Education

The House's Tax Bill Levies a Tax On Graduate Student Tuition Waivers (nytimes.com) 82

Camel Pilot writes: The new GOP tax plan -- which just passed the House -- will tax tuition waivers as income. Graduate students working as research assistants on meager stipends would have to declare tuition waivers as income on the order of $80,000 income. This will force many graduate students of modest means to quit their career paths and walk away from their research. These are the next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors, educators, medical miracle workers and market makers. As Prof Claus Wilke points out: "This would be a disaster for U.S. STEM Ph.D. education." Slashdot reader Camel Pilot references a report via The New York Times, where Erin Rousseau explains how the House of Representatives' recently passed tax bill affects graduate research in the United States. Rousseau is a graduate student at M.I.T. who studies the neurological basis of mental health disorders. "My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a tuition bill of about $50,000 every year -- a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities," he writes. "No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn't counted as taxable income." Rousseau continues by saying his tuition waivers will be taxed under the House's tax bill. "This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That's an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually."
Television

FCC Approves Next-Gen ATSC 3.0 TV Standard (reuters.com) 100

New submitter mikeebbbd writes: "U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the use of new technology that will improve picture quality on mobile phones, tablets and television, but also raises significant privacy concerns by giving advertisers dramatically more data about viewing habits," reports Reuters. ATSC3.0 will apparently make personal data collection and targeted ads possible. New TVs will be necessary, and broadcasters will need to transmit both ATSC 2.0 (the current standard) for 3 to 5 years before turning off the older system. For now, the conversion is voluntary. There appears to be no requirement (as there was when ATSC 2.0 came out) for low-cost adapter boxes to make older TVs work; once a channel goes ATSC 3.0-only, your old TV will not display it any more.
Privacy

Why is this Company Tracking Where You Are on Thanksgiving? (theoutline.com) 96

Earlier this week, several publications published a holiday-themed data study about how families that voted for opposite parties spent less time together on Thanksgiving, especially in areas that saw heavy political advertising. The data came from a company called SafeGraph that supplied publications with 17 trillion location markets for 10 million smartphones. A report looks at the bigger picture: The data wasn't just staggering in sheer quantity. It also appears to be extremely granular. Researchers "used this data to identify individuals' home locations, which they defined as the places people were most often located between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m.," wrote The Washington Post. The researchers also looked at where people were between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in order to see if they spent that time at home or traveled, presumably to be with friends or family. "Even better, the cellphone data shows you exactly when those travelers arrived at a Thanksgiving location and when they left," the Post story says. To be clear: This means SafeGraph is looking at an individual device and tracking where its owner is going throughout their day. A common defense from companies that creepily collect massive amounts of data is that the data is only analyzed in aggregate; for example, Google's database BigQuery, which allows organizations to upload big data sets and then query them quickly, promises that all its public data sets are "fully anonymized" and "contain no personally-identifying information." In multiple press releases from SafeGraph's partners, the company's location data is referred to as "anonymized," but in this case they seem to be interpreting the concept of anonymity quite liberally given the specificity of the data.
Privacy

Federal Extreme Vetting Plan Castigated By Tech Experts (apnews.com) 154

An anonymous reader shares an Associated Press report: Leading researchers castigated a federal plan that would use artificial intelligence methods to scrutinize immigrants and visa applicants, saying it is unworkable as written and likely to be "inaccurate and biased" if deployed. The experts, a group of more than 50 computer and data scientists, mathematicians and other specialists in automated decision-making, urged the Department of Homeland Security to abandon the project, dubbed the "Extreme Vetting Initiative." That plan has its roots in President Donald Trump's repeated pledge during the 2016 campaign to subject immigrants seeking admission to the United States to more intense ideological scrutiny -- or, as he put it, "extreme vetting." Over the summer, DHS published a "statement of objectives" for a system that would use computer algorithms to scan social media and other material in order to automatically flag undesirable entrants -- and to continuously scan the activities of those allowed into the U.S.
Communications

Phone Companies Get New Tools To Block Spam Calls (cnbc.com) 127

An anonymous reader shares a report: Phone companies will have greater authority to block questionable calls from reaching customers as regulators adopted new rules to combat automated messages known as robocalls. Rules adopted Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission represent the latest tools against "robocalls," which pester consumers, sometimes multiple times each day, and often push scams. Phone companies can already block some calls that trick consumers by showing up on Caller ID with fake numbers. The new rules make clear that they can block additional calls that are likely scams, such as numbers that start with a 911 area code, or one that isn't currently assigned to anyone.
Security

Internal Kaspersky Investigation Says NSA Worker's Computer Was Infested with Malware (vice.com) 136

