posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Leafcutter ants tend their fungus comb. (credit: Alex Wild) Humans are not the only farmers on Earth. The many species of leafcutter ants that inhabit the region stretching from Argentina to the southern United States are incredibly sophisticated food growers. They spend most of their lives harvesting and processing leaves, turning them into a well-tended substrate for growing a nutritious fungus that feeds all the colony's young. A new study reveals why these ants may have evolved their complicated systems of cooperative agricultural activities in the first place. A complex farming society A group of researchers at the University of Oregon studied leafcutter ants in their lab colony, as well as wild ants in Colombia and Ecuador. In a paper published today in Royal Society Open Science, the scientists describe the widely studied agricultural feats of leafcutter ants. The many behaviors of leafcutter ants when they are farming. Previous observations have revealed that some of the ants venture forth from their colonies to gather leaves that serve as food for adult ants—and as agricultural fodder for the fungus. Inside the colony, another group of ants cuts the leaves down into what the researchers call "fragments." The ants use prehensile, finger-like leg tips called tarsi to manipulate the leaves. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SoCalGas Aliso Canyon 3. (credit: SoCal Gas / Governor's Office of Emergency Services) On Tuesday evening, Southern California’s air quality regulator sued SoCal Gas, the company that owns a leaking natural gas storage well just north of Los Angeles. The leaking well has been venting hundreds of thousands of pounds of methane per hour into the atmosphere for the last three months. The civil lawsuit demands damages (PDF) from SoCal Gas for creating a nuisance for the residents of the nearby Porter Ranch community and for negligently operating the Aliso Canyon storage facility that houses 115 storage wells, including the leaking SS-25 well. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is asking for up to $440,000 per day that the leak continues, based on six alleged violations. The leak began on October 23, and after several failed attempts to plug it, SoCal Gas began drilling a relief well down to the 8,500-foot-deep reservoir where the natural gas is stored. (The reservoir is just one of many cavities that once held oil and were sucked dry decades ago. SoCal Gas repurposed these reservoirs in the 1970s to store natural gas.) In the meantime, the gas has been venting into the atmosphere. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Iain Watson) Pay-TV providers would have to make video programming available to the makers of third-party devices and software under a proposal by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. The FCC is planning for a software-based, cardless replacement for CableCard. Without needing a physical card that plugs into a third-party set-top box, consumers would be able to get TV channels on tablets, smart TVs, or set-top boxes that they can buy from other companies instead of renting a box from a cable company. "Consumers should be able to choose how they access the Multichannel Video Programming Distributor’s (MVPDs)—cable, satellite, or telco companies—video services to which they subscribe," the FCC's summary of the proposal said. "For example, consumers should be able to have the choice of accessing programming through the MVPD-provided interface on a pay-TV set-top box or app, or through devices such as a tablet or smart TV using a competitive app or software. MVPDs and competitors should be able to differentiate themselves and compete based on the experience they offer users, including the quality of the user interface and additional features like suggested content, integration with home entertainment systems, caller ID and future innovations." Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Kevin Lim) "They're killing me right now... I can't breathe." Those are among the final words of an Oakland man shouting to his sister as Oakland Police Department officers pinned him to the ground—a knee on his back—moments before he died. Hernan Jaramillo screamed those words over and again, according to grainy body cam footage from the 2013 incident that sparked a civil rights lawsuit (PDF) the city is now settling (PDF) for $450,000. "Sir, we're not killing you," one of the handful of officers on the scene is overheard saying calmly. Minutes later, the 51-year-old man is dead. The footage has been sealed under a protective order, but the Contra Costa Times managed to get ahold of it and published it Tuesday. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The new Hangouts message that asks you to stop using Hangouts. Remember when Google finally integrated SMS into Hangouts, bringing Google's beleaguered IM client a little closer to Apple's iMessage? It seems like Google is now backing away from this strategy. In the newest update, Hangouts 7.0, the app now pops up a dialog box suggesting that you stop using Hangouts for SMS and switch to Android's standalone SMS client, "Messenger." Google apps usually pop up messages like this when Google is preparing to remove or stop working on a feature. Hangouts posted a similar message when it first integrated SMS, and again when it integrated Google Voice, telling users to switch to Hangouts from whatever they were currently using. The message to switch to the SMS app was predicted by a Phandroid rumor a month ago, which said that this was the first step toward removing SMS support from Hangouts. For now, Hangouts wouldn't be able to completely remove SMS support since Project Fi users rely on it, but it seems that users of other carriers will be pushed to the regular SMS app. Besides threatening to remove a major feature, 7.0 adds a quick reply function, which lets you type out a reply right from the notification panel. