China

Chinese Company Offers Free Training For US Coal Miners To Become Wind Farmers (qz.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: If you want to truly understand what's happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that's a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state's mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It's the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets. The news comes from an energy conference in Wyoming, where the American arm of Goldwind, a Chinese wind-turbine manufacturer, announced the free training program. More than a century ago, Carbon County was home to the first coal mine in Wyoming. Soon, it will be the site of a new wind farm with hundreds of Goldwind-supplied turbines.
Businesses

US Senator Introduces the First Bill To Give Gig Workers Benefits (techcrunch.com) 80

Virginia Senator Mark Warner has introduced a bill that will give basic benefits to gig workers. "Warner has just proposed the first-ever piece of national legislation aimed at helping on-demand and other non-traditional workers without traditional benefits, like paid sick days or a retirement plan, have some sort of a safety net," reports TechCrunch. "The bill asks the federal government to set aside $20 million in funding for organizations to use to look at the types of benefits programs individual workers could take with them from job to job." From the report: "[Portable benefits is] that emergency fund," Warner told BuzzFeed, which first reported news of the bill. "It might be a fund to take care of a disability if you get hurt. It might work with some existing retirement programs. Part of it would be, depending on what happens with Obamacare, an ability to help deal with health care expenses. I think there will be a variety of models." The funding wouldn't be enough to cover everyone, of course, but if it gets the green light a draft of the bill indicates it would earmark $5 million toward grants doled out by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta for organizations already looking into portable benefits and $15 million for new programs.
Security

More Than Half of Streaming Users In US Are Sharing Their Passwords, Says Report (streamingobserver.com) 39

A new study conducted by Fluent shows a majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. While millennials lead the pack, non-millennials are doing the same. Streaming Observer reports: Nearly 3 out of every 4 (72% exactly) Americans who have cable also have access to at least one streaming service and 8% of cable subscribers plan to eliminate their service in the next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're paying for their streaming service. New numbers from a study conducted by Fluent show that the majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. Well over half of millennials (aged 18-34) -- 60% -- are either using someone someone else's password or giving their password to someone else. And just under half -- 48% -- of non-millennials are doing the same. The study also revealed that the main factor in what drives consumers to sign up for streaming video services is price, with 34% of Americans saying that low cost was the primary factor. That number jumps to 38% among millennials. When you take in to account that some streaming TV services start with prices as low as $20, it makes sense that price is the biggest issue. Convenience was the next biggest factor, coming in at just below 25%.
Government

US Intelligence Community Has Lost Credibility Due To Leaks (bloomberg.com) 301

Two anonymous readers and Mi share an article: U.K. police investigating the Manchester terror attack say they have stopped sharing information with the U.S. after a series of leaks that have so angered the British government that Prime Minister Therese May wants to discuss them with President Donald Trump during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Brussels. What can Trump tell her, though? The leaks drive him nuts, too. Since the beginning of this century, the U.S. intelligence services and their clients have acted as if they wanted the world to know they couldn't guarantee the confidentiality of any information that falls into their hands. At this point, the culture of leaks is not just a menace to intelligence-sharing allies. It's a threat to the intelligence community's credibility. [...] If this history has taught the U.S. intelligence community anything, it's that leaking classified information isn't particularly dangerous and those who do it largely enjoy impunity. Manning spent seven years in prison (though she'd been sentenced to 35), but Snowden, Assange, Petraeus, the unknown Chinese mole, the people who stole the hacking tools and the army of recent anonymous leakers, many of whom probably still work for U.S. intelligence agencies, have escaped any kind of meaningful punishment. President Donald Trump has just now announced that the administration would "get to the bottom" of leaks. In a statement, he said: "The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my Administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Businesses

