U.S. high court approves rule change to expand FBI hacking power

U.S. high court approves rule change to expand FBI hacking power
By DUSTIN VOLZ
Apr 29 2016
<http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-warrants-highcourt-idUSKCN0XP2XU>

The Supreme Court on Thursday approved a rule change that would let U.S. judges issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction despite opposition from civil liberties groups who say it will greatly expand the FBI’s hacking authority. 

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts transmitted the rules to Congress, which will have until Dec. 1 to reject or modify the changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure. If Congress does not act, the rules would take effect automatically.

Magistrate judges normally can order searches only within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties.

The U.S. Justice Department, which has pushed for the rule change since 2013, has described it as a minor modification needed to modernize the criminal code for the digital age, and has said it would not permit searches or seizures that are not already legal.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now contend the change would vastly expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to conduct mass hacks on computer networks.

They say it also could run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

While Congress can reject amendments to the rules that govern federal courts, it rarely exercises that authority and is not expected to do so during a heated election year. And few lawmakers have shown interest in the subject.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, condemned the rule change as having “significant consequences for Americans’ privacy,” and vowed to introduce legislation to reverse it.

“Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime,” Wyden said in a statement.

The Justice Department’s quest to broaden warrant jurisdiction has not drawn as much attention as other recent confrontations over government access to digital information. These included the FBI’s standoff with Apple over encryption arising from the agency’s effort to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in December’s San Bernardino massacre.

A Justice Department spokesman said the change was necessary because criminals increasingly use “anonymizing” technologies to conceal their identity online, and remote searches are often the only way to apprehend such suspects.

The change does not authorize any new authorities not already permitted by law, the spokesman said.

U.S. high court approves rule change to expand FBI hacking power

U.S. high court approves rule change to expand FBI hacking power
By DUSTIN VOLZ
Apr 29 2016
<http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-warrants-highcourt-idUSKCN0XP2XU>

The Supreme Court on Thursday approved a rule change that would let U.S. judges issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction despite opposition from civil liberties groups who say it will greatly expand the FBI’s hacking authority. 

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts transmitted the rules to Congress, which will have until Dec. 1 to reject or modify the changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure. If Congress does not act, the rules would take effect automatically.

Magistrate judges normally can order searches only within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties.

The U.S. Justice Department, which has pushed for the rule change since 2013, has described it as a minor modification needed to modernize the criminal code for the digital age, and has said it would not permit searches or seizures that are not already legal.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Access Now contend the change would vastly expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to conduct mass hacks on computer networks.

They say it also could run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

While Congress can reject amendments to the rules that govern federal courts, it rarely exercises that authority and is not expected to do so during a heated election year. And few lawmakers have shown interest in the subject.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, condemned the rule change as having “significant consequences for Americans’ privacy,” and vowed to introduce legislation to reverse it.

“Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime,” Wyden said in a statement.

The Justice Department’s quest to broaden warrant jurisdiction has not drawn as much attention as other recent confrontations over government access to digital information. These included the FBI’s standoff with Apple over encryption arising from the agency’s effort to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in December’s San Bernardino massacre.

A Justice Department spokesman said the change was necessary because criminals increasingly use “anonymizing” technologies to conceal their identity online, and remote searches are often the only way to apprehend such suspects.

The change does not authorize any new authorities not already permitted by law, the spokesman said.

Is humanity evolving into a hive?

Is humanity evolving into a hive?
Researcher Sugata Mitra argues that the human race is transforming in ways we do not realise – in this video from our World Changing Ideas series, he explains how.
By Sugata Mitra
Apr 15 2016
<http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160414-is-humanity-evolving-into-a-hive>

In the past decade or so, the human race has experienced a profound change, and the interesting thing is that we’ve barely noticed. So says Sugata Mitra, educational researcher at the University of Newcastle in the UK, who is known for his experiments to get children in the developing world online.
So what is that change, and what does it mean for us? In the video above, Mitra explains how the technology that underpins the internet has done more than simply allow us to get online – in the long-term, he argues, it will alter what it means to be human by joining up our minds like a giant ‘hive’.

[snip]

Video: 4:03 min

Why Facebook is delivering great earnings when other big tech companies are not

Why Facebook is delivering great earnings when other big tech companies are not
By Hayley Tsukayama
Apr 27 2016
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/04/27/facebook-is-delivering-great-earnings-when-other-big-tech-companies-are-not/>

In this season of great earnings expectations, all the big tech names so far have disappointed — save one.

Facebook on Wednesday bucked a string of dismal tech earnings, beating Wall Street forecasts on almost every critical metric. The world’s largest social network said it grew to 1.65 billion monthly users and made $5.38 billion over the first three months of this year, more than the $5.25 billion many analysts were expecting. Profit was 77 cents a share, which blew away the 63 cents most analysts polled by Bloomberg had been expecting.

The stock soared 9 percent in after-hours trading.