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Lyft) California drivers who sued Lyft in 2013 over whether they should be treated as employees or contractors have settled their closely watched lawsuit, court documents show. According to a Tuesday proposed settlement, which is likely to be finalized by the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the case next, Lyft will pay $12.25 million and will re-word its labor agreement with its workers, making it harder for the company to fire drivers at any time. The plaintiffs’ lawyers will take 30 percent of that amount; the remainder will be divided among California-based drivers and go toward covering court fees. The changes to the terms of service will be applied nationwide. The settlement in Cotter v. Lyft has no immediate legal impact on other cases brought by the same plaintiffs' lawyer, Shannon Liss-Riordan, who has introduced a slew of similar labor suits against GrubHub, DoorDash, Caviar, and Uber. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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To get a detailed work up on your health, soon all you might have to do is work up a little sweat. A new wearable device that soaks in tiny volumes of perspiration from your brow or wrist can track multiple molecules leaking out of you in real-time, researchers report in Nature. The device could one day provide up-to-the-moment health reports, helping to spot conditions such as dehydration, chemical exposures, muscle fatigue, and chronic stress, and help manage diseases, such as diabetes, the authors suggest. (credit: Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally) “Sweat is very rich in information about an individual’s health,” lead author of the study Ali Javey, of University of California, Berkeley, told Ars. “It has a lot of different chemicals in it, different proteins, different metabolites, electrolytes,” he said. And by monitoring the concentration of some of those chemicals in beads of sweat, researchers can glean useful health information. (credit: Roxanne Makasdjian and Stephen McNally) For their first generation of sweat-scanning wearables, Javey and colleagues set up an array of off-the-shelf sensors that track sodium, potassium, glucose, lactate, and temperature. Monitoring electrolytes such as sodium and potassium may help track conditions like dehydration, Javey said. Lactate levels may be useful for tracking muscle fatigue, and glucose may help monitor blood sugar levels. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Ian Weddell @ Flickr The DMC-12 was styled by the legendary Giogretto Giugiaro. The gullwing doors suggested exotic performance that the underpowered car was never able to provide. 5 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } The DeLorean DMC-12 might have been destined to pass quietly into obscurity, that is until its starring role in 1985's Back to the Future. A little more than 8,500 DMC-12s left DeLorean's factory in Northern Ireland between 1981 and 1983, until it all fell apart following founder John DeLorean's arrest by the FBI on charges of drug trafficking. But Doc Brown souped up his DeLorean with a flux capacitor, imbuing the DMC-12 with iconic status in the nerd canon. Soon, you'll be able to buy a brand new one—production is about to resume on this side of the Atlantic, in Humble, Texas. The Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company—not directly related to its defunct predecessor—has been supplying parts and rebuilding or restoring DMC-12s for many years. Now it is able to build new cars as well, following changes to the laws governing low-volume auto manufacturers. The 2015 Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 rolled up a lot of different transportation-related bills, including one that now allows companies to build replica vehicles without having to satisfy modern safety regulations, as long as fewer than 325 are made each year. Replica cars still have to meet current Environmental Protection Agency standards for emissions, so the DMC-12's old Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6 is out. DMC's CEO told Houston's KPRC2 that the final price will depend upon whichever engine replaces the old unit, although new cars should still cost less than $100,000 (£70,000) There could even be an electric variant, although little has been heard about this version for some time now. