Space

NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out! 167

Posted by timothy
from the well-those-might-be-more-like-suggestions dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: HR 2039: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 (press release, full text, and as a pretty RGB bitmap) is in the House. In $18B of goodies we see things that actually resemble a space program. The ~20,000 word document is even a good read, especially the parts about decadal cadence. There is more focus on launch systems and manned exploration, also to "expand the Administration's Near-Earth Object Program to include the detection, tracking, cataloguing, and characterization of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects less than 140 meters in diameter." I find it awesome that the fate of the dinosaurs is explicitly mentioned in this bill. If it passes we will have a law with dinosaurs in it. Someone read the T-shirt. There is also a very specific six month review of NASA's "Earth science global datasets for the purpose of identifying those datasets that are useful for understanding regional changes and variability, and for informing applied science research." Could this be an emerging Earth Sciences turf war between NOAA and NASA? Lately it seems more of a National Atmospheric Space Administration. Mission creep, much?
Government

Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic 344

Posted by timothy
from the never-eat-or-hire-or-grow-fruit-outside-your-zipcode dept.
Presto Vivace writes: The H-1B visa issue rarely surfaces during presidential races, and that's what makes the entrance by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) into the 2016 presidential race so interesting. ... ...Sanders is very skeptical of the H-1B program, and has lambasted tech firms for hiring visa workers at the same time they're cutting staff. He's especially critical of the visa's use in offshore outsourcing.
Space

Native Hawaiian Panel Withdraws Support For World's Largest Telescope 250

Posted by timothy
from the not-in-their-backyard dept.
sciencehabit writes: Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) – a state agency established to advocate for native Hawaiins — voted Thursday to withdraw their support for construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano. The vote follows weeks of protests by Native Hawaiians who say the massive structure would desecrate one of their most holy places. The protests have shut down construction of the telescope, which would be the world's largest optical telescope if completed. The vote, which reverses a 2009 decision to endorse the project, strikes a powerful if symbolic blow against a project that, for many native Hawaiians, has come to symbolize more than a century of assaults against their land, culture and sovereignty.
Government

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-stop-yelling dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
United States

US Senate Targets Patent Trolls 56

Posted by timothy
from the crimes-of-opportunity dept.
New submitter jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, "Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)", began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech. The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August. "Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. "This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules."
Government

Tech Credited With Reducing Nigerian Election Death Toll 58

Posted by timothy
from the pat-answers dept.
jfruh writes: Dozens died in the runup to Nigeria's most recent election — a shocking statistic to many Westerners, but a relief in comparison to the much more serious violence that plagued earlier elections. Observers are crediting technology with making the election safer: the use of biometric IDs gave voters more confidence in the results, and social media gave people a chance to blow of anger that might've otherwise results in street brawls.
The Internet

Rand Paul Moves To Block New "Net Neutrality" Rules 433

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-isps? dept.
SonicSpike writes with news about another bump in the road for net neutrality. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would 'wrap the Internet in red tape.' The 'net neutrality' rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court. Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.
The Military

The United States Just Might Be Iran's Favorite New Nuclear Supplier 161

Posted by samzenpus
from the company-store dept.
Lasrick writes: Nick Gillard from Project Alpha points out that for more than 3 decades, Iran has purchased goods for its nuclear program largely from the shadows. With the Framework Agreement, that will almost certainly change: "According to the US State Department, one of the agreement's provisions creates a dedicated procurement channel for Iran's nuclear program. This channel will monitor and approve, on a case-by-case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual-use materials and technology." That is terrific news for US companies, because Iran is known to covet US-made parts required for their program, most of which are "dual-use."
Businesses

Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers 624

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-no-longer-needed dept.
Lucas123 writes: Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. Last Friday, the partnership was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press. One of the briefing documents obtained after the meeting stated, "H-1B workers complement — instead of displace — U.S. Workers." Last October, however, Disney laid off at least 135 IT staff (though employees say it was hundreds more), many of them longtime workers. Disney then replaced them with H-1B contractors that company said could better "focus on future innovation and new capabilities." The fired workers believe the primary motivation behind Disney's action was cost-cutting. "Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing," one former employee said. Disney officials promised new job opportunities as a result of the restructuring, but the former staff interviewed by Computerworld said they knew of few co-workers who had landed one of the new jobs. Use of visa workers in a layoff is a public policy issue, particularly for Disney. Ten U.S. senators are currently seeking a federal investigation into displacement of IT workers by H-1B-using contractors. Kim Berry, president of the Programmer's Guild, said Congress should protect American workers by mandating that positions can only be filled by H-1B workers when no qualified American — at any wage — can be found to fill the position."
News

Interviews: Ask Fark Founder Drew Curtis a Question 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
For many, the day would not be complete without checking Fark.com for the latest funny or weird news. Inspired by the numerous links to interesting news stories he'd send to friends every morning, Drew Curtis created Fark in 1999. By 2009 it was one of the top 100 English language websites with 3-4 million unique visitors, and 60 million page views per month. Recently Drew has been in the news after he announced that he was running for governor in his home state of Kentucky with his wife Heather as his running mate. Calling himself an independent "citizen candidate," the campaign website says: "We have a theory that we’re about to see a huge change in how elections and politics work. Across the country, we have seen regular citizens stepping up and challenging the status quo built by political parties and career politicians. They have been getting closer and closer to victory and, here in Kentucky, we believe we have a chance to win and break the political party stronghold for good." We'll be checking back in with Drew as the race heats up, but for now he's agreed to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Earth

Pope Attacked By Climate Change Skeptics 694

Posted by Soulskill
from the infallible-except-when-he-disagrees-with-them dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Telegraph reports that as the Vatican forges an alliance with the UN to tackle climate change, skeptics accuse Pope Francis of being deeply ill-informed about global warming. The Pope discussed climate change with Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, who then opened a one-day Vatican conference called "The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development". Organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace, the goal of the conference is to help strengthen the global consensus on the importance of climate change in the context of sustainable development.