A reader shares a report: The personal computer of an NSA worker who took government hacking tools and classified documents home with him was infected with a backdoor trojan, unrelated to these tools, that could have been used by criminal hackers to steal the US government files, according to a new report being released Thursday by Kaspersky Lab in response to recent allegations against the company. The Moscow-based antivirus firm, which has been accused of using its security software to improperly grab NSA hacking tools and classified documents from the NSA worker's home computer and provide them to the Russian government, says the worker had at least 120 other malicious files on his home computer in addition to the backdoor, and that the latter, which had purportedly been created by a Russian criminal hacker and sold in an underground forum, was trying to actively communicate with a malicious command-and-control server during the time Kaspersky is accused of siphoning the US government files from the worker's computer. Costin Raiu, director of the company's Global Research and Analysis Team, told Motherboard that his company's software detected and prevented that communication but there was a period of time when the worker had disabled his Kaspersky software and left his computer unprotected. Raiu says they found evidence that the NSA worker may have been infected with a second backdoor as well, though they saw no sign of it trying to communicate with an external server so they don't know if it was active on his computer.
United States

Foreign Students Have Begun To Shun the United States (axios.com) 732

In a potential threat to future U.S. innovation, new international enrollment at U.S. colleges is down for the first time in more than a decade, according to a new report. From the report: It is the first hard sign that the Trump administration's rhetoric may be frightening away some of the world's best and brightest who traditionally have been drawn to settle and work in the U.S. Why it matters: "The Chinese whiz kid, if he can find a way to America, he'll come here. If you're good, you can make a lot of money," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, tells Axios. "That whole set of incentives has always been tied to the immigrant stream, and we're severing that connection." By the numbers: The findings are from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report and its smaller joint "snapshot" report on international enrollment. It found that new international student enrollment dropped by 3.3% for the 2016-2017 academic year, and by a far higher 6.9% in the Fall 2017 semester.
The Military

Russia Posts Video Game Screenshot As 'Irrefutable Proof' of US Helping IS (bbc.com) 131

Plus1Entropy shares a report from BBC, adding: "But when I asked Putin, he said they didn't do it": Russia's Ministry of Defense has posted what it called "irrefutable proof" of the U.S. aiding so-called Islamic State -- but one of the images was actually taken from a video game. The ministry claimed the image showed an IS convoy leaving a Syrian town last week aided by U.S. forces. Instead, it came from the smartphone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The ministry said an employee had mistakenly attached the photo. The Conflict Intelligence Team fact-checking group said the other four provided were also errors, taken from a June 2016 video which showed the Iraqi Air Force attacking IS in Iraq. The video game image seems to be taken from a promotional video on the game's website and YouTube channel, closely cropped to omit the game controls and on-screen information. In the corner of the image, however, a few letters of the developer's disclaimer can still be seen: "Development footage. This is a work in progress. All content subject to change."
Businesses

TechShop Announces Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; Closes All Locations 65

ewhac writes: To the shock and dismay of many, TechShop today announced the immediate closure of all of its U.S. locations and is entering Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Their homepage has been replaced with a PDF relating TechShop's history, and detailing the circumstances leading to shutting down the company. First launched ten years ago, TechShop was one of the first "shared maker spaces," a members-only machine and work shop where tinkerers, makers, inventors, and innovators were able to prototype their ideas, launch products, or even just fix their own stuff. Its closing will be a huge loss to the tech and maker communities.
The Internet

FCC Plans December Vote To Kill Net Neutrality Rules (bloomberg.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission under its Republican chairman plans to vote in December to kill the net neutrality rules passed during the Obama era, said two people briefed on the plans. Chairman Ajit Pai in April proposed gutting the rules that he blamed for depressing investment in broadband, and said he intended to "finish the job" this year. The chairman has decided to put his proposal to a vote at the FCC next month, said the people. The agency's monthly meeting is to be held Dec. 14. The people asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been made public. It's not clear what language Pai will offer to replace the rules that passed with only Democratic votes at the FCC in 2015. He has proposed that the FCC end the designation of broadband companies such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. as common carriers. That would remove the legal authority that underpins the net neutrality rules. One of the people said Pai may call for vacating the rules except for portions that mandate internet service providers inform customers about their practices. The current regulations forbid broadband providers from blocking or slowing web traffic, or from charging higher fees in return for quicker passage over their networks.
Businesses