Of particular note was mobile advertising which now makes up 82 percent of Facebook’s ad revenues — a sign that the company is making a successful transition to mobile, where many of its rivals are struggling.

Facebook executives attributed some of that success to the company’s efforts to streamline its ad selling tools, “We’ve made it easier for small and medium businesses to use the same targeting tools and ad formats that our larger advertisers use,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call with investors.

He also noted: “Today, people around the world spend more than 50 minutes a day using Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. That doesn’t even include WhatsApp yet.”

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said many marketers have told Facebook that trying to figure out the shift to mobile advertising is like the early days of television. The social network, she said, has made it a mission to help marketers specifically tailor their ads for a mobile world — where things must be shorter and often without sound.

Sandberg said that Nestle, for instance, tried running both a traditional television ad and a mobile-optimized ad on the site. The mobile version, she said, performed better in engagement and promoting product awareness. Other features, such as auto-captioning, have led people to spend 12 percent more time with an ad.

In terms of overall earnings results, it’s been a different story recently for many of the other big names in Silicon Valley. On Tuesday, Apple’s stock took a dive after it reported soft iPhone sales for the first time and its first revenue drop since 2003. Twitter stock also plunged after it said ad spending by big-name marketers was much weaker than it had expected. Last week, profit at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, missed Wall Street forecasts. So did Microsoft, on slowing growth in its cloud business.

Given the glum results from most big tech names and the lone bright spot of Facebook, should tech investors be worried about weakness in the broader sector?

Not so fast, said Sheraz Mian, Research Director at Zacks Investment Research. He said he thinks the earnings misses are part of a larger story.

“The lack of growth is an ongoing issue, not just in the tech sector but across the board as well,” Mian said. Tech firms have been performing a little better than others for the past couple of earnings seasons, Mian said, setting high expectations from analysts.

[snip]

SpaceX plans to send a spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018

SpaceX plans to send a spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018

By Loren Grush
Apr 27 2016
 

SpaceX plans to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018, the company announced today — marking a major first step toward CEO Elon Musk’s goal of sending humans to the Red Planet. The company didn’t say how many spacecraft it will send, but hinted it would conduct a series of these Dragon missions and that it would release more details soon. In a tweet, the company indicated that the capsules would fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a bigger version of its Falcon 9; the rocket will launch the capsules to the planet to test out how to land heavy payloads on Mars. If successful, the endeavor would make SpaceX the first private spaceflight company to land a vehicle on another planet.

SpaceX is sending what it calls the Red Dragon, a modified version of the spacecraft that the company uses to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. The Red Dragon is equipped with eight SuperDraco engines that allow the capsule to land on solid ground, a technique known as a propulsive landing. The engines are meant to turn on during the Dragon’s descent toward the Martian surface, slowing down the vehicle’s fall and allowing it to land on ground in a controlled way. It’s similar to how SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets post-launch.

Propulsive landings could be an efficient way to get large amounts of hardware down to the surface of Mars — something that NASA still hasn’t figured out how to do yet. Spacecraft returning to Earth have a thick atmosphere to help slow down their fall, but Mars’ atmosphere is just one-hundredth the pressure of Earth’s, providing less cushion for incoming vehicles and increasing the likelihood of a crash. So far, NASA only knows how to land 1 metric ton of hardware on Mars gently. The agency is working on an inflatable lander that could potentially land more weight, but testing of the vehicle has run into a few snags. In 2014, NASA explored the feasibility of using SpaceX’s Red Dragon concept to land equipment on Mars and determined that the capsule’s landing technique could work. NASA also proposed the idea of using the Red Dragon to bring samples from Mars back to Earth, though SpaceX hasn’t announced plans of incorporating that idea into the 2018 mission.

These Red Dragon missions will be an important precursor to SpaceX’s long-term goal of setting up a Martian colony. Any human missions to Mars will require sending tons of equipment over first before people get there so colonists have all the supplies they need to keep them alive. The Red Dragon could be a crucial vehicle for transporting supplies to and from the planet. Musk has said that he will reveal the full extent of his Mars colonization plan this September at the International Aeronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, according to the Observer.

There’s still a lot to be done before the Red Dragon makes it to Mars. SpaceX has shown that its rockets can land propulsively, but the technique hasn’t been demonstrated yet on the Dragon capsule. The company has used the SuperDraco engines to ascend the Dragon during a pad abort test, and the engines have been used to make the spacecraft hover, but not land. SpaceX plans to test out propulsive landing on a future Dragon cargo capsule, after the spacecraft returns from the International Space Station.

And to get the Red Dragon to Mars, SpaceX will use its Falcon Heavy — a heavy-lift version of the company’s Falcon 9 that’s currently under development. The Falcon Heavy has yet to fly, but SpaceX is planning the first test flight of the vehicle for November of this year. That said, the test flight deadline has been pushed back quite a few times.

