene act in public

The video shows Ahmed laughing while touching the genitals of a monkey at a pet shop in the Nile Delta city and making sexual innuendos as people around her chuckle.

At court she ‘confessed… to the incident but said she did not mean to commit an indecent act and that she had been tickling the monkey’.

via Egyptian woman is imprisoned for three years for ‘sexually harassing’ a monkey  | Daily Mail Online

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We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites


via We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites – Motherboard


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Venoms that can kill can also cure

“We knew even as kids,” Olivera says, “that this snail was ­capable of killing humans and that it has a 70 percent fatality rate.” It’s a foggy morning in Salt Lake City, and Olivera is near a bank of fish tanks in his lab at the University of Utah. Inside one aquarium, a white-and-brown snail is burrowed in the sand beside a small ­goldfish. The invertebrate extends its thick snorkel-like siphon and lightly sniffs the fish’s underbelly.

Olivera, now 77, grew up to be a chemist but never shook his love for these slow-moving assassins. He’s now the lead scientist at a 25-person lab that studies cone-snail venom. His job is to figure out how it works, and, in turn, transform it into drugs that could soothe and save human lives. So far, his lab has isolated several promising molecules, including a few painkillers, and a fast-acting insulin that could let diabetics quickly ­control their blood sugar. Among the former is Prialt (for primary alternative to morphine). Aside from being the first federally OK’d drug to come from a lethal snail, it works on different receptors than opioids to alleviate chronic pain in cancer patients. In other words, it’s non-addictive. But it will never be a primary replacement for morphine because it needs to be pumped into a patient’s spine. These days, Olivera and his colleagues are trying to isolate a snail toxin that could be turned into a new class of painkillers that target different pathways than what’s now on the market. If successful, it could offer a substitute to addictive narcotics like oxycodone (which kills upward of 14,000 Americans a year) as the go-to medication for millions of chronic-pain sufferers.

via Venoms that can kill can also cure | Popular Science


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Tree resin could replace fossil fuels in everything from printer ink to shoe polish

Loblolly pine trees in North Carolina

The loblolly pine isn’t the first choice of Christmas tree lovers. It’s not as compact as fir or spruce, and its needles are longer, so it doesn’t hold ornaments well. But the loblolly has a storied history, nonetheless.

Article Continues Below:

The famous Eisenhower Tree, on the 17th hole of the Augusta National Golf Club, was the bane of President Eisenhower. He hit it so many times while playing that he asked the club to cut it down. To avoid offending the president, the club’s chairman abruptly adjourned the meeting, rather than reject his request. (In 2014, the late president finally got his wish when an ice storm damaged the tree so badly, it had to be removed.) Loblolly pine seeds also traveled aboard Apollo 14 and were planted all around the country upon their return, including on the grounds of the White House. Some of these moon trees still survive.

Today, the loblolly is serving a more noble purpose by helping limit the need for fossil fuels. Researchers, tinkering with the tree’s genetics, have found a way to reverse-engineer how the loblolly produces resin, a discovery that could help manufacturers produce greener alternatives for a range of goods now made with oil and gas, including surface coatings, adhesives, printing inks, flavors, fragrances, vitamins, household cleaning products, paint, varnish, shoe polish and linoleum.

“The chemical composition of resins is not very different from that of certain fractions currently obtained from crude oil,” said Mark Lange, a professor in Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry. Lange wants to improve the production of resin to help reduce the chemical industry’s reliance on fossil fuels.

via Tree resin could replace fossil fuels in everything from printer ink to shoe polish | Popular Science

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The Amazon Alexa Eavesdropping Nightmare Came True

Photo: Gizmodo
An Amazon user in Germany recently requested data about his personal activities and inadvertently gained access to 1,700 audio recordings of someone he didn’t know.

Germany’s c’t magazine reports that in August the Amazon user—exercising his rights under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation—requested his own data that Amazon has stored. Two months later, Amazon sent him a downloadable 100Mb zip file.

Some of the files reportedly related to his Amazon searches. But according to the report there were also hundreds of Wav files and a PDF cataloging transcripts of Alexa’s interpretations of voice commands. According to c’t magazine, this was peculiar to this user because he doesn’t own any Alexa devices and had never used the service. He also didn’t recognize the voices in the files.