Companies Wake Up To the Problem of Bullies At Work (wsj.com) 215

Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report in The Wall Street Journal (possibly paywalled), two-thirds of Americans have reported being bullied in the workplace in the last year (up from half in 1989) and boorish behavior by bosses and coworkers are causing companies in lost productivity. The report reads: One of the first things visitors notice when they enter the Irvine, Calif., offices of Bryan Cave LLP is the granite plaque etched with the law firm's 10-point code of civility. The gray slab, displayed in the law firm's reception area, proclaims that employees always say please and thank you, welcome feedback and acknowledge the contributions of others. Such rules may seem more at home in a kindergarten than a law firm, but Stuart Price, a longtime partner, says they serve as a daily reminder to keep things civil at work. Incivility -- and its more extreme cousin, bullying -- is becoming a bigger problem in workplaces. Nearly two-thirds of Americans reported that they were bullied at work last year, up from roughly half of workers in 1998, according to research conducted by Christine Porath, a management professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. These people reported they were "treated rudely at least once a month" by bosses or co-workers in the past year -- which Prof. Porath defined as being bullied.Bullying costs companies in ways large and small, cutting into productivity and turning off customers, management experts say. Workplace behavior is under the microscope after recent allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, technology and media. Some companies have found, as a result of investigations into harassment claims, that bullying and boorish behavior are more common than suspected.
Businesses

Technology Invading Nearly All US Jobs, Even Lower Skilled, Study Finds (reuters.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Forget robots. The real transformation taking place in nearly every workplace is the invasion of digital tools. The use of digital tools has increased, often dramatically, in 517 of 545 occupations since 2002, with a striking uptick in many lower-skilled occupations, according to a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. The report underscores the growing need for workers of all types to gain digital skills and explains why many employers say they struggle to fill jobs, including many that in the past required few digital skills. There is anxiety about automation displacing workers and in many cases, new digital tools allow one worker to do work previously done by several. Those 545 occupations reflect 90 percent of all jobs in the economy. The report found that jobs with greater digital content tend to pay more and are increasingly concentrated in traditional high-tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Austin, Texas.
Transportation

Boeing 757 Testing Shows Airplanes Vulnerable To Hacking, DHS Says (aviationtoday.com) 140

schwit1 shares a report from Aviation Today: A team of government, industry and academic officials successfully demonstrated that a commercial aircraft could be remotely hacked in a non-laboratory setting last year, a DHS official said Wednesday at the 2017 CyberSat Summit in Tysons Corner, Virginia. "We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration. [Which] means I didn't have anybody touching the airplane, I didn't have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft." Hickey said the details of the hack and the work his team are doing are classified, but said they accessed the aircraft's systems through radio frequency communications, adding that, based on the RF configuration of most aircraft, "you can come to grips pretty quickly where we went" on the aircraft. Patching avionics subsystem on every aircraft when a vulnerability is discovered is cost prohibitive, Hickey said. The cost to change one line of code on a piece of avionics equipment is $1 million, and it takes a year to implement. For Southwest Airlines, whose fleet is based on Boeing's 737, it would "bankrupt" them. Hickey said newer models of 737s and other aircraft, like Boeing's 787 and the Airbus Group A350, have been designed with security in mind, but that legacy aircraft, which make up more than 90% of the commercial planes in the sky, don't have these protections.
Medicine

FDA Approves Digital Pill That Tracks If Patients Have Ingested Their Medication (nytimes.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill -- a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine. The approval, announced late on Monday, marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed. Experts estimate that so-called nonadherence or noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year, much of it because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization. Patients who agree to take the digital medication, a version of the antipsychotic Abilify, can sign consent forms allowing their doctors and up to four other people, including family members, to receive electronic data showing the date and time pills are ingested. A smartphone app will let them block recipients anytime they change their mind. Although voluntary, the technology is still likely to prompt questions about privacy and whether patients might feel pressure to take medication in a form their doctors can monitor.
Government

Pentagon To Make a Big Push Toward Open-Source Software Next Year (theverge.com) 98

"Open-source software" is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. According to The Verge, the Pentagon is going to make a big push for open-source software in 2018. "Thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the [National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018] could institute a big change: should the bill pass in its present form, the Pentagon will be going open source." From the report: We don't typically think of the Pentagon as a software-intensive workplace, but we absolutely should. The Department of Defense is the world's largest single employer, and while some of that work is people marching around with rifles and boots, a lot of the work is reports, briefings, data management, and just managing the massive enterprise. Loading slides in PowerPoint is as much a part of daily military life as loading rounds into a magazine. Besides cost, there are two other compelling explanations for why the military might want to go open source. One is that technology outside the Pentagon simply advances faster than technology within it, and by availing itself to open-source tools, the Pentagon can adopt those advances almost as soon as the new code hits the web, without going through the extra steps of a procurement process. Open-source software is also more secure than closed-source software, by its very nature: the code is perpetually scrutinized by countless users across the planet, and any weaknesses are shared immediately.
Security

About 15 Percent of US Agencies Detected Kaspersky Software on Networks (reuters.com) 81