US International Tourism Market Share Is Falling Under Trump (buzzfeed.com) 422

An anonymous reader writes: The United States' slice of the international tourism pie is declining, according to a new report from Foursquare that looks at data from millions of phones worldwide. The US share of international tourism dropped 16% in March 2017 compared with the previous year. And it declined an average of 11% year over year in months spanning October 2016 to March 2017, according to the report. The drop coincides with the final month of the US election, the Trump transition, and the early months of the Trump administration, which notably imposed a travel ban on people from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017 that was eventually halted in court but is currently under appeal. Declines in tourism market share from people originating in the Middle East were more pronounced than the rest of the world, down 25% this January, along with a smaller decrease from South America, Foursquare found. The data accounts for the percentage of international tourism coming to the US and not the absolute number of tourists, but Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck told BuzzFeed News that it's unlikely tourist visits to the US increased while share declined. "I don't think you'd see a 16% decline in international market share and absolute numbers being up. I don't think that's compatible," he said. "The volume of tourism doesn't change that fast."
Security

Wikimedia Is Clear To Sue the NSA Over Its Use of Warrantless Surveillance Tools (engadget.com) 60

The Wikimedia Foundation has the right to sue the National Security Agency over its use of warrantless surveillance tools, a federal appeals court ruled. "A district judge shot down Wikimedia's case in 2015, saying the group hadn't proved the NSA was actually illegally spying on its communications," reports Engadget. "In this case, proof was a tall order, considering information about the targeted surveillance system, Upstream, remains classified." From the report: The appeals court today ruled Wikimedia presented sufficient evidence that the NSA was in fact monitoring its communications, even if inadvertently. The Upstream system regularly tracks the physical backbone of the internet -- the cables and routers that actually transmit our emoji. With the help of telecom providers, the NSA then intercepts specific messages that contain "selectors," email addresses or other contact information for international targets under U.S. surveillance. "To put it simply, Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," the appeals court writes. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."
Businesses

LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce (cnbc.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: LeEco, a Chinese company that made a big splash in the U.S. last fall, is preparing for a round of layoffs that may happen as soon as Tuesday, according to sources. Two people told CNBC the company is planning massive layoffs in the U.S., with one source saying that only 60 employees will be left after the cut. The company's current headcount in the U.S. is over 500, according to this person. CNBC obtained an email calling employees together for a Town Hall Meeting that will occur in three of the company's U.S. locations, including San Diego, Santa Monica and San Jose, at 10 a.m. PST. The email asks employees to attend unless they're off for the day, in which case they're asked to call in. It's not clear what will be announced at the meeting, but a second source told CNBC that layoffs will be announced tomorrow. Under the restructuring, LeEco will refocus on encouraging Chinese-American consumers to watch LeEco's Chinese content library, one person said.
Medicine

Baking Soda Shortage Has Hospitals Frantic, Delaying Treatments and Surgeries (arstechnica.com) 249

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Amid a national shortage of a critical medicine, US hospitals are hoarding vials, delaying surgeries, and turning away patients, The New York Times reports. The medicine in short supply: solutions of sodium bicarbonate -- aka, baking soda. The simple drug is used in all sorts of treatments, from chemotherapies to those for organ failure. It can help correct the pH of blood and ease the pain of stitches. It is used in open-heart surgery, can help reverse poisonings, and is kept on emergency crash carts. But, however basic and life-saving, the drug has been in short supply since around February. The country's two suppliers, Pfizer and Amphastar, ran low following an issue with one of Pfizer's suppliers -- the issue was undisclosed due to confidentiality agreements. Amphastar's supplies took a hit with a spike in demand from desperate Pfizer customers. Both companies told the NYT that they don't know when exactly supplies will be restored. They speculate that it will be no earlier than June or August. With the shortage of sodium bicarbonate, hospitals are postponing surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. A hospital in Mobile, Alabama, for example, postponed seven open-heart surgeries and sent one critically ill patient to another hospital due to the shortage.
Patents

The Supreme Court Is Cracking Down on Patent Trolls (fortune.com) 111

The Supreme Court on Monday limited the ability of patent holders to bring infringement lawsuits in courts that have plaintiff friendly reputations, a notable decision that could provide a boost to companies that defend against patent claims. The high court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled unanimously that a lower court has been following an incorrect legal standard for almost 30 years that made it possible for patent holders to sue companies in almost any U.S. jurisdiction. From a report: The justices sided 8-0 (PDF) with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz, ruling that patent infringement suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. The decision overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington-based patent court, that said patent suits are fair game anywhere a defendant company's products are sold.
Open Source

