Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached 196

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that negotiators have finally reached agreement over the Trans-Pacific Partnership from the U.S. and 11 other nations. The TPP has been in development for eight years, and has the potential to dramatically strengthen U.S. economic ties to east Asia. Though the negotiations have been done in secret, the full text of the agreement should be published within a month. Congress (and the legislative houses of the other participating countries) will have 90 days to review it and decide whether to ratify it. The TPP has been criticized in tech circles for how it regards intellectual property and facilitates website blocking, among other issues.

Proponents will also have to answer broader questions about whether it stifles competition, how it treats individuals versus large corporations, as if it creates environmental problems. To give you an idea of how complex it is: "The Office of the United States Trade Representative said the partnership eventually would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on United States exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products ranging from avocados in California to wheat, pork and beef from the Plains states."

TiVo's Latest Offering Detects and Skips Ads, Adds 4K Capability 78

As described by The Verge, the newest generation of TiVo is in some ways a step backward: it comes with fewer tuners than some earlier models, and less storage as well. However, two big features that distinguish the company's new Bolt DVR may entice users anyhow: it adds 4K recording, and (probably of use to more people, given the scarcity of 4K content, not to mention its file size) also can recognize and skip commercials, a feature that users have sorely missed as a mainstream feature in standalone DVRs for quite a while. (And it's possible that broadcasters will come up with a way to kill the commercial-skip function as they did with Dish's AutoHop.)

4 Calif. Students Arrested For Alleged Mass-Killing Plot 362

The New York Times reports that four high school students in the small California town of Tuolumne, about 120 miles east of San Francisco, have been arrested, but not yet charged, for planning an attack on their school, Summerville High School. According to the Times, three of the four were overheard discussing this plot, and a fourth conspirator was later identified. Their goal, according to Toulumne sheriff James Mele, was "to shoot and kill as many people as possible at the campus"; they had not however been able yet to obtain the weapons they wanted to carry out the attack. From NBC News' version of the story: "Detectives located evidence verifying a plot to shoot staff and students at Summerville High School," Mele said. "The suspects' plan was very detailed in nature and included names of would-be victims, locations and the methods in which the plan was to be carried out."

OpenIndiana Hipster 2015.10: Keeping an Open-Source Solaris Going 133

An anonymous reader writes: It's been five years since Oracle killed off OpenSolaris while the community of developers are letting it live on with the new OpenIndiana "Hipster" 15.10 release. OpenIndiana 15.10 improves its Python-based text installer as it looks to drop its GUI installer, switches out the Oracle JDK/JRE for OpenJDK, and updates its vast package set. However, there are still a number of outdated packages on the system like Firefox 24 and X.Org Server 1.14 while the default office suite is a broken OpenOffice build, due to various obstacles in maintaining open-source software support for Solaris while being challenged by limited contributors. Download links are available via the release notes. There's also a page for getting involved if wishing to improve the state of open-source Solaris.
The Almighty Buck

When Fraud Detection Shuts Down Credit Cards Inappropriately 313

reifman writes: On Sunday, Capital One declined a $280 travel reservation I charged at India-based and immediately shut off my card for all transactions until I contacted them by phone. It wasn't the first time that CapitalOne had shut off my card after a single suspect transaction. But, I'd actually purchased from using my CapitalOne card on two prior occasions. It was an example of very poor fraud detection and led me on a tour of their pathetic customer service. The banks want to cut their losses regardless of how it impacts their customers. Having had my own credit card suspended out of an abundance of caution on a different credit card issuer's part (for legitimate charges), but having recently had some widely known scam charges get accepted, the fraud protection algorithms that the credit companies use certainly seem inscrutable sometimes, and so do the surrounding practices about communicating with customers. How would you like it to work instead?

Hour of Code Kicks Off In Chile With Dog Poop-Themed CS Tutorial 49

theodp writes: In an interesting contrast to the Disney princess-themed Hour of Code tutorial that 'taught President Obama to code' last December, Chile is kicking off its 2015 Hora del Codigo this week with a top-featured Blockly tutorial that teaches computer science by having kids drag-and-drop blocks of code to pick up dog poop. "Collect all the shit you have left your dog," reads the Google translated instructions for the final coding exercise. In its new video for the Hour of Code 2015 campaign, tech billionaire-backed notes that it's striving to reach 200 million schoolchildren worldwide by this December. Presumably towards that end, warns that it will penalize Computer Science tutorials that "work only in English."