The user reported the matter to Amazon and asked for information. He reportedly didn’t receive a response, but soon found that the link to the data was dead. However, he had already saved the files, and he shared his experience with c’t magazine out of concern that the person whose privacy had been compromised was not told about the mistake.

C’t magazine listened to many of the files and was able “to piece together a detailed picture of the customer concerned and his personal habits.” It found that he used Alexa in various places, has an Echo at home, and has a Fire device on his TV. They noticed that a woman was around at times. They listened to him in the shower.

We were able to navigate around a complete stranger’s private life without his knowledge, and the immoral, almost voyeuristic nature of what we were doing got our hair standing on end. The alarms, Spotify commands, and public transport inquiries included in the data revealed a lot about the victims’ personal habits, their jobs, and their taste in music. Using these files, it was fairly easy to identify the person involved and his female companion. Weather queries, first names, and even someone’s last name enabled us to quickly zero in on his circle of friends. Public data from Facebook and Twitter rounded out the picture.

Using the information they gathered from the recordings, the magazine contacted the victim of the data leak. He “was audibly shocked,” and confirmed it was him in the recordings and that the outlet had figured out the identity of his girlfriend. He said Amazon did not contact him.

Days later, both the victim and the receiver of the files were called by Amazon to discuss the incident. Both were reportedly called three days after c’t magazine contacted Amazon about the matter. An Amazon representative reportedly told them that one of their staff members had made a one-time error.

When asked for comment on the matter, Amazon sent Gizmodo the same statement it had shared with Reuters. “This was an unfortunate case of human error and an isolated incident. We have resolved the issue with the two customers involved and have taken steps to further improve our processes. We were also in touch on a precautionary basis with the relevant regulatory authorities.”

Amazon did not answer Gizmodo’s questions about how a human error led to this privacy infringement, or whether the company had initially contacted the victim to inform them their sensitive information was shared with a stranger.

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The recordings of the victim were from May. That same month, a Portland woman found her Echo had sent a recorded conversation between her and her husband to one of his employees. Amazon said the virtual assistant misinterpreted speech as an order to send the conversation to a contact.

via The Amazon Alexa Eavesdropping Nightmare Came True

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Retailers Are Fighting Online Shopping With … Phone Chargers

Ours is the age of online shopping. This year, Black Friday internet sales jumped 28 percent over last year as consumers spent $3.7 billion online. In fact, many buyers abandoned desktops and tablets for their online purchases, turning to their phones instead. The trend isn’t new: Retail brands have been adjusting their strategies for years now, ramping up their online presences and capabilities and adopting internet-influenced tactics like mobile in-store checkout and drive-by pickup in their brick-and-mortar stores.

As it’s becoming increasingly evident that on-site retailers will continue to struggle against the behemoth that is online shopping, they will do whatever they can to get (and keep) consumers inside their stores. One emerging method: providing phone chargers. The lockers that charge phones are showing up in more and more stores in hopes of luring consumers who can’t bear the thought of a dead battery. Last year, Target installed ChargeItSpot machines in nearly 200 locations across the United States. The machines charge shoppers’ phones for free while also securing them. A Target rep says ChargeItSpot is especially popular in urban areas, where people are getting to the stores on foot and thus unable to charge their phones while driving to the store. “Since we started offering these kiosks in 2017, guests have charged their phones hundreds of thousands of times,” says Target representative Jacqueline DeBuse.

via Retailers Are Fighting Online Shopping With … Phone Chargers – The Ringer

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Man Contracts Lung Infection After Smelling His Own Used Socks Daily

The 37-year-old from Zhangzhou, Fujian Province was admitted to the hospital after experiencing chest pains and coughing, the New Straits Times reported. And as it turns out, he was diagnosed with a severe pulmonary fungal infection.

Doctors say that the man, identified as Peng, contracted the infection after inhaling the spores of a fungus that can typically be found growing in footwear. At some point during the medical examination after doctors wondered how this infection was made possible, Peng admitted that he had a habit of smelling his own smelly socks after coming home from work every day (why exactly remains unclear), before ultimately throwing them into the laundry hamper.

