posted 7 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Director Oliver Stone attends the Snowden New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on September 13, 2016 in New York City. (credit: Getty Images / Jim Spellman) On the day the Oliver Stone film Snowden opened in theaters around the world, Mr. Stone was kind enough to give Ars a call (in fact, a Facetime call) to talk about the film's creation. We had so many questions for Mr. Stone about collaborating with Edward Snowden, how he thinks American warfare has changed, and how much of his film is based on a work of fiction. Here's a transcript of our Friday conversation, edited for flow and for Mr. Stone's requested redactions. Ars: To start, I was curious: How much did your film draw from the forums of Ars Technica, where Edward Snowden was apparently a longtime member and commenter? Stone: Well, quite a bit of stuff [in my film] had not appeared [up until now]. There was a lot of information that only... let’s say no one really knew. Bart Gellman [the British journalist who appeared in Citizenfour] told me that when he saw the film, he said, there’s stuff here no one knows. And James Bedford [author of The Puzzle Palace], who I respect, they’ve been on the frontier of this, he said [classified programs] like Heartbeat, Epic Shelter—these things, nobody had talked about them. Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Edward Snowden speaks via video link at a news conference for the launch of a campaign calling for President Obama to pardon him on September 14. (credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has asked President Barack Obama for a pardon, and the ACLU, which represents Snowden in the US, agrees. The following essay by Timothy Edgar, which originally appeared on the blog Lawfare, supports that position. Edgar is the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the Obama administration's national security staff, and is currently the academic director of law and policy at Brown University's Executive Master in Cybersecurity program, and visiting scholar at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. I have signed on to the letter asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden that was released today. I know this will be an unpopular position among many of my former colleagues in the national security community. My reasons for doing so are not fully captured by that letter. They are different from those who see Snowden simply as a hero and the NSA as the villain. I have concluded that a pardon for Edward Snowden, even if he does not personally deserve one, is in the broader interests of the nation. Around the time Edward Snowden got his first job in the intelligence community, I decided to leave my position as an ACLU lawyer in the hope I could make a difference by going inside America’s growing surveillance state. Surprisingly, senior intelligence officials took a chance on hiring me in a unique new office safeguarding civil liberties and privacy. I began work in June 2006. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Elon Musk at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Idaho during the summer of 2015. The book is Excession, by Iain Banks. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images) For most of its 14 year existence, SpaceX has focused on designing and developing the hardware that will lead to its ultimate goal: colonizing Mars. These plans have remained largely secret from the general public, as company founder Elon Musk has dropped only the barest of hints. But that is expected to change on Sept. 27, during a session at the International Astronautical Congress, when Musk details some of these plans for the first time in a public forum. However, on the eve of the meeting, Musk dropped a surprise on Twitter. The workhorse spacecraft that will carry approximately 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to the surface of Mars, which until now has been popularly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, can't be called that, Musk said. "Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name..." he tweeted on Friday evening. By Saturday evening he had a new name dubbing the spacecraft the "Interplanetary Transport System," or ITS. Mars, it turns out, isn't the solar system's only marginally habitable world for would-be new world colonists. The Moon, Venus, the asteroid Ceres, and outer Solar System moons Titan and Callisto all have some advantages that could allow for colonies to subsist. However, Mars has generally been the preferred destination—due to its relative proximity to Earth, a thin atmosphere, and sources of water ice. Musk now seems to be suggesting that some of these more distant destinations, especially moons around Jupiter and Saturn, might be reachable with the Interplanetary Transport System. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A Hawaiian crow will carefully choose and shape a stick to snag food. (credit: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo Global) Here's some news that will justify your corvid love. A new research project in Hawaii, described in a recent issue of Nature, has revealed that crows throughout the world are capable of evolving tool use under the right environmental circumstances. Zoologist Christian Rutz has worked for years with crows on the Pacific island of New Caledonia, who routinely use specially-crafted sticks and serrated leaf edges to retrieve bugs and larvae from hard-to-reach spots in logs. Though Rutz and his colleagues speculated that other crows must use tools, there were no recorded observations of the practice. Until now. In this unedited clip, a Hawaiian crow or 'Alalā spontaneously uses a stick to tug a tasty treat from a hard-to-reach spot in a log. Rutz and a team of researchers worked with a group of 104 'Alalā, or Hawaiian crows and discovered that they used sticks in ways that are very similar to New Caledonian crows. Though the two species are not closely related, they have a few traits in common. Both have long, straight beaks and eyes that are very mobile, which the researchers believe make them particularly adept at using their beaks to guide sticks. To grab a tasty grub out of a log, a crow has to find a stick of the right length, smooth it by removing bark or branches, and then thread it into a small opening to root around and yank out the unlucky invertebrate. 