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: About 15 percent of U.S. federal agencies have reported some trace of Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab software on their systems, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told Congress on Tuesday. Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cyber security at DHS, told a U.S. House of Representatives panel that 94 percent of agencies had responded to a directive ordering them to survey their networks to identify any use of Kaspersky Lab products and to remove them. But Manfra said DHS did "not currently have conclusive evidence" that any networks had been breached due to their use of Kaspersky Lab software. The administration of President Donald Trump ordered civilian U.S. agencies in September to remove Kaspersky Lab from their networks, amid worries the antivirus firm was vulnerable to Kremlin influence and that using its anti-virus software could jeopardize national security.
The Almighty Buck

Study Finds SpaceX Investment Saved NASA Hundreds of Millions (popularmechanics.com) 156

schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: When a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connected with the International Space Station on May 25, 2012, it made history as the first privately-built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The Dragon was the result of a decision 6 years prior -- in 2006, NASA made an "unprecedented" investment in SpaceX technology. A new financial analysis shows that the investment has paid off, and the government found one of the true bargains of the 21st century when it invested in SpaceX. A new research paper by Edgar Zapata, who works at Kennedy Space Center, looks closely at the finances of SpaceX and NASA. "There were indications that commercial space transportation would be a viable option from as far back as the 1980s," Zapata writes. "When the first components of the ISS were sent into orbit 1998, NASA was focused on "ambitious, large single stage-to-orbit launchers with large price tags to match." For future commercial crew missions sending astronauts into space, Zapata estimates that it will cost $405 million for a SpaceX Dragon crew deployment of 4 and $654 million for a Boeing Starliner, which is scheduled for its first flight in 2019. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but Zapata estimates that its only 37 to 39 percent of what it would have cost the government.
China

China Overtakes US In Latest Top 500 Supercomputer List (enterprisecloudnews.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Enterprise Cloud News: The release of the semiannual Top 500 Supercomputer List is a chance to gauge the who's who of countries that are pushing the boundaries of high-performance computing. The most recent list, released Monday, shows that China is now in a class by itself. China now claims 202 systems within the Top 500, while the United States -- once the dominant player -- tumbles to second place with 143 systems represented on the list. Only a few months ago, the U.S. had 169 systems within the Top 500 compared to China's 160. The growth of China and the decline of the United States within the Top 500 has prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to doll out $258 million in grants to several tech companies to develop exascale systems, the next great leap in HPC. These systems can handle a billion billion calculations a second, or 1 exaflop. However, even as these physical machines grow more and more powerful, a good portion of supercomputing power is moving to the cloud, where it can be accessed by more researchers and scientists, making the technology more democratic.
AT&T

Verizon, AT&T Announce Plans To Build and Share Hundreds of New Cell Towers (fiercewireless.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a report: Verizon and AT&T announced a joint venture with Tillman Infrastructure to build and share hundreds of cell towers in more in a move that is sure to be seen as a threat to more established tower companies. The companies said the new structures "will add to the overall communications infrastructure in the United States," filling gaps in current tower footprints, but will also enable the nation's two largest network operators to relocate equipment from towers they're currently using. Construction plans on the first towers will begin early next year and will come online "quickly" as they are completed.
The Military

North Korean Hackers Are Targeting US Defense Contractors (wpengine.com) 144

chicksdaddy quotes Security Ledger: North Korean hackers have stepped up their attacks on U.S. defense contractors in an apparent effort to gain intelligence on weapon systems and other assets that might be used against the country in an armed conflict with the United States and its allies, The Security Ledger is reporting. Security experts and defense industry personnel interviewed by The Security Ledger say that probes and attacks by hacking groups known to be associated with the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have increased markedly as hostilities between that country and the United States have ratcheted up in the last year. The hacking attempts seem to be aimed at gaining access to intellectual property belonging to the companies, including weapons systems deployed on the Korean peninsula.

"As the situation between the DPRK and the US has become more tense, we've definitely seen an increase in number of probe attempts from cyber actors coming out of the DPRK," an official at an aerospace and defense firm told Security Ledger. The so-called "probes" were targeting the company's administrative network and included spear phishing attacks via email and other channels. The goal was to compromise computers on the corporate network... So far, the attacks have targeted "weakest links" within the firms, such as Human Resources personnel and general inquiry mailboxes, rather than targeting technical staff directly. However, experts who follow the DPRK's fast evolving cyber capabilities say that the country may have more up their sleeve.

CNBC also reports that America's congressional defense committees have authorized a last-minute request for $4 billion in extra spending for "urgent missile defeat and defense enhancements to counter the threat of North Korea."

Other countries newly interested in purchasing missile defense systems include Japan, Sweden, Poland, and Saudi Arabia.

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