X-rays then confirmed the presence of the infection. And doctors knew that this strange sock-smelling habit likely had something to do with why Peng suffered the infection in the first place.

via Man Contracts Lung Infection After Smelling His Own Used Socks Daily

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New Extortion Email Threatens to Send a Hitman Unless You Pay 4K

Extortion emails are getting wilder and wilder. First we had sextortion scams that threatened to reveal victims doing dirty deeds on video, then bomb threats, which brought the worlwide attention of law enforcement, and now we have threats that a hitman is targeting the recipient unless they pay $4,000 in bitcoin.

These emails started appearing this week and have a subject line similar to “Pretty significant material for you right here 17.12.2018 08:33:00”. The content of the emails are written in poor English and grammar and state that the sender is the owner of a Dark Web site that offers different kinds of services for a fee.

The email goes on to say that someone came to the site to hire a hitman to target the recipient for an “instant and pain-free” execution. The owner of the site, though, is willing to call the hitman off if they receive $4,000 in bitcoin. As an extra bonus, they will also “remove the hitman”.

Hitman extortion email
The full text of this new scam is:

via New Extortion Email Threatens to Send a Hitman Unless You Pay 4K

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Endless War Has Been Normalized and Everyone Is Crazy

(CJ Opinion) — Since I last wrote about the bipartisan shrieking, hysterical reaction to Trump’s planned military withdrawal from Syria the other day, it hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. I’m having a hard time even picking out individual bits of the collective freakout from the political/media class to point at, because doing so would diminish the frenetic white noise of the paranoid, conspiratorial, fearmongering establishment reaction to the possibility of a few thousands troops being pulled back from a territory they were illegally occupying.

Endless war and military expansionism has become so normalized in establishment thought that even a slight scale-down is treated as something abnormal and shocking. The talking heads of the corporate state media had been almost entirely ignoring the buildup of US troops in Syria and the operations they’ve been carrying out there, but as soon as the possibility of those troops leaving emerged, all the alarm bells started ringing. Endless war was considered so normal that nobody ever talked about it, then Trump tweeted he’s bringing the troops home, and now every armchair liberal in America who had no idea what a Kurd was until five minutes ago is suddenly an expert on Erdoğan and the YPG. Lindsey Graham, who has never met an unaccountable US military occupation he didn’t like, is now suddenly cheerleading for congressional oversight: not for sending troops into wars, but for pulling them out.

via Endless War Has Been Normalized and Everyone Is Crazy

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Google created a ‘responsible innovation team’ to check if its AI is ethical

The newest job at Google: checking its AI to make sure it’s ethical.

The company has added a “formal review structure,” which consists of three groups to make big picture and technical decisions around the use of AI. That’s according to a blog post the company published yesterday (Dec. 18).

Google instated a new ethics policy earlier his year as a response to the worker movement opposing its controversial Project Maven contract with the Department of Homeland Security. This new framework is where that policy actually gets implemented, so that it’s no longer left to individual programmers or product groups to decide on their own if something is designed ethically.

Here’s what each team will be responsible for, according to the blog post:

A responsible innovation team that handles day-to-day operations and initial assessments. This group includes user researchers, social scientists, ethicists, human rights specialists, policy and privacy advisors, and legal experts on both a full- and part-time basis, which allows for diversity and inclusion of perspectives and disciplines.
A group of senior experts from a range of disciplines across Alphabet who provide technological, functional, and application expertise.
A council of senior executives to handle the most complex and difficult issues, including decisions that affect multiple products and technologies.
The Google blog post says that this framework has already made more than 100 assessments of deals and products, like the company’s temporary hold on releasing facial recognition technology. Going forward, Google will also be adding an external advisory group with interdisciplinary experts, a technique which has been heralded by critics as a way companies and governments can avoid unethical AI.

via Google created a ‘responsible innovation team’ to check if its AI is ethical — Quartz

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Repealing Net Neutrality: The Internet Apocalypse That Never Came

This month marks one year since the FCC repealed the controversial net neutrality rules, officially killing the internet as we knew it forever—or so net neutrality proponents would have liked you to believe. But as we take a closer look at what has actually happened in the year since the rules have been abolished, we find that the (often hysterical) rhetoric doesn’t reflect reality at all. On the contrary, the internet has actually improved since regulations were relaxed.