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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(credit: bluepoint951) Despite claiming that the government's definition of "broadband" shouldn't have been increased to 25Mbps,Verizon is now phasing out its 25Mbps fiber service and making 50Mbps the default minimum. A year ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to boost the definition of broadband from 4Mbps downstream/1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps/3Mbps. The definition affects policy decisions and the FCC's annual assessment of whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans quickly enough. Verizon unsuccessfully lobbied the FCC to keep the old definition, saying that "a higher benchmark would serve no purpose in accurately assessing the availability of broadband." Verizon still offers speeds as low as 512kbps downloads and 384kbps uploads in areas where it hasn't upgraded copper DSL lines to fiber. Verizon DSL goes up to 15Mbps/1Mbps, if you're close enough to Verizon Internet facilities. Mayors in 14 East Coast cities including New York City recently criticized Verizon for leaving many customers with copper only. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Latham and Watkins partner Rick Frenkel, who represents Newegg in some of its patent cases. Frenkel and Cheng made a stop for BBQ and fried pies on a recent trip to the patent hotspot of East Texas. (credit: Lee Cheng) A patent-holding company called Minero Digital seeks to exact royalty payments on a wide range of USB hubs, suing more than two dozen retailers and manufacturers last year. But the "non-practicing entity" dropped its East Texas lawsuit against Newegg subsidiary Rosewill within days of getting a call from the company's lawyer. It's not going to be easy for Minero and its president, Texas lawyer Daniel Perez, to walk away, though. Yesterday, Newegg filed its own lawsuit (PDF) against Minero in Los Angeles federal court, asking a judge to rule that Rosewill products do not infringe Minero's patent. Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng says the move is necessary since Rosewill dismissed its Texas lawsuit without prejudice, meaning Minero can refile at any time of its choosing. Cheng discussed the new lawsuit with Ars while traveling to East Texas for a court hearing in another case against a patent-holding entity. (See photo above.) Beyond the possibility of being sued again, Cheng noted that Minero continues to litigate against other retailers that sell Rosewill-branded products and that Newegg may have defense obligations to those other companies. Minero continues to press its case against more than 20 companies, with the defendants including Office Depot, Walmart, and Amazon—three big retailers that sell Rosewill products. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The expression of a Faroese starling who's listened to too much vocoder. (credit: flickr user: Arne List) Humans are obviously pretty special when it comes to language. One of our cleverest tricks is the ability to process the sounds of spoken language at high speed—even more remarkable when you consider just how variable these sounds are. People have very different voices and very differently shaped throats and mouths, which all affect the sound waves that come out of them. And yet we have very little trouble communicating with speech. There are many ways to try to figure out how this wizardry evolved, but one particularly useful source of information is birds. Their evolutionary relationship to humans goes pretty far back on the family tree, so anything unusual we have in common with them—like vocal learning—is unlikely to be because of our shared genetic history. Instead, it's more likely to result from similar evolutionary pressures causing both of us to hit on the similar solutions. This is why a paper in this week's PNAS is so fascinating: it found that songbirds process sounds in a way that is very similar to humans. Like us, they're able to process how all the complex frequencies bound up in a single sound relate to one another. It’s very close to how humans process vowels. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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I dare you to think up a better image for a "PC gaming win." (credit: dno1967b / Flickr) If you follow the business side of the game industry at all, you're probably sick of hearing how mobile gaming is a fast-growing business juggernaut destined to overtake all other forms of digital entertainment (in strict dollars-and-cents terms). It might surprise you to hear that a new report shows the humble PC generated more worldwide gaming revenue than any other segment of the market last year. SuperData's worldwide digital games market report uses sampled data from tens of millions of gamers as well as publishers, developers, and payment providers themselves, giving us one of the best public estimates of overall spending on downloadable games. The bottom line for 2015: PC gaming is "an undervalued platform... contrary to the amount of attention that is generally paid to mobile gaming, total revenues from the PC gaming market is larger ($32 billion) than that of mobile ($25 billion)." If anything, SuperData's measurement undersells PC gaming's revenue-generating potential since it doesn't take retail sales into account (while retail sales are a small part of the PC gaming market these days, they're practically nonexistent in the mobile space). For some additional context, the worldwide market for console game software (which is still largely dependent on retail disc sales) was estimated at $25.1 billion, according to a NewZoo report. Even combining three major hardware platforms, console software still can't match the revenue-generating potential of PC games. