posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / President Donald Trump signing an executive order in February. (credit: Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images) President Donald Trump will sign an executive order today seeking changes to the H-1B visa program, which allows tens of thousands of foreign tech workers to come and work in the US each year. Trump will go to a manufacturing plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to sign the order, according to The Hill, which got wind of the coming order along with other DC news services late yesterday. Reports came out in the first few weeks of the Trump administration that the new president would seek to change the program via executive order. The order signed today, though, doesn't actually change the program at all. Rather, it directs several government departments, including Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, and State, to perform a review of the H-1B program and offer recommendations for changes. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Francois Grandin/AFP/Getty Images) Firefox is killing off the Aurora release channel, which will improve the speed at which new features can be rolled out—hopefully by as much as six to eight weeks. As of April 18, there are now just three main stages for new Firefox features: Nightly (alpha), Beta (beta), and Release (stable). Here's a handy chart showing the new release cadence. Mozilla is calling this the "Dawn project," incidentally. For the majority of Firefox's history (2004 to 2011) it used a conventional release cycle, with major releases roughly every year or two. With the release of Firefox 5 in June 2011, the browser moved to a new rapid release cadence that closely mirrored Google's Chrome, which had been releasing new features and picking up users very quickly. Four release channels were created—Nightly, Aurora, Beta, and Release—with the Firefox code moving between each channel every six to eight weeks. Thus, a new stable version of the browser plopped out the end of the pipeline roughly every two months, rather than every year. Aurora was meant to have about 10 times more users than Nightly and act as an early stabilisation channel. If any new features were found to be unstable, they'd usually be disabled before heading down the pike to Beta, where there's meant to be about 10 times more users than Aurora. The process is repeated in the Beta channel, with the larger userbase hopefully discovering any remaining instabilities before the build is handed over to the Release channel. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / No, this wasn't the winning entry—but wouldn't that have been awesome? (Image source unknown) "Send us Mass Effect fanfic," I said last week. "It's for a contest! You could be entered for a chance to win a copy of Andromeda and a nifty remote-controlled Nomad! Come on, it'll be fun!" We asked, and you delivered—and my inbox will never be quite the same. Sorting through the entries was surprisingly difficult, because there were so many excellent stories. Some bumped right up at the 500-word limit, telling tales of a post-Reaper universe or of how Sir Isaac Newton really is the deadliest son of a bitch in space. Others were short and succinct. Multiple entries played on the "for sale, baby shoes, never worn" theme (one of which featured krogan baby shoes). Many made me laugh. A few made me tear up. You guys wrote some great stuff. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Evelyn Wang/MIT) Luke Skywalker may have been unimpressed with the life of a Tatooine moisture farmer, but a simple device that could economically harvest water from desert air would really be pretty exciting. According to Wookieepedia, the “moisture vaporators” the young Skywalker tended utilized refrigeration coils to chill air to the dew point and collect the water that condensed. We can certainly do that today (as they could “a long time ago... ”), but the amount of energy required makes collecting condensation impractical. Enter a new study device developed by MIT’s Hyunho Kim. His idea is to work with a unique class of materials called “metal-organic frameworks.” Organic, carbon-based molecules form links between metallic ions to create interesting 3D structures that can have lots of open space internally. This allows the structures to do strange things, like make a high-pressure tank hold far more hydrogen gas after it’s first filled with granules of the right metal-organic framework material. Kim worked with a zirconium oxide paired with an organic molecule. The combination has the useful quality of grabbing and holding onto water vapor at lower temperatures, but also letting go of that water as the heat rises. So the basic idea is that a device based on this material could passively harvest water vapor from the air at night and then release it (to be collected) in the heat of the day. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) NEW YORK—As regular readers of Cars Technica know, the auto industry is going full-speed ahead when it comes to self-driving cars. A number of OEMs and their technology company partners have promised us SAE "level 4" self-driving vehicles by 2021. But not all of these organizations are taking the same road to get there. Some, like Ford and Volvo, have decided to go straight to full autonomy by working on vehicles that won't need a human driver at all within specific geofenced areas (these are vehicles that you or I will use through ride-hailing services). Others, notably General Motors and Audi, believe in some degree of returning control to the human driver, who may or may not be giving the road their full attention. At this year's New York International Auto Show, the former group broke cover with its new Super Cruise system, which will be available on the Cadillac CT6 sedan later this year. To be accurate, unlike the system due to appear in Audi's next A8 flagship, Super Cruise is only a level 2, not level 3, autonomy. There are already plenty of level 2 autonomous systems on the market already, typically cars with a combination of adaptive cruise control—which maintains a car's speed to traffic ahead via the use of radar—and a lane keeping assist that reads the lane markers on the road with an optical sensor and steers to keep the car centered between them. But Super Cruise is closer to level 3 than pretty much every other level 2 system out there, since it combines adaptive cruise control and lane keeping with two notable advances that are going to play a large role in more autonomous cars in the future. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Google Fiber) Google Fiber and other ISPs that want to build new networks might get good news from the Federal Communications Commission, which is considering rules that would speed up the process of attaching wires to utility poles. Current FCC rules allow for up to a five-month waiting period before new ISPs can install wires on utility poles that already hold the wires of incumbent providers. This is a problem for Internet users who often don't have any choice of high-speed providers. The new FCC proposal from Chairman Ajit Pai could shave a couple of months off the maximum waiting periods. The rules wouldn't eliminate all the problems that recently caused Google Fiber to cut its staff and pause fiber operations in 11 cities while it pursues wireless networking technology. But Google Fiber said the initial FCC proposal is a good step. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Meet Fyodor, Russia's new gun-toting robot. (credit: Dmitry Rogozin/Twitter) The reports this weekend were breathless. Mashable said Russia was sending a "death dealing" robot with the power to shoot guns to the International Space Station. Pravda reported that the Russian cyborg, Fyodor, had frightened the West. It was like the Terminator, only in space, and only for reals. In reality, probably not. The stories were written after the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing military and space activities, Dmitry Rogozin, posted on Facebook and Twitter about the country's humanoid robot, Fyodor. Rogozin was proud that the robot had demonstrated the ability to shoot from both hands. "Fine motor skills and decision-making algorithms are still being improved," he tweeted. But maybe we shouldn't call upon Arnold Schwarzenegger to save us just yet. "Shooting exercises is a method of teaching the robot to set priorities and make instant decisions," Rogozin added. "We are creating AI, not Terminator." Rogozin has previously suggested that Russia will send this robot to the space station in 2021. Pravda claims this is still the target date and that Fyodor will ride into space aboard Russia's next-generation spacecraft, named Federation. So should NASA be concerned about an armed and lethal robot coming to the station four years from now? Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Verizon) Just after LG announced its first two smartwatches running Android Wear 2.0 in February, Verizon announced its own competing wearable. Now we know Verizon's Android Wear smartwatch, named Wear24, will be available starting May 11. Coming in silver, black, and rose gold, the Wear24 will be sold on Verizon's website and in its stores for $350. Alternatively, customers can choose to activate a new two-year plan and get the device for $300. The Wear24 smartwatch has LTE capabilities, so Verizon obviously wants users to start a new plan when they buy it. However, you can add it to an existing Verizon plan and pay an additional $5 per month for LTE access. With that data, the smartwatch can receive notifications and information without your paired smartphone nearby, and it can also take calls, send messages, and stream music on its own. The Wear24 will run Android Wear 2.0 out of the box, and it'll have the latest version of Google Assistant as well. The Wear24 smartwatch is comparable to LG's $350 Watch Sport because it has a 1.39-inch, 290 ppi AMOLED display, a 450 mAh battery, and a water-resistance level that allows it to withstand being submerged in about three feet of water for 30 minutes. There's still no word if the Wear24 will have extra features like an onboard GPS or heart rate monitor like LG's high-end watch has. The feature set (or lack thereof) could make the Wear24 a harder sell at such a high price. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge Intel has cancelled its Intel Developer Forum (IDF) developer events. Earlier in the year, the company said that it wasn't going to hold an IDF in China this year, but now even the San Francisco event (which was planned to be held in mid-August) has been scrapped. The announcement was spotted by Anandtech. In the past, Intel has used IDF to launch each year's new processor architecture along with other big product announcements such as Optane non-volatile storage. The difficulties of physics have made it harder for the company to offer an annual architecture refresh, however. Intel has experienced delays in deploying new manufacturing processes and slow, extended rollouts of new chip designs. While the company earlier said that it would not have a Chinese event, the San Francisco IDF was still being planned, albeit with a "new format," in the early months of 2017.  