But a group of British and American skeptics say the Pope is being fed "mistaken" advice from the UN and that he should stick to speaking out on matters of morality and theology rather than getting involved in the climate change debate. "The Pope has great moral authority but he's not an authority on climate science. He's a learned man but the IPCC has got it wrong," says Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute, a conservative American pressure group partly funded by billionaire industrialists who question climate change. "The Pope would make a grave mistake if he put his moral authority behind scientists saying that climate change is a threat to the world. Many scientists have concluded that human activity is a minor player. The Earth has been warming since the end of the last Ice Age."

It was the first time the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago and has been described by the New York Times as "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism," has traveled to Rome to try to influence a pope. "The sideshow envisioned by these organizations will not detract from the deep concern that Pope Francis has for the truth and how it relates to the environment," says Dr. Bernard Brady, Professor and Chair of the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas. "Pope Francis will probably follow his predecessor, Benedict XVI, recognizing the interrelatedness of climate change with other moral issues and calling for persons, organizations, communities, nations, and indeed the global community, to reconsider established patterns of behavior."
United States

Officials Say Russian Hackers Read Obama's Unclassified Emails 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader points out that Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year. Some of President Obama's email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation. The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department's unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama's BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly. But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.
Government

Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law 162

Posted by Soulskill
from the daily-dose-of-cynicism dept.
theodp writes: The NY Times' Eric Lipton was just awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks. So, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy (PDF) to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas — which is on the verge of being codified into laws — was hatched at an influential Microsoft and Gates Foundation-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda after earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created.
Windows

Buggy Win 95 Code Almost Wrecked Stuxnet Campaign 93

Posted by timothy
from the when-governments-attack dept.
mask.of.sanity writes: Super-worm Stuxnet could have blown its cover and failed its sabotage mission due to a bug that allowed it to spread to ancient Windows boxes, malware analysts say. Stuxnet was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code allowing it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.
Crime

Gen. Petraeus To Be Sentenced To Two Years Probation and Fine 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-tall-before-the-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Petraeus, a now-retired U.S. Army General, has already agreed to plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. As part of the agreement with prosecutors filed in March, the government will not seek any prison time. Instead, Petraeus will agree to pay a $40,000 fine and receive two years of probation, according to court documents. The recommendations are not binding on the federal judge who will preside at the hearing Thursday afternoon in Charlotte.
Government

Security Companies Accused of Exaggerating Iran's Cyberthreats Against the US 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the slightly-exaggerated dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A widely-read report accusing Iran of hundreds of thousands of cyberattacks against the U.S. is being criticized as hugely inaccurate as well as motivated by marketing and politics, according to a new whitepaper and critics around the security industry. The original report, solicited by a conservative think tank and published by Norse in the lead up to the RSA Security Conference, hit the front page of the New York Times by calling handshakes and network scans "sophisticated cyberattacks."
United States

House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity 198

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-more-with-less dept.
dcblogs writes: A U.S. House bill that will set the nation's basic research agenda for the next two years increases funding for computer science, but at the expense of other research areas. The funding bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, hikes funding for computer science, but cuts — almost by half — social sciences funding, which includes the study of human behavior. Cybersecurity uses human behavior research because humans are often the weakest security link. Research funding social, behavioral and economic sciences will fall from $272 million to $150 million, a 45% decrease. The bill also takes a big cut out of geosciences research, which includes climate change study, from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion, an 8% decrease. The insight into human behaviors that comes from the social science research, "is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software systems that are more secure and easier to use," wrote J. Strother Moore, the Computing Research Association chair and a professor of computer science at the University of Texas.
United States

Copyright For Sale: What the Sony Docs Say About MPAA Buying Political Influence 163

Posted by timothy
from the public-servitude dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The linkage between political funding and the major copyright lobby groups is not a new issue as for years there have been stories about how groups like the MPAA and RIAA fund politicians that advance their interests. Michael Geist digs into the Sony document leak to see how the MPAA coordinates widespread buying of politicians with political funding campaigns led by former Senator Christopher Dodd to federal and state politicians. The campaigns include efforts to circumvent donation limits by encouraging executives to spend thousands on influential politicians, leading to meetings with Barack Obama, the head of the USTR and world leaders.
Government

Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C. 271

Posted by timothy
from the but-what-if-air-&-space-gets-the-copter? dept.
mpicpp writes The Florida mail carrier accused of landing a gyrocopter outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was charged in federal court Thursday and has been barred from returning to the District of Columbia or flying any aircraft, officials said. Douglas Hughes, 61, was charged with violating aircraft registration requirements, a felony, and violating national defense airspace, a misdemeanor. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for the felony and one year in prison for the airspace violation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson also barred Hughes from the District of Columbia, except for court appearances, and said he must stay away from the Capitol, White House and nearby areas while he is there. He will also have to hand over his passport.
The Almighty Buck

'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status 700

Posted by Soulskill
from the brought-to-you-by-years-of-pointless-irritation dept.
An anonymous reader writes: There has been a lot of interest in the activities of the Church of Scientology recently, especially since the release of Alex Gibney's documentary Going Clear. A petition against tax-exempt status for Scientology has been started on the U.S. White House petition website. If it receives more than 100,000 signatures, it will qualify for an official White House response. Even Slashdot has had its own run-ins with Scientology in the past — one of many internet sites to face legal threats from the Church. Has the time come for Scientology go "clear?"