The Rich Don’t Work Anymore—Working Is for Poor People

The Rich Don’t Work Anymore—Working Is for Poor People
A large portion of the super-rich have never broken a sweat.
By Robert Reich
Mar 31 2016
<http://www.alternet.org/economy/robert-reich-rich-dont-work-anymore-working-poor-people>

Many believe that poor people deserve to be poor because they’re lazy. As Speaker John Boehner has said, the poor have a notion that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.”

In reality, a large and growing share of the nation’s poor work full time — sometimes sixty or more hours a week – yet still don’t earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

It’s also commonly believed, especially among Republicans, that the rich deserve their wealth because they work harder than others. 

In reality, a large and growing portion of the super-rich have never broken a sweat. Their wealth has been handed to them. 

The rise of these two groups — the working poor and non-working rich – is relatively new. Both are challenging the core American assumptions that people are paid what they’re worth, and work is justly rewarded.

Why are these two groups growing?

The ranks of the working poor are growing because wages at the bottom have  dropped, adjusted for inflation. With increasing numbers of Americans taking low-paying jobs in retail sales, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, childcare, elder care, and other personal services, the pay of the bottom fifth is falling closer to the minimum wage.

At the same time, the real value of the federal minimum wage is lower today than it was a quarter century ago. 

In addition, most recipients of public assistance must now work in order to qualify. 

Bill Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 pushed the poor off welfare and into work. Meanwhile, the Earned Income Tax Credit, a wage subsidy, has emerged as the nation’s largest anti-poverty program. Here, too, having a job is a prerequisite.

The new work requirements haven’t reduced the number or percentage of Americans in poverty. They’ve just moved poor people from being unemployed and impoverished to being employed and impoverished. 

While poverty declined in the early years of welfare reform when the economy boomed and jobs were plentiful, it began growing in 2000. By 2012 it exceeded its level in 1996, when welfare ended. At the same time, the ranks of the non-working rich have been swelling. America’s legendary “self-made” men and women are fast being replaced by wealthy heirs. 

Six of today’s 10 wealthiest Americans are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans combined.

Americans who became enormously wealthy over the last three decades are now busily transferring that wealth to their children and grand children.

The nation is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. A study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy projects a total of $59 trillion passed down to heirs between 2007 and 2061.

[snip]

Revealed: nearly all new diesel cars exceed official pollution limits

“Revealed: nearly all new diesel cars exceed official pollution limits”
Health experts lambast ‘deceitful’ carmakers as data suggests 97% of vehicles fail to meet NOx emissions standards in real-world conditions
By Damian Carrington, Gwyn Topham and Peter Walker
Apr 23 2016
<http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/23/diesel-cars-pollution-limits-nox-emissions>

Ninety-seven percent of all modern diesel cars emit more toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution on the road than the official limit, according to the most comprehensive set of data yet published, with a quarter producing at least six times more than the limit.

Surprisingly, the tiny number of models that did not exceed the standard were mostly Volkswagens, the carmaker whose cheating of diesel emissions tests which emerged last year sparked the scandal. Experts said the new results show that clean diesel cars can be made but that virtually all manufacturers have failed to do so.

The new data, from testing industry leader Emissions Analytics (EA), follows the publication this week by the Department for Transport of emissions results for 37 vehicles, all of which emitted more NOx on the road than the official limit. But the new data covers more than 250 vehicles in more stringently standardised road conditions. EA found that just one of 201 Euro 5 diesels, the EU standard from 2009, did not exceed the limit, while only seven of 62 Euro 6 diesels, the stricter standard since 2014, did so.

Diesel cars must meet an official EU limit for NOx but are only tested in a laboratory under fixed conditions. All vehicles sold pass this regulation but, when taken out on to real roads, almost all emit far more pollution. There is no suggestion that any of the cars tested broke the law on emissions limits or used any cheat devices.

Mayoral candidates in London, the city with the worst air quality in Britain, have seized on the DfT data to call for tighter controls on polluting traffic – including a ban on diesel cars.

An ultra-low emission zone in central London from 2020 will levy charges on all but the cleanest vehicles. The Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, said he would be immediately consulting on a more stringent zone which could be extended to outer boroughs. “Londoners are seeing their lives cut short because of the misleading emissions produced by some of the world’s biggest and most respected car brands.”

Goldsmith added that as mayor he would issue public smog alerts to give accurate information on air quality.

Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem mayoral candidate, said: “The figures are exactly the reason why we need to speed up the introduction of the ultra-low emission zone so that it starts in 2018. Ultimately we will need to ban diesel vehicles from much of London and we need a mayor prepared to take these tough decisions and work with people to make these changes happen.”

NOx is at illegally high levels in many British cities and the government estimates this pollution is responsible for 23,500 premature deaths a year. The government lost a supreme court challenge in 2015 over the adequacy of its plans to tackle the crisis and is facing a fresh challenge over its new strategy.

[snip]