Hysteria Ensued
The internet has been a household commodity available for public use since August 6, 1991. However, according to net neutrality’s most fervent supporters, the internet didn’t truly take off until February 2015, when the FCC passed and adopted the new rules.

In both the lead up to the vote on net neutrality and its subsequent repeal, mass hysteria ensued in which many people were honestly convinced that without government intervention, all the online services we enjoyed would cease to exist. In an article called “How the FCC’s Killing of Net Neutrality Will Ruin the Internet Forever,” the magazine GQ even went so far as to say:

Think of everything that you’ve ever loved about the Internet. That website that gave you all of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City cheat codes. YouTube videos of animals being friends. The illegal music you downloaded on Napster or Kazaa. The legal music you’ve streamed on Spotify. …The movies and TV shows you’ve binged on Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. The dating site that helped you find the person you’re now married to. All of these things are thanks to net neutrality.

It’s rather shocking that this sentiment was so widely accepted as truth considering that every single one of the listed examples existed prior to net neutrality. In fact, the only reason the internet was able to become such an integral part of our lives was that it was left virtually untouched by regulatory forces. And since spontaneous order was allowed to occur, internet users were blessed with unbridled innovation that brought forth a robust variety of services, which GQ prefers to attribute to government action that wasn’t taken until nearly 24 years after internet use became the norm.

continue  Repealing Net Neutrality: The Internet Apocalypse That Never Came – Foundation for Economic Education

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Hemp is legalized with President Trump’s signature on the Farm Bill

In this Oct. 23, 2018, photo, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute executive director Perry Brown, left, and Shannah Schmitt, behind, work with a team of employees to inspect their industrial hemp plants for signs of mold, decay and pests, while harvesting the quarter-acre grown for research at the location in East Troy, Wis. (Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette via AP)
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute executive director Perry Brown, left, and Shannah Schmitt, behind, work with a team of employees to inspect their industrial hemp plants for signs of mold, decay, and pests, while harvesting the quarter-acre grown for research at the location in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.

President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp after decades of the crop being caught up in broader cannabis prohibition, into law on Thursday.

The signing ceremony represents the culmination of a months-long debate over various provisions of the wide-ranging agriculture legislation. But after the House and Senate Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions, the final Farm Bill easily passed in full floor votes last week.

Hemp legalization, a provision of the bill championed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, received bipartisan support, with members on both sides of the aisle celebrating its inclusion in the now signed law.

via Hemp is officially legalized with President Trump’s signature on the Farm Bill – The Boston Globe

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FCC Claiming, Community Broadband Is An ‘Ominous’ Threat To Free Speech

So back in October, we noted how FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly attended an event where he falsely claimed that towns and cities that decide to build their own broadband networks (usually due to market failure) were somehow engaged in an “ominous” assault on free speech. The only “evidence” O’Rielly provided was that community ISPs include language in their terms of service preventing users from being hateful shits online, the same exact languageyou’ll find in the TOS’ from any number of private ISPs, from Comcast to AT&T.

There’s absolutely no evidence that any of the 750 towns and cities that have tinkered with this idea ever trampled anybody’s free speech rights.

Yet after being criticized by several press outlets (including this one), O’Rielly apparently decided his best bet would be to… double down on his false claims. In a new blog post over at the FCC website, O’Rielly again tries to insist that community broadband is a giant threat to free speech, but this time he attempts to vastly expand his argument in a bid to make it sound more logical. The tap dancing around his lack of evidence in his original claim is particularly amusing:

Bizarrely, my critics further responded that I had failed to provide historical “evidence” of First Amendment mischief by muni networks. Perhaps they were confused about how a constitutional violation works. A state action or law can violate the First Amendment as applied or on its face. In the case of the latter, the law or act is always unconstitutional, and in the case of the former, it is only unconstitutional to the extent of a particular application. My argument was not based on as-applied historical instances of censorship, but on facial grounds. That is, certain terms in the muni broadband codes I cited facially violate the First Amendment.