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Astronaut Karen Nyberg gazes out of the International Space Station's cupola. A company, NanoRacks, wants to add a commercial airlock to the same module. (credit: NASA) When NASA engineers designed the International Space Station during the 1990s, they didn’t envision the orbital outpost becoming a hub of commercial activity; nevertheless, that has become one of the most important contributions of ISS to US spaceflight. And as it nurtures American enterprise in low-Earth orbit, the station is increasingly running into a bottleneck: getting scientific research and other payloads outside. Now a Texas company, NanoRacks, has proposed a solution. It is offering to build an airlock that will be attached to the space station and provide the capability to deploy cubesats and larger satellites. The $12 to $15 million (£8.4 to £10.5 million) airlock would also allow NASA to bring in costly large pumps and storage tanks for repairs, rather than disposing of them. “We developed a commercial pathway to the station, and now we want to extend that pathway outside the station,” Jeff Manber, the company’s managing director, told Ars in an interview. “This is a sign that we believe in the future of the station.” Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Chrome for iOS running on an iPhone 6S. Expect big speed boosts after today's update. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) Google Chrome 48, which is being released to the browser’s stable channel today, is just another incremental update for most of the browser’s users. For Chrome users on iOS, however, it’s a big one—possibly the biggest single update since the iOS version was first released back in 2012—and it’s all because of an under-the-hood switch. The short version is that Chrome 48 on iOS will be as fast as Safari on iOS for the first time ever thanks to a switch from iOS’ UIWebView rendering engine to the WKWebView engine introduced in iOS 8 back in late 2014. If you don’t spend your time reading Apple’s developer documentation, we’ll walk you through the state of third-party Web browsers on iOS and just why this change is such a big deal for Chrome users. Third-party browsers on iOS On Android and the major desktop platforms, different browsers use different rendering engines. Safari uses WebKit, Microsoft Edge uses EdgeHTML, Chrome uses Blink, and Firefox uses Gecko. On iOS, Apple has never allowed third-party browsing engines. Developers can build browsers, but they’re always just wrappers for the platform’s Webkit-based first-party engine. The oldest API for this in iOS is called UIWebView. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Evolve is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where a team of hunters chase down a monster. It was made by the hugely talented Left 4 Dead developers over six years before being released early in 2015, and I thought it was great. But publisher 2K, so convinced of the game's quality, put in place various DLC packages and pre-order bonuses to milk what it expected to be an enormous community. The perception took hold that Evolve was ripping off players—who had to buy the "core" game first—and it failed to sell in anything like the numbers expected. Now it's dead. Rainbow Six: Siege walks a dangerously similar path. Launched just before Christmas in the kind of primetime slot that with hindsight so often looks like a graveyard, Ubisoft anticipated that Siege would achieve lifetime sales of over seven million copies. For many reasons, however, Siege has thus far failed to make a commercial impact. The tragedy is that Siege offers something new and unique in the stalest of genres, the mainstream FPS. At one point it even looked like it might usurp the greats of the competitive shooter world. What's stopped it? Ubisoft. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A chimp in Leipzig Zoo contemplates its mutation rate. (credit: Thomas Lersch) Genetic evidence is an incredibly useful tool for understanding evolutionary history. It has helped us build up our current picture of how humans migrated out of Africa, and also estimate when chimps and humans parted ways from our last common ancestor. Estimates that used different methods have placed the chimp-human split anywhere from 3 million to 10 million years ago (mya), sometimes falling far from the estimated 6-7 mya suggested by the fossil record—an indication that something is wrong in the calculations. But as researchers improve their techniques, the estimates are revised over and over again, each time hopefully getting closer to real picture. Having the dates provided by the fossil record match the genetic evidence would help us to be more sure of our understanding, so it’s important to try to work out where the mismatch is and why it’s happening. Two researchers at Columbia University, Guy Amster and Guy Sella, have suggested an important factor that has been missing: the timing of life events like puberty and reproduction, and their effects on genetics. By building these factors into their calculations, they’ve come up with an estimate for the split that more closely matches the fossil records—around 6 mya. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Andrew Cunningham) A server-side problem with the Safari Suggestions feature in recent versions of iOS and OS X appears to be causing Safari to crash and hang for some users. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith helped to identify the issue overnight, though it has also been discussed in a pair of Reddit threads in the Apple subreddit. The problem appears to be causing hanging and strange behavior in OS X and outright crashes in iOS. Going to Settings > Safari in iOS (or to the Safari Preferences and then the Search tab in OS X) and disabling the Safari Suggestions feature appears to fix the problem, or you could try using another browser. The Safari Suggestions feature was originally introduced in iOS 8 (which also appears to be affected, if you haven't upgraded), and it pulls content from IMDB, the iTunes and App Stores, and other sources to present more information to you when you're doing a search. We can't replicate the bug on multiple iDevices running iOS 9.2.1 or the iOS 9.3 beta, but some users in the reddit thread still appeared to be having problems as of less than an hour ago. It's possible that Apple has fixed the problem on its end, or that it's only affecting users in certain regions. If you're having problems, toggling airplane mode or resetting your network settings to flush your DNS cache may resolve them as long as Apple has fixed things on its end. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The last known image of whatever Google Glass has become; now, we're pretty confident that it won't bear the name Google Glass. 2015 came and went without any sign of a refreshed version of Google Glass, in spite of a late December FCC filing packed full of photos of a fancier, foldable take on the augmented-eyeglasses device. While we're not entirely sure when to expect a new Google product that will rest comfortably on our faces, we're pretty sure it won't have the "Google Glass" name. That's because every single official social media channel for the product—the only remaining public faces for the device, since it hasn't been for sale since January 2015—went dark over the weekend. A 9to5Google report pointed to Glass' official statement to the Glass Explorers group on Google Plus, which directed any remaining Glassholes Glass wearers to a new support page with little more than a phone number and a Web contact form. Around the same time, the rest of Google Glass' Facebook and Twitter pages received a full delete, as opposed to the product's Google Plus page, which was left with an image of a sandals-wearing person taking a Glassified photo of an ocean sunset. The fact that the pages received total wipes, as opposed to placeholders, leads us to believe the company is shying away from old associations with the name. But a Glass by any other name might still be sweet, as signs point to the augmented-eyeglasses device coming back to life. That momentum began nearly a year ago when Nest CEO Tony Fadell took the product line over and said it would receive a redesign "from scratch." News followed in September that Google had swooped up a number of ex-Amazonians, who'd worked on the underperforming Fire Phone, to work on the refreshed Glass, now internally dubbed "Project Aura." Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Arnnon Geshuri, appointed to the Wikimedia Foundation board in January 2016. (credit: Myleen Hollero / Wikimedia Foundation) The newest board member of the Wikimedia Foundation, Arnnon Geshuri, is under fire from hundreds of disgruntled editors who think he should be shown the door. They're upset at his role in a "no poach" hiring arrangement between Google, Apple, and other major tech companies while he was an HR director at Google. Today, Geshuri addressed the community that's up in arms against him. In a message posted to the Wikimedia-l mailing list, Geshuri began by saying it was "truly inspirational" to witness the "commitment and energy of the community." His note reads, in part: Although I would have preferred the tone surrounding my appointment to be more positive and supportive, I deeply understand and respect the criticality of free expression, rallying around convictions, and open disagreement. Regarding the concerns that have been raised, I have listened closely. That said, in my opinion, there are some misconceptions and there are mitigating considerations. As a general matter, I will say that, throughout my career, I have been charged with enforcing company policies as part of my role as a people manager. I have tried to do so thoughtfully and consistently. I have done so realizing company policies and practices evolve over time as circumstances change. Geshuri said he's spending his time reaching out to current and former Wikimedia board members, as well as community members. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Israel experienced a serious hack attack on its electrical grid that officials are still working to repel, the head of the country's energy minister said Tuesday. "The virus was already identified and the right software was already prepared to neutralize it," Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told attendees of a computer security conference in Tel Aviv, according to this article published Tuesday by The Times of Israel. "We had to paralyze many of the computers of the Israeli Electricity Authority. We are handling the situation and I hope that soon, this very serious event will be over … but as of now, computer systems are still not working as they should." The "severe" attack was detected on Monday as temperatures in Jerusalem dipped to below freezing, creating two days of record-breaking electricity consumption, according to The Jerusalem Post. Steinitz said it was one of the biggest computer-based attacks Israel's power infrastructure has experienced, and that it was responded to by members of his ministry and the country's National Cyber Bureau. The energy minister didn't identify any suspects behind the attack or provide details about how it was carried out. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Jessica Mark Welch, MBL Woods Hole) Are you ready for a close-up—a really, really close close-up? The microbes in your mouth probably are and, boy, are they looking fabulous. Using genetic and fluorescent probes, researchers lit up the ornate structures of microbes that glom onto human teeth. The resulting images and analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that mouth-dwelling microbes don’t just amass in haphazard globs on the outside of unclean teeth. Instead, the microbes build consistent structures that organize inhabitants into areas where they perform specific functions. The unexpected finding suggests that teeth tenants set up highly ordered and collaborative ecosystems on human choppers. Those structured ecosystems expose “unanticipated interactions and provides a framework for understanding the organization, metabolism, and systems biology of the microbiome and ultimately, its effect on the health of the human host,” the authors of the study report. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: sdobie) A former Justice Department lawyer is facing legal ethics charges for exposing the President George W. Bush-era surveillance tactics—a leak that earned The New York Times a Pulitzer and opened the debate about warrantless surveillance that continues today. The lawyer, Thomas Tamm, now a Maryland state public defender, is accused of breaching Washington ethics rules for going to The New York Times instead of his superiors about his concerns about what was described as "the program." Tamm was a member of the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review and, among other things, was charged with requesting electronic surveillance warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) Apple has just released its earnings report for the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which runs from the beginning of October to the end of December. The holiday quarter is usually Apple's largest by far, and Apple still managed to grow a little even if it couldn't match the same astounding iPhone 6-driven growth levels it hit in Q1 of 2015. Profit and revenue are both up slightly, but it's mostly thanks to growth in the Services and Other Products categories. Revenue increased in all territories but the Americas and Japan, with China again accounting for most of the growth. Apple broke quarterly records, with $18.4 billion in profit and $75.9 billion in revenue, compared to $18 billion in profit and $74.6 billion in revenue in Q1 of 2016. Its gross margin was 40.1 percent. These results beat the low end of Apple's guidance for the quarter, which predicted revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion and a profit margin between 39 and 40 percent. The company predicts that it will make between $50 and $53 billion in revenue in the second quarter of fiscal 2016 with profit margins between 39 and 39.5 percent. Notably, this is a bit below the $58 billion in revenue that Apple made in Q2 of 2015, so if these numbers are accurate they would be Apple's first year-over-year revenue decrease in more than a decade. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A Redflex camera as seen in Modesto, California. (credit: Cyrus Farivar) On Tuesday, a federal jury in Chicago found a former city transportation official guilty on all 20 counts of mail and wire fraud, bribery, extortion, conspiracy, and tax evasion charges. John Bills, who was the managing deputy commissioner at the Department of Transportation, helped steer a lucrative city contract to Redflex, the embattled Australian red-light camera vendor. He faces decades in prison but won't be sentenced until May 2016. After Bills urged his colleagues to approve the deal, the city hired Redflex to provide automated enforcement cameras, known formally as its Digital Automated Red Light Enforcement Program (DARLEP), from October 2003 until February 2013. That contract abruptly ended after Bills was shown to have accepted a hotel room that Redflex paid for—but city officials believe that the corruption ran far deeper. In October 2013, Chicago selected Xerox ACS to replace Redflex as its new red-light camera operator. Since then, Redflex has suffered financially, dubbing North America a "low/no-growth market.” Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: VCU CNS @ Flickr) Uber announced today that it will monitor some of its drivers' behavior for things like excessive speeding or distracted driving. Starting with a trial in Houston, the program will use Uber drivers' own smartphones to provide data to the company. The company will use a phone's gyroscopes, accelerometers, and GPS to record whether drivers break speed limits or play with their phone while the vehicle is in motion. But in this trial, Uber will only access that data if a customer has a complaint about driving standards. Always-on monitoring of driving standards may come later, according to Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan. For now, the initiative is about being able to fact-check complaints and keep the company's rating system on the rails. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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