'Alalā and New Caledonian crows also share similar ecosystems: both are island birds, who live in areas with few predators. Unfortunately, human disturbances in the Hawaiian environment have driven 'Alalā extinct in the wild. Rutz and his team worked with birds who live in two different enclosures on the Big Island, using a special "testing log" full of nooks and crannies, to see how they used tools to get at food. Here are several crows engaged in what the researchers call "the manufacture of tools." They choose and discard sticks, but also smooth the sticks, change their sizes by breaking them, and create bark flakes for other tasks. One question is whether 'Alalā learn to use tools from their families, or start using tools spontaneously. The latter would suggest that tool use is essentially a heritable behavior, passed down through genetics rather than socialization. To find out, the researchers reared 7 'Alalā in an enclosure without adults. Within months, all of them began to use sticks to retrieve food. Though adult 'Alalā no doubt help their young learn the best ways to prepare and find sticks, it's clear that this isn't exclusively a learned behavior. The birds will do it even without any training. Because 'Alalā and New Caledonian crows are so distantly related, their tool use is a clear example of convergent evolution, where similar traits arise in two unrelated populations. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
(credit: See-ming Lee) The New York City Police Department takes in millions of dollars in cash each year as evidence, often keeping the money through a procedure called civil forfeiture. But as New York City lawmakers pressed for greater transparency into how much was being seized and from whom, a department official claimed providing that information would be nearly impossible—because querying the 4-year old computer system that tracks evidence and property for the data would "lead to system crashes." The system, the Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS), was built on top of SAP's enterprise resource planning software platform and IBM's DB2 database by Capgemini in 2012, and was used as a flagship case study by the company. PETS replaced the long-established paper-based evidence logging system used by the department, and was supposed to revolutionize evidence and property tracking. It was even submitted for the 2012 Computerworld Honors, an awards program honoring "those who use Information Technology to benefit society." Even with the system, however, the NYPD's Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner told the New York City Council's Public Safety Committee that the department had no idea how much money it took in as evidence, nor did it have a way of reporting how much was seized through civil forfeiture proceedings—where property and money is taken from people suspected of involvement in a crime through a civil filing, and the individuals whom it is seized from are put in the position of proving that the property was not involved in the crime of which they were accused. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Games Workshop) Last week, one of the best things in board gaming—hell, in all of gaming as a whole—quietly came to a sad end. Two giants of the cardboard-and-plastic world, Games Workshop (GW) and Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), announced they were ending their eight-year partnership. The divorce seems amicable, but it cuts adrift a large and unimpeachable back catalogue of games which combined GW’s much-copied-but-never-bettered IP with FFG’s production values and visual flair. It’s a tragedy for the hobby. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Dennis Skley) By all accounts, Great Minds is an educational stalwart that has developed K-12 curriculum used by schools across the US. The materials developed from the Washington, DC-based nonprofit hold US copyrights but are made publicly available under a Creative Commons (CC) license, which theoretically allows them to be freely shared and reproduced for noncommercial uses as long as the original source is credited. That CC license is known as BY-NC-SA 4.0. But it seems that Great Minds can't make up its mind on whether it truly wants its materials to be a part of free culture. Or, in the alternative, it's reading the CC license a little too literally. That's because it's suing Federal Express, claiming the Texas-based delivery and copying company is reproducing its materials for teachers and schools without paying royalties to Great Minds. The educational company says that because FedEx is making a profit from reproducing the materials, it's violating the CC license. That's according to a federal lawsuit (PDF) the company has lodged against FedEx. This explicit limitation of the License to noncommercial use requires that commercial print shops, like FedEx, negotiate a license and pay a royalty to Great Minds if they wish to reproduce the Materials for commercial purposes—i.e., their own profit—at the request of their customers. Thus, this limitation benefits Great Minds and the public, too, by providing Great Minds with additional financial resources to develop new curricula, which in turn can be made available nationwide for free, noncommercial use, and otherwise to further its educational mission. Great minds adds that it "would not make the materials or its other curricula materials available to the public for free, noncommercial use if in doing so it gave up its right to charge a royalty for commercial reproduction." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Some—like Russian Yuri Vlasov in 1960—impress friends with feats of physical strength. After mastering protocol analyzers, you'll wow the crowds with IT muscles instead. (credit: Mark Kauffman / Getty Images) In the complicated world of networking, problems happen. But determining the exact cause of a novel issue in the heat of the moment gets dicey. In these cases, even otherwise competent engineers may be forced to rely on trial and error once Google-fu gives out. Luckily, there’s a secret weapon waiting for willing engineers to deploy—the protocol analyzer. This tool allows you to definitively determine the source of nearly any error, provided you educate yourself on the underlying protocol. The only catch for now? Many engineers avoid it entirely due to (totally unwarranted) dread. What is a protocol analyzer? A protocol analyzer, or “packet sniffer,” is a tool used to intercept traffic, store it, and present it in a decoded, human-readable state. Modern protocol analyzers like Wireshark can even spot rudimentary problems on their own and then perform statistical analyses with captured data. Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: scyther5/Getty Images) it's hard enough to get a new job these days, and it's even harder to get one when your prospective employer thinks you're a convicted criminal even though you're not. And if you have a name like David Smith, the odds increase that you'll be mistaken of being a convicted criminal because there's so many people named David Smith out there. Exacerbating the situation is when background check giants like LexisNexis Screening Solutions claims it should be forgiven for bungling a background check because it was following "industry standards." And the industry standard, LexisNexis says, means it doesn't always have to run a middle name through the system—even when there are some 125,000 people with the name "David Smith" in the United States. That was, in part, LexisNexis' defense to a lawsuit brought by a man named David Alan Smith, who claimed LexisNexis' conduct for erroneously fingering him as a convict was willful and negligent, and violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A world map used in Watch the Skies. (credit: Paul Dean) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com. There’s a new and very special sort of hybrid game doing the rounds, a marriage between the large scale politicking of live-action roleplaying (LARPs) and the focused, often crunchy mechanics of an economic game. It’s played with dozens, even hundreds of players, it takes a whole day, and it has a slightly clumsy sobriquet that perfectly encapsulates its grand ambition: the “megagame.” Megagames have no strict definition, but here’s an outline of the (pretty typical) first one that I tried, two years ago now. Strange alien forces mass near the earth, alarming the world’s governments. Multiple teams of three to six players represent various nations, and teams take on roles like diplomats or military leaders. Each plays its own straightforward game of economics to balance the country’s budget, fund the military, and direct scientific research. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Game Boy Advance SP and its external ports. Notice anything missing? A leading technology company announces the next in its successful and long-standing line of handheld hardware. The new update sports plenty of long-awaited features, including an improved screen and a better battery. But it also includes one major omission: the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which had been included on all of its portable products until this point, has been replaced by a proprietary standard. Many in the press are livid, and consumers largely react with confusion, but many shrug it off and decide to buy the product anyway. This introduction could obviously describe the current brouhaha surrounding the release of the headphone jack-free iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. But you may not remember that it also describes Nintendo's release of the Game Boy Advance SP way back in 2003. Nintendo's mid-generation revamp of the original Game Boy Advance didn't improve on the internal processing power of the core system. It didn't support any games that weren't also supported by 2001's standard Game Boy Advance. Still, the GBA SP drew interest as the first Game Boy to sport an internal battery pack (boasting 10 to 18 hours of continuous play) and the first to include a frontlit screen, for playing in dark rooms. It also sported a trendy flip-top design that protected the screen when not in use and made the unit easy to fit in a pocket. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
This view from the Mast Camera in NASA's Curiosity rover shows sloping buttes and layered outcrops within the "Murray Buttes" region on lower Mount Sharp. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS NASA's Curiosity probe had two primary tasks after landing on Mars in 2012—explore the Martian plains where it had landed, then climb Mount Sharp, which tops out at 5,486 meters. The data the rover sent back after exploring ancient lake beds in the plains suggests these beds would have been favorable for microbial life, if any ever existed on ancient Mars. But Curiosity's more recent attempt to ascend the lower slopes of Mount Sharp was blocked by sand dunes. So the scientists decided to drive the rover around the dunes to find a "pass" through to the mountain. They did so via an area called the Murray Buttes, named after famed scientist Bruce Murray, a co-founder of The Planetary Society. These buttes and small mesas are mostly between 5 to 10 meters high and about the length and width of a football field. They also gave Curiosity an opportunity to make interesting geological observations, as the images in the photo gallery attest. Curiosity, which has now driven more than 14km across the surface of Mars, spent about a month following a valley through the middle of the Murray Buttes. And after performing a final drill sampling on September 9, it exited the buttes and drove southward toward the mountain. With a two-year extension approved by NASA, Curiosity should continue climbing until at least October 2018 and hopefully much longer after that. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Oliver Wunder remixed by Aurich Lawson) Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has asked President Barack Obama for a pardon, and the ACLU, which represents Snowden in the US, agrees. The following piece is a response to Snowden's argument. The author, Jack Goldsmith, is a Harvard Law professor and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. This piece first appeared at Lawfare. A “pardon Snowden” campaign was launched Wednesday in conjunction with the Snowden film. Snowden himself made the “moral case” for why he should be pardoned, and Tim Edgar made a much more powerful case. I remain unconvinced. I don’t think the president will, or should, pardon Snowden. I say this even though I agree with Tim about many of the upsides to Snowden’s theft and leak of documents from NSA databases. On the third anniversary of the Snowden disclosures, I wrote about how, despite their many costs, the disclosures strengthened the intelligence community. They forced the NSA to be more transparent and to better explain itself, demonstrated that the NSA was acting with the full knowledge and support of three branches, resulted in its authorities being strengthened and its collection practices barely narrowed (and in some respects expanded), and overall enhanced its domestic legitimacy going forward. I was not kidding when I said that “[t]hese are but some of the public services for which the US government has Snowden to thank.” This was not a new theme with me. I have made similar points for years. (See here and here and here and here.) Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Mobileye Co-founder, CTO, and Chairman Amnon Shashua speaks at a Volkswagen press event at CES 2016. (credit: Getty Images | David Becker) On Friday, autonomous components maker Mobileye put out a press release saying that the latest comments by Tesla on the falling-out between the two companies were “incorrect and can be refuted by the facts.” The spat began when Tesla and Mobileye announced the end of their partnership after a fatal accident in Florida involving a Telsa owner who had been using his vehicle in semi-autonomous mode. Tesla said that the accident occurred because the car crashed into a left-turning truck, and with the glare of the sun, the car’s cameras couldn’t see the truck and didn’t brake for it. After that, the two companies seemed to move on: in September, Tesla announced that the eighth version of its Autopilot firmware would rely more heavily on radar than it has before, despite the company having said previously that optical cameras were sufficient. Mobileye and Delphi also announced that they would be bringing a fully-autonomous system to automakers everywhere by 2020. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge Mozilla officials say they're investigating whether the fully patched version of Firefox is affected by the same cross-platform, malicious code-execution vulnerability patched Friday in the Tor browser. The vulnerability allows an attacker who has a man-in-the-middle position and is able to obtain a forged certificate to impersonate Mozilla servers, Tor officials warned in an advisory. From there, the attacker could deliver a malicious update for NoScript or any other Firefox extension installed on a targeted computer. The fraudulent certificate would have to be issued by any one of several hundred Firefox-trusted certificate authorities (CA). While it probably would be challenging to hack a CA or trick one into issuing the necessary certificate for addons.mozilla.org, such a capability is well within reach of nation-sponsored attackers, who are precisely the sort of adversaries included in the Tor threat model. In 2011, for instance, hackers tied to Iran compromised Dutch CA DigiNotar and minted counterfeit certificates for more than 200 addresses, including Gmail and the Mozilla addons subdomain. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
This figurine was discovered at the neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey. It was carefully buried beneath a platform in a house, along with a valuable piece of obsidian. Made of marble, it's nearly 7 inches long. (credit: Çatalhöyük Research Project) Nine thousand years ago in Turkey, a large settlement called Çatalhöyük thrived for over a millennium. Full of densely-packed mud brick houses covered in paintings and symbolic decorations, its population hovered around 5,000. That made it one of the biggest settlements of its era, somewhere between an outsized village and tiny city. Now, archaeologists excavating there have discovered a rare, intact statuette of a woman buried carefully with a valuable piece of obsidian. Figurines resembling this one, with large breasts, belly, and buttocks, have been found throughout the Anatolian region. But this is one of the only intact examples ever found. At nearly seven inches long, it's also one of the largest. Made of marble, it lay buried beneath the floor of a neolithic home for 8,000 years before its excavation this past summer. Artist's reconstruction of the east and west mounds at Catalhoyuk. In the foreground, you can see the newer west mound, with the older east mound decaying in the background. The figurine was found in the east mound, from a layer that indicates it was late in the occupation period for the site. Catalhoyuk Research Project News of the discovery first broke in The Daily Sabah, and spread quickly through Turkish media. Few details were available, but Ars has confirmed the find with Stanford archaeologist Ian Hodder, who has led excavations at Çatalhöyük since the 1990s. He offered a complete description of the figurine, as well as thoughts about its context in both the ancient city and the Anatolian region in the 6th millennium BCE. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