That’s a misdirection and a dodge, though putting evidence in quotes is a nice touch.

via FCC’s O’Rielly Keeps Claiming, With Zero Evidence, That Community Broadband Is An ‘Ominous’ Threat To Free Speech | Techdirt

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123456 Is the Most Used Password for the 5th Year in a Row

For the 5th year in a row, “123456” is most used password, with “password” coming in at second place. Even in the wake of a constant stream of data breaches, hacks, and ransomware attack reports people continue to utilize weak passwords that not only put their information at jeopardy, but also their organization’s data.

In SplashData’s 8th annual worst passwords list, the password management company analyzed more than 5 million leaked passwords to come up with their list of most used passwords. According to their report, the top 10 most used passwords are:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 123456789
  4. 12345678
  5. 12345
  6. 111111
  7. 1234567
  8. sunshine
  9. qwerty
  10. iloveyou

“Bad habits die hard, according to SplashData’s eighth annual list of Worst Passwords of the Year,” stated SplashData’s press release. “After evaluating more than 5 million passwords leaked on the Internet, the company found that computer users continue using the same predictable, easily guessable passwords. Using these passwords will put anyone at substantial risk of being hacked and having their identities stolen.”

Password management company Dashlane also released a report this week that focuses on the biggest password mistakes of the year. Topping the list is Kanye West, who in full view of television cameras entered the password “000000” into his cell phone to unlock it.


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Women Are Now Majority Of STEM Grads

Centers for Disease Control Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch (MSPB) laboratorian, Mary Ari, utilizing an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA test), 2005.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Women now make up just over half of all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduate school enrollees in the U.S. and earned more than half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees between 2004 and 2014, according to analysis from the American Enterprise Institute.

Mark J. Perry, an AEI scholar and professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan-Flint, has been studying gender gaps in various aspects of society for years, and has a new report out using various data sets to show that women are not underrepresented in STEM — at least when it comes to education.

“In fact, according to several measures, women are actually slightly over-represented in STEM graduate programs and earn a majority of STEM college degrees,” Perry wrote. But, he cautions, a lot of the conclusions depend on how one defines STEM. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, he cites, says the “definition of STEM can vary, depending on the group using it.”


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Fully 3D printed and functional electric motorcycle


BigRep, a global leader in large-scale 3D printing, premiers a host of innovative 3D-printed prototypes for automation and e-mobility applications. Designed by NOWlab, the BigRep innovation consultancy and printed on BigRep’s large-scale 3D printers the innovations include two groundbreaking prototypes for e-mobility applications: the world’s first fully 3D-printed and functional electric motorcycle, the NERA, and a bionic passenger seat, the Aero Seat. Advancing applications in AM are two other new prototypes, the Adaptive Robotic Gripper, designed for flexible handling applications, and the Omni Platform, a 360° mobile industry platform for fully automated manufacturing environments. For more information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing 2018-2028.


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Feds have paid undercover informants in migrant caravan

The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials.

The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information.

The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico with the government there in an effort to keep tabs on the caravan’s size, movements and any potential security threats.

continue : Feds have paid undercover informants in migrant caravan

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Election fraud scheme on L.A. got homeless to sign fake names for cigarettes and cash

A forged signature swapped for $1 — or sometimes a cigarette.

The crude exchange played out hundreds of times on L.A.’s skid row during the 2016 election cycle and again this year, prosecutors said Tuesday as they announced criminal charges against nine people accused in a fraud scheme.

Using cash and cigarettes as lures, the defendants approached homeless people on skid row and asked them to forge signatures on state ballot measure petitions and voter registration forms, the district attorney’s office said. The defendants — some of whom were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday — face several criminal charges, including circulating a petition with fake names, voter fraud and registering a fictitious person.

The charges, which were filed three weeks ago but made public Tuesday, followed a Los Angeles Police Department crackdown on suspected election fraud on skid row earlier in the year.

“They paid individuals to sign the names,” Officer Deon Joseph, the senior lead officer on skid row,told The Times in September. “That’s an assault on our democracy.”

State officials said petition signature scams aren’t widespread in California, but Joseph said they do pop up from time to time on skid row. People hired to help qualify initiatives for the ballot are often paid per signature collected, typically $1 to $2, but officials said a recent slew of proposed ballot initiatives had pushed the rate as high as $6 a signature. It is illegal for the collectors, however, to pay people for signatures.