It appears now that this "new format" is in fact "non-existence." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) NEW YORK—Think of Cadillac and what springs to mind? Unfairly or not, you might already be thinking about an older gentleman, sedately cruising behind the wheel. Or, perhaps you imagine an Escalade with windows tinted, massive wheels, and loud speakers. Some of you might even be picturing the CTS-V wagon—one of the Internet's favorite cars to talk about but not ever buy. But the brand also goes racing, and in 2017 it's having an excellent year. We wanted to hear more about this aspect of Cadillac, so at this year's New York International Auto Show, we met up with factory driver Jordan Taylor and his Cadillac DPi-V.R race car. They came to the showcase fresh from victory on the streets of Long Beach, California. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / No more security bulletins for your neighborhood bulletin board. (credit: Randy Heinitz) The last three Patch Tuesdays haven't been the straightforward affairs we're used to. February's was a big deal because it was delayed and then cancelled outright, with Microsoft never explaining to us why it didn't happen. Of course, that decision might have had something to do with the unexpected contents of March's Patch Tuesday: that release fixed a bunch of previously undisclosed flaws that were then publicized by Shadow Brokers when the mysterious group published a cache of NSA exploits. In a change announced last November, Microsoft originally intended to introduce a new system of describing its patches and their respective security fixes this February. That didn't happen in February, and it also didn't happen in March. The bumper crop of fixes referenced above instead used the company's long-standing security bulletin format. But last week's April release did, at last, make the change. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Coming to Steam. But, wait, where'd the Xbox Live requirements go? (credit: Microsoft Studios) Might a mainline Halo game one day receive a bonafide Steam launch? Microsoft Studios tiptoed ever closer to that possibility with a Monday announcement—Halo Wars: Definitive Edition (HWDE) is coming to Steam later this week. You're not smokin' something: Microsoft is indeed releasing its resolution-bumped, mouse-and-keyboard-supported version of the 2009 real-time strategy game on Steam on 4/20. The Steam version will cost $19.99. What's more, it's the first online Halo game to have major Xbox Live features and requirements stripped in favor of Steam's own solutions. This follows other official, top-down Halo games, the twin-stick shooters Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike. They launched on Steam in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Halo: Spartan Assault was originally designed as a Windows Phone game and only came to other platforms after its lukewarm launch had cooled. HWDE, on the other hand, is barely two months old, and its Steam launch will do a few important things. First, it will officially support Windows 7 and 8.1, which could spur wider adoption than its original, Windows 10-only launch—especially for a game with such low system requirements (in short, Intel HD Graphics 4200) that it could run in, say, PC Bang cafés. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Internet Archive is a great resource if you're looking to play with older PC apps and operating systems—thanks to a JavaScript port of DOSBox, you can run stuff like Mario Teaches Typing and Windows For Workgroups 3.11 right in your browser, giving you a quick and easy way to get some idea of what it was like to use a computer 20 or 25 years ago. Now, the Internet Archive has some retro computing offerings from the other side of the great Mac/PC divide. Using a version of the PCE PC Emulator that has been ported to JavaScript, people interested in the Mac's early years can run System 6, System 7, and dozens of old apps, including MacWrite and Microsoft Basic using their browsers. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Larry Rosenstein) Apple went all-out in its patent assault on Samsung beginning in 2012, when Steve Jobs' promised "thermonuclear war" against Android became a reality. The patents used by the Cupertino device maker weren't just challenged in court, though. Various parties have challenged Apple's most important patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, as well. On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion (PDF) about an "ex parte reexam," filed against Apple's patent by an anonymous party. The reexam claimed that one of the patents upholding Apple's big win against Samsung, US Patent No. 7,844,915, never should have been issued at all. The '915 patent was described in a general way as the "pinch to zoom" patent, but its claims describe a way of distinguishing between one-touch and two-touch operations. In 2013, the US Patent and Trademark Office's reexamination unit rejected all claims of Apple's '915 patent. A patent appeal board upheld the cancelation, leaving Apple to turn to the Federal Circuit, which has ultimate jurisdiction. On Friday, a panel of Federal Circuit judges sided with the patent office on some of the claims, but revived three others. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Games Workshop) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our regular series on tabletop games! Check out a complete listing of all our board and card gaming coverage. For gamers of a certain age, Blood Bowl has a special resonance. Pitched as “the game of fantasy football,” it’s gridiron for Tolkien fans, in which two teams taken from numerous fantasy races beat the ever-living crap out of one another while vaguely attempting to get a ball over a line. It is amazing. This is the game's first boxed edition and its first new player models in something like 22 years—a criminal amount of time to wait for something so good. And while the components may be all-new and its models may benefit from two decades of improvements in plastics technology, the rules themselves are basically unchanged, and they're all the better for it. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Cleveland Police Department) Authorities continued their search Monday for a Cleveland man accused of randomly shooting and killing an elderly man on Easter Sunday. Police said the suspect, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, uploaded to Facebook the video he took of the heinous act. The shooting death of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. remained online for about three hours before it was removed. One video circulating on the Internet has been viewed more than 1.6 million times. Family members of the deceased man, who was a father of nine and grandfather of 14, urged the public to stop sharing the video. "That is my grandfather show some respect #Cleveland," tweeted Ryan A. Godwin. The message was retweeted thousands of times. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The iPad Air 2 (left) next to the iPad Air (right). (credit: Andrew Cunningham) If you take your fourth-generation iPad into Apple for a repair, the company may replace your tablet with a newer iPad Air 2 instead. According to an internal memo published by MacRumors, Apple started doing this on March 30, right around when the $329 iPad became available to purchase. Starting March 30, iPad 4th generation whole unit repairs may be substituted to iPad Air 2 models. Apple's repair and order management tool will indicate for each repair if a substitution will take place. Please note the substitute part’s color and capacity to ensure the customer understands what their replacement iPad whole unit will be. While you may get a new color and capacity, we also assume that customers with Smart Covers or other accessories for their fourth-generation iPads will need to buy new accessories for the iPad Air 2; we've contacted Apple for clarification and will update if we get a response. The iPad Air 2 is two years newer than an iPad 4—it's significantly thinner, lighter, and faster, and it support iOS features like multitasking than the iPad 4 isn't capable of. More importantly, it's certain to be supported by the next major version of iOS, while the iPad 4 is more than likely to be dropped from the support list. Apple is likely running out of parts and replacement tablets for the older iPad, while the only-recently-discontinued iPad Air 2 is still available in abundance in Apple's refurbished store. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NASA When the Internet came along in the 1990s, like a lot of government agencies, NASA kind of scratched its head and wondered what to make of all this freely shared information. But unlike a lot of other agencies, NASA had a trove of images, audio, and video the general public wanted to see. After all, this was the agency that had sent people to the Moon, taken photos of every planet in the Solar System, and launched the Hubble Space Telescope. So each of the NASA field centers—there are 10 of them—began digitizing their photo archives and putting them online. Johnson Space Center in Houston, for example, had thousands of images of space shuttle astronauts training and flying in space. Kennedy Space Center had launch photos. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory had planets, rings, comets, and more. Unfortunately, these images were spread across dozens of NASA.gov sites, with no good way to search the different databases. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) NEW YORK—On Friday, we revealed our picks of this year's New York International Auto Show. And perhaps surprisingly, our very favorite new vehicle on display was Ford's new Ford Police Responder Hybrid Sedan. And as you'll see in the video above, Stephen Tyler, Ford's Police Marketing Manager, was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the new machine. Pity the life of the average police car. Driven in shifts, it might easily hit 20,000 miles (32,000km) in a year. And if that's not enough, a car driven two shifts a day might spend up to ten hours a day idling. That's tough on the car, but it's even tougher on the planet thanks to all those pollutants, and it's even tough on the taxpayer's wallet. After all, gas isn't free. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Jannis Hermanns Long story short: I built a Wi-Fi enabled LEGO Macintosh Classic running Docker on a Raspberry Pi Zero with an e‑paper display. Docker deployments via resin.io. Read on for more details of how I built it. But why? While my son and I were playing with LEGO, after building a 1987 GMC Vandura and an off-road Segway I suddenly had the urge to build one of the first computers I remember using: Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Is it "fresh malware"? Or is it something else repackaged? (credit: from an image by Sarah Shuda) Last November, a systems engineer at a large company was evaluating security software products when he discovered something suspicious. One of the vendors had provided a set of malware samples to test—48 files in an archive stored in the vendor's Box cloud storage account. The vendor providing those samples was Cylance, the information security company behind Protect, a "next generation" endpoint protection system built on machine learning. In testing, Protect identified all 48 of the samples as malicious, while competing products flagged most but not all of them. Curious, the engineer took a closer look at the files in question—and found that seven weren't malware at all. That led the engineer to believe Cylance was using the test to close the sale by providing files that other products wouldn't detect—that is, bogus malware only Protect would catch. Read 62 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: USPTO) This February, Garmin International got sued (PDF) by inventor Leigh Rothschild and his patent-holding company, Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI). RCDI had already sued 68 other companies. A few weeks later, Rothschild's lawyer got in touch. He wasn't interested in discussing the technology behind his client's two patents, which describe making customized mixed beverages. Instead, he asked Garmin to get on board with Rothschild's "early settlement program," for a fast payout of $75,000. Garmin didn't pay up. Instead, the company's outside counsel Rachael Lamkin sent a letter to Rothschild's lawyer, explaining that his patents on a "system and method for creating a personalized consumer product" weren't valid, and ran afoul of Section 101 of the US Patent laws. That's the section that bars patents that are overly abstract, including "do it on a computer" type patents. "Whether or not systems and methods for generating customized products are patent-eligible is a well-trodden question, repeatedly decided in the negative," Lamkin informed him, citing several earlier legal cases. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Des Willie/BBC) This is a post-UK broadcast review of Doctor Who: The Pilot. River Song always warned the Doctor against spoilers, so be sure to watch the episode first. Episodes of Doctor Who air on Saturdays at 7:20pm UK time on BBC One, and 9pm EDT on BBC America. This is not a Dalek episode. It's a "bigger on the inside" episode. But it also adopts an obvious lesbian psycho trope—which is a pity: outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat makes the Doctor’s new companion gay and her first encounter with a monster happens to be an unhinged, shape shifting stalker who repeats everything Bill Potts says while dripping water onto the floor. Poor house guest, certainly. And probably not someone you would want to bring home to your family. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Andrew Cunningham Last November, Nintendo surprised everyone by going back to its roots and releasing the NES Classic. The delightful emulator/nostalgia-fest sparked unanticipated demand, including near-instant supply issues and 200-percent-plus markups in secondary markets. So in December of 2016, we decided to build our own version instead. Since Nintendo bizarrely announced that it won't be making any more of the hard-to-find mini consoles this week, we're re-running this piece to help those of you with a DIY streak once again build your own. Hardware recommendations have been updated to reflect current availability and pricing for April 2017. Against my better judgment, I’ve tried a couple of times to snag one of those adorable little $60 mini NES Classic Editions—once when Amazon put some of its limited stock online and crashed its own site, and once when Walmart was shipping out small quantities every day a couple of weeks ago. In both cases, I failed. But the dumb itch of nostalgia can’t always be scratched by logical thoughts like “do you really need to pay money for Super Mario Bros. 3 again,” and “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is probably the weakest of the three NES Castlevania games.” Since it’s not entirely clear if or when those little mini NESes will become readily available, I decided to funnel that small wad of expendable cash and the desire for some nostalgia-fueled gaming into a DIY project. Read 40 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Abdullah Almashwali and his co-defendant used a self-serve kiosk like this one to mail illegal drugs. (credit: Aranami) Just days before he was set to go to trial in Fresno, California, a Brooklyn man agreed to the government's assertion that he sold heroin and cocaine on AlphaBay. That site is one of the largest Dark Web marketplaces currently operating since Silk Road was seized and shut down in 2013. On Friday morning, lawyers representing Abdullah Almashwali appeared before US District Judge Dale A. Drozd and filed a guilty plea to three counts of drug charges, likely in exchange for a lighter sentence. Almashwali was charged in August 2016 along with a co-conspirator, Chaudhry Ahmad Farooq. Farooq pled guilty in January 2017 and has yet to be sentenced. According to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the two men—selling under the names "DarkApollo" and "Area51"—made key mistakes online that ultimately betrayed them. Those monikers advertised that they were directly importing heroin from Afghanistan. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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