On Thursday, Tesla announced that it had been chosen “through a competitive process” to supply utility company Southern California Edison with 20 MW (or 80 MWh) of battery storage. In May, regulators ordered Southern California Edison to invest in utility-scale battery networks after natural gas provider SoCal Gas leaked 1.6 million pounds of methane into the atmosphere when a well ruptured at its Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. The Aliso Canyon leak was the second-largest methane leak in US history, but it was far more damaging to the environment than the largest methane release, which happened in Texas in 2004. The Texas methane leak occurred when a natural gas storage facility collapsed, but a subsequent fire turned much of the escaping methane into carbon dioxide as it burned up. Carbon dioxide, while a pollutant, is considered less polluting than methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas in the short-term. Last May, Tesla announced its intentions to sell stationary storage batteries in addition to its electric vehicles. The company now sells two stationary battery products: the Powerwall battery, meant for homeowners, and the Powerpack battery network, meant for business and industry. The batteries are being built at Tesla’s Gigafactory, a $5 billion factory outside of Reno, Nevada, that has been slowly opening its lines to daily operation. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Hello, old friend Yesterday, software developer John Brooks released what is clearly a work of pure love: the first update to an operating system for the Apple II computer family since 1993. ProDOS 2.4, released on the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Apple II GS, brings the enhanced operating system to even older Apple II systems, including the original Apple ][ and ][+. Which is pretty remarkable, considering the Apple ][ and ][+ don't even support lower-case characters. You can test-drive ProDOS 2.4 in a web-based emulator set up by computer historian Jason Scott on the Internet Archive. The release includes Bitsy Bye, a menu-driven program launcher that allows for navigation through files on multiple floppy (or hacked USB) drives. Bitsy Bye is an example of highly-efficient code: it runs in less than 1 kilobyte of RAM. There's also a boot utility that is under 400 bytes—taking up a single block of storage on a disk. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / FBI Director James Comey has forcefully advocated the need to unlock this phone in light of the larger "Going Dark" problem. (credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images News) A trio of major media entities—The Associated Press, USA Today, and Vice Media—sued the FBI on Friday in an attempt to force the agency to reveal details from a mysterious deal that the agency struck in order to bust into a seized iPhone used by a now-deceased terrorist. In April 2016, FBI Director James Comey suggested that his agency paid over $1.3 million to an unnamed company to unlock the iPhone 5C that was used by Syed Farook Rizwan, the man behind an attack in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. The Department of Justice and Apple were set to square off in federal court in California in March 2016 before the hearing was called off. The government soon announced that it had been shown a new technique to unlock the phone and no longer needed Apple's help. The DOJ previously received a court order that would have compelled Apple to create an entirely new customized iOS to allow investigators to brute force the passcode on the device. Apple, for its part, forcefully argued that this was a significant government overreach. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: NASA Earth Observatory) Mark it down, Arctic sea ice watchers: the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has (preliminarily) called the annual minimum ice extent. On September 10, Arctic sea ice coverage dipped to 4.14 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles) before ticking back upward for a few days. While it’s possible that a couple more days of shrinkage could come along, that was probably the low point for the year. That puts 2016 in second place for the lowest minimum on record—statistically tied with 2007, which was within the error bars of this year's data. The record low is retained by 2012, which fell to an incredible 3.39 million square kilometers. This continues the trend of marked decline observed by satellites since 1979. (credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center) The ice was a little harder to track than usual this time around. Earlier this year, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite used by the NSIDC to track Arctic sea ice went on the fritz. After careful calibration, they switched to the next satellite in the series, bringing daily updates back online a couple months later and ensuring that there was no gap in the record. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle ) Between 2011 and 2012, large, secret donations from a billionaire owner of one of America’s leading lead producers provided critical support to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature as they weathered recall elections. Not coincidentally, around that time the lawmakers passed two laws that would effectively make it impossible for childhood victims of lead poisoning to sue lead companies, according to leaked documents obtained by The Guardian. Since the laws were passed, federal courts have overturned key elements of them, ruling them unconstitutional and allowing legal challenges to go forward. However, if the laws had stayed in effect, it would have spared lead industries from potentially paying out millions in damages to hundreds of victims who were exposed to extremely high doses of the poisonous metal through paint during childhood. “These children were perfectly innocent. They entered life with all the gifts and health that God gave them and were devastated by this neurotoxin,” Peter Earle, the principal attorney on 171 cases that are currently ongoing against lead producers and lead paint manufacturers, told The Guardian. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Virginia Tech) The City Council in Wilson, North Carolina has reluctantly voted to turn off the fiber Internet service it provides to a nearby town because of a court ruling that prevents expansion of municipal broadband services. The Federal Communications Commission in February 2015 voted to block laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories. After that vote, Wilson's Greenlight fiber Internet service expanded to the nearby town of Pinetops. But the states of North Carolina and Tennessee sued the FCC to keep their anti-municipal broadband laws in place, and last month they won a federal appeals court ruling that reinstated the law that prevents Wilson from offering Internet service to nearby municipalities. At last night's City Council meeting, Wilson decided not to appeal the court decision and voted to terminate the service agreement with the town of Pinetops, Wilson city spokesperson Rebecca Agner told Ars today. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
The iPhone 7 Plus, exploded. iFixit It's iPhone release day, and while people around the world wait impatiently by their windows for the delivery truck or in line at Apple Stores, the iPhone teardown cottage industry has been ripping the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus apart to see how they tick. iFixit's is still the teardown of record, though as of this writing it has only torn down the larger of the two phones. The write-up focuses in part on the stuff that Apple is doing with the space freed up by killing the headphone jack. A bigger battery is part of that—the 2900mAh, 11.1wHr battery in the 7 Plus is a step up from the 2750mAh battery in the 6S Plus, though still not quite as large as the 2915mAh battery in the old 6 Plus. Chipworks' teardown notes that the standard iPhone 7 battery is now 1960mAh, a step up from the 1810mAh in the iPhone 6 and the 1715mAh battery in the 6S. A lot of that space goes to the new Taptic Engine, too, which is several times larger than the version in the iPhone 6S Plus. Apple says the larger Taptic Engine is more precise, something necessary both to make the solid-state home button feel like a physical button and to enable the haptic feedback API supported on both iPhones 7. And some of it is taken up by a plastic bumper "that seems to channel sound from outside the phone into the microphone." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Postal inspectors routinely investigate child pornography cases in the US. (credit: Joshua Lot/Getty Images) "[Rev. Dr.] Jim [Parkhurst] plays guitar, sings in a symphony chorus, loves to hike, does crossword puzzles, and is an avid reader. He enjoys spoiling his twin nephews on annual trips to our national parks in the west." -Post announcing Parkhurst's new job, January 2015 In 2013, federal agents investigating the child pornography collection of one David S. Engle—who was later sentenced in Washington state to 25 years in prison—came across a new set of eight images. The pictures showed five boys, ranging in age from around seven to 15, urinating outdoors, shaving their pubic hair, and posing naked in bathtubs. According to an affidavit from Postal Inspector Maureen O'Sullivan, who helped investigate the images, the photo set was "emerging and being widely distributed and traded by child pornography collectors on a national and international scale." Being new and uncatalogued, the images were forwarded to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which maintains a vast database on prohibited images for use in investigations and image blacklists. While law enforcement generally focuses on finding those who create and/or trade child pornography, a simultaneous effort is made to identify—and if necessary to secure—the victims. At the federal level, this task is centralized within NCMEC at the Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP)—and this new image set wound up at CVIP accordingly. The investigation of the pictures, which took three years to complete, opens a rare window into the world of digital detectives who specialize in tracing some of the world's most horrific imagery. Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Data cap cash. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images) Verizon Wireless is facing questions about the accuracy of its data meter after a series of newspaper stories on customers who were charged big overage fees after unexplained data usage increases. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland on Wednesday detailed a $9,100 bill charged to a customer named Valarie Gerbus. “For months, the mother of two from suburban Tampa paid $118 a month for her cellphone package that included 4 gigabytes of data, which she says she never exceeded,” the article said. “That changed last month when Verizon charged her with using an eye-gouging 569 gigabytes for a whopping $8,535.” Verizon added $600 to the bill when she dropped her plan. Gerbus refused to pay and asked Verizon “repeatedly” to explain how her bill soared, but she got no answer, the article said. "I told them that I won't pay the bill,'' Gerbus said to the Plain Dealer. "I can either wait until they take it to a collection agency or when they take it to court. Either way, my credit history will be ruined. I can go bankrupt here.'' Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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