Source: Election fraud scheme on L.A.’s skid row got homeless to sign fake names for cigarettes and cash, D.A. says

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US ‘missionary’ shot dead with arrows by tribe as he landed to convert them to Christianity


AN American tourist was killed by a tribe on a remote Indian island as soon as he set foot on their home.

North Sentinel Island, off-bounds to visitors, is home to the Sentinelese, who killed John Allen Chau, after he was illegally ferried there by fishermen, officials said.


John Allen Chou was last seen alive on November 16 by the fishermen who took him to the island
The island is located in India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar chain.

The Sentinelese are a community of hunter-gatherers who live there isolated from the outside world.

“A murder case has been registered,” one of the officials told Reuters.

Because contact with the tribe is forbidden John’s killers cannot be prosecuted despite taking a life.

He described himself on Instagram as a “Wilderness EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), “PADI Advanced Open Water Diver”, “Outbound Collective Explorer” and a “Snakebite Survivor”

A police statement described him as ‘some kind of paramedic’

The local Director General of Police Dependra Pathak told TNM:”His body has not yet been retrieved because we have to strategise keeping in mind the nuances and sensitivity of other cultures.

“We are working on that, and are in contact with anthropologists and tribal welfare experts.

“We will figure out some strategy.”

Source: First pic of US ‘missionary’ shot dead with arrows by tribe as he landed on remote island to convert them to Christianity

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China busts £5m scam run by fraudsters recycling USED condoms

The bust saw 17 people arrested across Henan, Hebei, and Zhejiang.

Cangnan police chief Zheng Xidan said: “We found the workshops where the suspects made those condoms in rural areas in Henan and Hebei. They were very simple and crude.

“The hygienic conditions in those villages were very bad. We saw the condoms they were making – they blended the condoms with silicone oil in a bucket.

“It was totally below official manufacturing standards.”

 The fakes were even sold in forged Durex boxes

The fakes were even sold in forged Durex boxes

The fakes were sold wholesale to retailers for 11p per pack – a fraction of the £16 sticker price for real ones.

They were found to contain fungi, thin patches, and even holes.

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Cangnan police swooped after a tip-off that a local businesman was flogging condoms for far below the market value.

In February, cops in Yuncheng, a city in Shanxi province, seized 2million fake Durex and Okamoto condoms.

More than 10 similar cases had been heard by courts in Henan alone since 2014, according to mainland media reports, and those found guilty have been sentenced to up to four years in jail.

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Source: China busts £5m scam run by fraudsters recycling USED condoms

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Comet’s historic flyby may be visible for the holidays

Just in time for the holidays, our inner solar system is about to receive a visitor that may add a green glow to December’s night sky.

46P/Wirtanen, a three-quarter-mile-wide periodic comet that comes our way roughly every 5.4 years, will make its closest approach to Earth on Dec. 16. Categorized as a “hyperactive” comet, it belongs to a small family of comets that appear to emit more water than they should for the size of their nucleus.

Despite a distance of 7.2 million miles, or 30 times the distance from the Earth to the moon, Comet Wirtanen will be the 10th closest comet to graze Earth since 1950. It could also, just maybe, become the brightest of the lot.

Source: Comet’s historic flyby may be visible for the holidays

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Passcodes are protected by Fifth Amendment, says court

There was an underage driver at the wheel, driving on a Florida highway. Police say he was speeding.

When he crashed, one of the passengers in his car died. At the hospital, a blood test showed that the minor had a .086 blood-alcohol content: slightly over the legal limit of .08% for non-commercial drivers.

According to court documents, police found two iPhones in the car: one that belonged to a surviving passenger and one that allegedly belonged to the driver. The passenger told police that the friends had been drinking vodka earlier in the day and that she’d been talking with the driver on her iPhone.

The police wanted the driver’s phone, so they got a warrant to search it for data, photos, text messages, and more. They also sought an order compelling the minor to hand over the passcode for the iPhone and for an iTunes account associated with it.