'Legacy' London Car Hire Companies Lawyer Up Against Uber 206

An anonymous reader writes with The Stack's report that: The London Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) has engaged a major firm of lawyers to present its case against Uber in the UK capital, citing lack of continuous insurance checks, Uber's tax avoidance practices and even 'loitering' Uber drivers as reasons to impose regulations which would eliminate Uber's competitive advantage in London. A lot of Londoners like to have that competition around, though.

Michigan Mammoth May Have Been Butchered By Humans 39

Forbes reports that a mammoth recently unearthed in rural Michigan includes evidence that the animal was butchered for food: From the article: A small stone that could potentially be a cutting tool was also found with the mammoth bones. To confirm that this animal was butchered by humans, researchers will examine the bones for cut marks that would indicate people were processing it for meat. A third piece of evidence is the organized way the neck vertebrae of the mammoth were found. "An animal doesn't just come apart naturally leaving a sequence of tightly articulated vertebrae like that," Fisher said, indicating that the animal would have had to have been moved by humans for paleontologists to find the bones laid out in such a fashion.

The Decline of 'Big Soda': Is Drinking Soda the New Smoking? 558 writes: Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the NYT that soda consumption is experiencing a serious and sustained decline as sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture but bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years. The changing patterns of soda drinking appear to come thanks, in part, to a loud campaign to eradicate sodas. School cafeterias and vending machines no longer contain regular sodas. Many workplaces and government offices have similarly prohibited their sale.

For many public health advocates, soda has become the new tobacco — a toxic product to be banned, taxed and stigmatized. "There will always be soda, but I think the era of it being acceptable for kids to drink soda all day long is passing, slowly," says Marion Nestle. "In some socioeconomic groups, it's over." Soda represents nearly 25% of the U.S. beverage market and its massive scale have guaranteed profit margins for decades. Historically, beverage preferences are set in adolescence, the first time that most people begin choosing and buying a favorite brand. But the declines in soda drinking appear to be sharpest among young Americans. "Kids these days are growing up with all of these other options, and there are some parents who say, 'I really want my kids to drink juice or a bottled water,' " says Gary A. Hemphill. "If kids grow up without carbonated soft drinks, the likelihood that they are going to grow up and, when they are 35, start drinking is very low."

Soon-to-Be US Ed Chief Was Almost FB CEO's Ed Chief 30

theodp writes: Before President Obama announced John B. King as his pick to replace outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is returning to Chicago, where his kids now attend a $30K-a-year private school), King was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pick to lead Zuck's failed $100 million "reform" effort of Newark's Schools. From The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?: "[Newark Mayor Cory] Booker asked [NJ Governor Chris] Christie to grant him control of the schools by fiat, but the governor demurred, offering him instead a role as unofficial partner in all decisions and policies, beginning with their joint selection of a 'superstar' superintendent to lead the charge. Booker's first choice was John King, then deputy New York State education commissioner, who had led some of the top-performing charter schools in New York City and Boston and who credited public school teachers with inspiring him to persevere after he was orphaned as a young boy in Brooklyn. [Mark] Zuckerberg and [his wife Priscilla] Chan flew King to Palo Alto for a weekend with them and [Facebook executive Sheryl] Sandberg; Christie hosted him at the governor's beach retreat on the Jersey Shore; and Booker led King and his wife, Melissa, on a tour of Newark, with stops at parks and businesses that hadn't existed before his mayoralty. But after much thought, King turned them down. Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker expected to arrive at their national model within five years. King believed it could take almost that long to change the system's fundamental procedures and to raise expectations across the city for children and schools. "John's view was that no one has achieved what they're trying to achieve: build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes," said an acquaintance who talked with King about the offer. "You'd have to invest not only a long period of time but tremendous political capital to get it done." King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office."

Cape Verde Boulders Indicate Massive Tsunami 73,000 Years Ago 53

TaleSlinger writes: Researchers from University of Bristol, UK found that boulders strewn 200m above sea level on Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, were ripped from cliffs below and washed up there by a tsunami between 170m and 270m (550-850ft). Researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory dated the tsunami at 73,000 years ago. It's interesting that this is about the same time as the Mt. Toba Eruption and about the same time humans nearly became extinct.
United States

US Bombs Hit Doctors Without Borders Hospital 384

Prune writes: According to multiple news sources, U.S. airstrikes partially destroyed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan, killing at least nine staff members and at least 50 overall, including patients, and this after giving its coordinates to U.S. forces multiple times. I'm especially saddened to report this given I had become one of the supporters of this charity after recommendations from Slashdot members in a discussion about choosing charities to donate to a while back.

DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords 383

schwit1 writes: Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor's conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password.

Sprint To Begin Layoffs, Cut $2.5 Billion In Expenses 55

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint's struggles to remain a major carrier continue. Just a few days after announcing that it is dropping out of a major low-band spectrum auction, the company now says it must cut between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in costs over the next six months. The cuts will need to be aggressive — according to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Sprint "had $7.5 billion in operating expenses during the three months ended June 30," even as it cut $1.5 billion over the past year. The only good news for Sprint is that its subscriber base is still slowly growing, though not quickly enough to keep pace with T-Mobile, let alone Verizon or AT&T.

$50 Fire Tablet With High-capacity SDXC Slot Doesn't See E-books On the SD Card 142

Robotech_Master writes: For all that the $50 Fire tablet has a 128 GB capable SDXC card slot that outclasses every other tablet in its price range, and it evolved out of Amazon's flagship e-book reader, it strangely lacks the ability to index e-books on that card. This seems like a strange oversight, given that every other media app on the tablet uses that card for downloading and storage, and its 5 GB usable internal memory isn't a lot for people who have a large library of picture-heavy e-books—especially if they want to install other apps, too.

EPA Gave Volkswagen a Free Pass On Emissions Ten Years Ago Due To Lack of Budget 203

An anonymous reader writes: A new report suggests that continuing cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget contributed to Volkswagen being able to cheat on its emissions tests. When the test scripts were developed the department — which can still only conduct 'spot tests' on 20% of all qualifying vehicles — was forced to concentrate on heavy machinery and truck manufacturers, which at the time had a far higher incidence of attempting to cheat on vehicle standards tests. Discounting inflation the EPA's 2015 budget is on a par with its 2002 budget (PDF), and has been cut by 21% since 2010.
GNU is Not Unix

FLIF: Free Lossless Image Format 304

nickweller sends a link to an informational post about FLIF, the Free, Lossless Image Format. It claims to outperform PNG, lossless WebP, and other popular formats on any kind of image. "On photographs, PNG performs poorly while WebP, BPG and JPEG 2000 compress well (see plot on the left). On medical images, PNG and WebP perform relatively poorly while BPG and JPEG 2000 work well (see middle plot). On geographical maps, BPG and JPEG 2000 perform (extremely) poorly while while PNG and WebP work well (see plot on the right). In each of these three examples, FLIF performs well — even better than any of the others." FLIF uses progressive decoding to provide fully-formed lossy images from partial downloads in bandwidth-constrained situations. Best of all, FLIF is free software, released under the GNU GPLv3.

Oculus Founder Explains Why the Rift VR Headset Will Cost "More Than $350" 172

An anonymous reader writes: When Oculus took to Kickstarter in 2012, the company sought to create the 'DK1', a development kit of the Rift which the company wanted to eventually become an affordable VR headset that they would eventually take to market as a consumer product. At the time, the company was aiming for a target price around $350, but since then the company, and the scope of the Rift headset, has grown considerably. That's one reason why Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey says that the consumer Rift headset, launching in Q1 2016, will cost more than $350. '...the reason for that is that we've added a lot of technology to this thing beyond what existed in the DK1 and DK2 days,' says Luckey.

China Beats US In Early Cuban Internet Infrastructure Investment 109

lpress writes: The US would like to sell Cuba Internet service and equipment, but we have had little success so far. China has won the first round — they financed and installed Cuba's undersea cable, supplied backbone equipment and public WiFi access centers and will provide equipment for the forthcoming home DSL rollout. That being said, Cuba has very little connectivity today and most of what they have and plan to install is already obsolete by today's standards, so they will be buying a lot of equipment in the future.
United States

The FAA Has Missed Its Congressionally Mandated Deadline To Regulate Drones 183

derekmead writes: When Congress passed the FAA Modernization Act in 2012, it gave the agency until September 30, 2015 to fully regulate commercial drones for use in the United States. Well, it's October 1, and we're left with a patchwork of regulatory band-aids, quasi-legal "guidelines," and a small drone rule that still hasn't gone into effect yet. This news shouldn't surprise anyone. The agency has missed most every milestone—both internal and lawmaker mandated—that has been set for it. The last two years have been fraught with lawsuits, confusion on enforcement within its own local offices (some FAA agents have told pilots they can't post videos on YouTube, for example), and various conflicting guidelines as to who can fly a drone where, and for what purposes.