And this is where we get into the evolving world of the Fifth Amendment and compelled passcode disclosure. Last Wednesday, 24 October, the Florida Court of Appeal quashed a juvenile court’s order for the defendant – identified only by his initials, G.A.Q.L., since he’s a minor – to disclose his passcodes.

Source: Passcodes are protected by Fifth Amendment, says court

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Racist note at Kansas State University turns out to be a hoax

A flier at a Kansas State University apartment complex bearing the very racist statement “Beware [N-words] Live Here!!! Knock at Your Own Risk” has turned out to be a hoax.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Kansas State Police Department wrote “Upon questioning, the person who reported the incident admitted to creating and posting the note to their own door. The matter will be addressed in accordance with applicable disciplinary procedures.”

This makes two such incidents in as many years the school. Last fall, a student scribbled N-word graffiti all over his own car and later claimed (admitted) it was just “a Halloween prank that got out of hand.”

The latest incident, as you’d expect, drew immediate denunciations:

The Kansas State Housing and Dining Services account also tweeted out “K-State HDS does not and will never tolerate racism in its communities. The matter will be investigated.”

Well, it was investigated — and it turned out to be bogus.

Last year’s hoax had some rather material ramifications … but not for the culprit. The incident led to “stepped up patrols” by campus police along with development of a multicultural center and creation of two university “diversity” positions.

Hoaxer Dauntarius Williams was let off the hook for filing a false police report.

Source: Racist note at Kansas State University turns out to be a hoax – The College Fix

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Tim Berners-Lee Launches Open Source Project Solid To Start A “New Internet”

Due to the continuous torrent of data breaches and scandals like Cambridge Analytica, Tim Berners-Lee is devastated. To fight the powerful forces of the Internet, world wide web inventor has worked on a project called “Solid.”

In collaboration with MIT, the open-source project is build to make web decentralized, snatch power from big players like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Solid offers tools to create social applications which follow the existing W3C standards. In simple words, you will have a tremendous amount of control over your data.

With Solid, you create this data “pods” (personal online data stores) that can be hosted wherever you want. When an app will ask for your data, Solid will authenticate and give access to the specific pod.

“Solid is guided by the principle of “personal empowerment through data” which we believe is fundamental to the success of the next era of the web. We believe data should empower each of us. With Solid, you will have far more personal agency over data – you decide which apps can access it,” Tim Berner’s wrote in a blog post.

According to Tim, Solid will restore the balance on the web “by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.”


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30 spies dead after Iran cracked CIA comms network with, er, Google search

Shutterstock image of a google search bar

Iran apparently infiltrated the communications network of CIA agents who allowed their secret websites, used to exchange messages with informants, to be crawled by Google.

A report from Yahoo! News this week claims that a 2009 breach of the US spy bods’ communications channels came after the Iranian government infiltrated a series of websites the CIA had used to talk to its sources in places like Iran and China.

Zach Dorfman, one of the journos behind the Yahoo! report, previously detailed the CIA’s “botched” communications system, from the point of view of China, over the summer for Foreign Policy.

“We’re still dealing with the fallout,” one former national security official was quoted as saying this month. “Dozens of people around the world were killed because of this.”

Web scraping is a two-edged sword

The communications leak was believed to have stemmed from a simple Google search. Suspecting the US had agents and sources within its nuclear program, Iran began to hunt for the mole. After a double agent showed Iran’s government one of the sites, they were then able to use Google to identify other sites the intel agency was using, and began to intercept their communications.

Source: 30 spies dead after Iran cracked CIA comms network with, er, Google search – new claim

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New FAA Rules for Drones Go Into Effect


The 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act bring a new regime for recreational flyers
Photo: iStockphoto

Last week saw the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act become law, and the new legislation has quite a few implications for people who fly small drones or model aircraft as a hobby. Before diving into the latest changes, it’s worth reviewing how the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has regulated such things in the past.

Way back in 1981, the FAA issued an “Advisory Circular” that provided guidance for people flying model aircraft. Most modelers considered those guidelines reasonable enough, but if you didn’t conform to them, it was no big deal—they weren’t rules, just recommendations. So, for example, if you flew a model sailplane and caught a thermal that took it more than 400 feet off the ground, the FAA really couldn’t object that you were in violation of its advice to keep lower.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 clarified the picture somewhat, because it included Section 336: Special rule for model aircraft. That section essentially said that the FAA may not regulate model aircraft. It did, however, restrict the definition of model aircraft to something that was flown purely for recreational purposes and was kept within the line of sight of the operator. It further restricted the FAA’s hands-off posture to models that weigh less than 55 pounds, aren’t being flown near an airport, and are “operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.” That last clause has been interpreted various ways, but clearly reflects the interest of organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

A key part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was the distinction it made between model airplanes and helicopters being flown for fun and other small unmanned aircraft being operated for commercial purposes. The latter category, that law made clear, was subject to FAA regulation. A 2014 “interpretation” issued by the FAA also expressed the position that flying “within the line of sight” meant the operator was looking at the aircraft, not using video goggles to fly by FPV, or first-person view, by which the pilot controls the model using video from an onboard camera.


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Popular browsers made to cough up browsing history

Anonymous Coward, in commenting on a report from The Register about vulnerabilities that expose people’s browsing histories, pithily sums up potential repercussions like so:

Sweetheart, whats this ‘’ site I found in your browsing history?

If you value your privacy and your ferret predilections, be advised that in August, security researchers from Stanford University and UC San Diego presented, during the 2018 USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT), four new, privacy-demolishing attack methods to get at people’s browsing histories.

The novel attacks fit into two classic categories – visited-link attacks and cache-based attacks – and exploit new, modern browser features such as the CSS Paint application programming interface (API) and the JavaScript bytecode cache: two examples of evolving web code that don’t take privacy into account when handling cross-origin URL data, the researchers say.

So-called history sniffing vulnerabilities are as old as dirt, and browser code has addressed them in the past. Here’s a paper written on the issue back in 2000, and here’s a Firefox bug reported that same year about how CSS page disclosure could let others see what pages you’ve visited.

Old or not, common web browsers – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, and Brave – are all, to greater or lesser degree, affected by the new methods of sniffing, the researchers say.

Even most of the security-focused browsers they evaluated – they looked at ChromeZero, Brave, FuzzyFox and DeterFox – coughed up browsing histories in the face of two of their attacks. The Tor Browser alone stood fast against all four attacks: not surprising, since it doesn’t actually store users’ browser histories.


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Why DARPA Is Betting a Million Bucks on an “Impossible” Space Drive



The law of conservation of momentum says that a rocket (or anything else) can’t accelerate forward without some form of exhaust ejected backward. But in 1998, a British engineer named Roger Shawyer announced the seemingly impossible—he had built a closed system that could generate thrust.

Twenty years later and many scientists still call the Shawyer’s EmDrive impossible, but that hasn’t stopped DARPA, the Defense Department agency that funds potential technological breakthroughs of all kinds, from putting serious money behind it.

An Irritating Anomaly

EmDrive concept


Here’s how the EmDrive works. Imagine you have a truncated cone—a tube wider at one end than the other—made of copper. Seal it, then fill it with microwaves. Like other electromagnetic radiation, microwaves exert a tiny amount of pressure. But because of the shape of this device, they would exert slightly more force on one end than the other. So, even though it’s a closed system, the cone would experience a net thrust and, if you had enough microwaves, it would gradually accelerate.

Build it to a large enough scale and you could revolutionize propulsion.

But all of this should be theoretically impossible, hence the skepticism hurled by respectable physicists and SGU, a skeptic website that compared the idea behind the EmDrive to someone trying to move a car forward by pushing on the dashboard.


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BASE Jumping Into an Airplane Looks as Crazy as it Sounds


After 100 test flights and an abandoned first attempt, the Soul Flyers made history when Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet leapt from the top of the 4,158 metre Jungfrau summit in the Swiss Alps into a small airplane.

The Pilatus Porter light aircraft was flown by Philippe Bouvier and navigated by project coordinator, Yves “Jetman” Rossy. With 3,200 metres of vertical freefall, the team had 2 minutes and 45 seconds to attempt the stunt.

In this extended cut of the daring feat completed last year, we get to see more footage of the jump and lead up to the exciting moment both BASE jumpers made it safely into the plane before jumping back out for a victory freefall.

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