Why The US Government Open Sources Its Code (opensource.com) 58

He's been the White House technology advisor since 2015, and this month Alvand Salehi delivered a keynote address at OSCON about the U.S. government's commitment to open source software. An anonymous reader quotes OpenSource.com: The Federal Source Code Policy, released in August 2016, was the first U.S. government policy to support open source across the government... All new custom source code developed by or for the federal government must be available to all other federal agencies for sharing and reuse; and at least 20% of new government custom-developed code must be released to the public as open source. It also established Code.gov as a platform for access to government-developed open source code and a way for other developers to participate.

Before this policy was released, agencies were spending a lot of money to redevelop software already in use by other government agencies. This initiative is expected to save the government millions of dollars in wasteful and duplicative spending on software development. Because of this, Salehi said, open source is not a partisan issue, and "Code.gov is here to stay." Another benefit: Releasing open source code allows the government to benefit from the brainpower of developers across the country to improve their code.

Code.gov points potential contributors to their code repository on GitHub.
Transportation

Texas Legislature Clears Road For Uber and Lyft To Return To Austin (austinmonitor.com) 107

schwit1 shared this article from the Austin Monitor: The Texas Legislature has cleared the road for Uber and Lyft to return to Austin on their own terms. On Wednesday, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved House Bill 100 on second and third readings, sending the statewide ride-hailing regulations to Governor Greg Abbott's desk for his signature. If Abbott signs it, as he is expected to do, the new law will preempt regulations City Council passed in December 2015 that both Uber and Lyft deemed too restrictive on transportation network companies such as themselves.
The new rules still require criminal background checks, but drop the requirement for fingerprinting. "We find it unfortunate that the 36 lobbyists deployed by the Silicon Valley giants were effective in convincing the State Legislature that there was a need to overrule the Austin voters," said a local ride-sharing company, which vowed to continue operating -- and to at least continue fingerprinting their own drivers. Houston's mayor complained the new statewide rules handed down are "another example of the legislature circumventing local control to allow corporations to profit at the expense of public safety."
Displays

New Evidence of a Decline In Electricity Use By U.S. Households (wordpress.com) 318

There's some surprising news from the Energy Institute at the University of California's business school. America's households are using less electricity than they did five years ago. So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.

It is no surprise that LEDs have become so popular. LED prices have fallen 94% since 2008, and a 60-watt equivalent LED lightbulb can now be purchased for about $2. LEDs use 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, are much more durable, and work in a wide-range of indoor and outdoor settings.

"I would add LED TVs replacing LCD, Plasma and CRTs," writes Slashdot reader schwit1.
United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 468

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
United States

Aftermath From The Net Neutrality Vote: A Mass Movement To Protect The Open Internet? (mashable.com) 132

After Thursday's net neutrality vote, two security guards pinned a reporter against a wall until FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly had left the room, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Writers Guild of America calls the FCC's 2-to-1 vote to initiate a repeal of net neutrality rules a "war on the open internet," according to The Guardian. But the newspaper now predicts that online activists will continue their massive campaign "as the month's long process of reviewing the rules begins." The Hill points out that Mozilla is already hiring a high-profile tech lobbyist to press for both cybersecurity and an open internet, and in a blog post earlier this week the Mozilla Foundation's executive director sees a larger movement emerging from the engagement of millions of internet users. Today's support for net neutrality isn't the start of the Internet health movement. People have been standing up for an open web since its inception -- by advocating for browser choice, for open source practices, for mass surveillance reform. But net neutrality is an opportunity to propel this movement into the mainstream... If we make Internet health a mainstream issue, we can cement the web as a public resource. If we don't, mass surveillance, exclusion and insecurity can creep into every aspect of society. Hospitals held hostage by rogue hackers can become the status quo.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that it's not till the end of the FCC's review process that "a final FCC vote will decide the future of internet regulation," adding that however they vote, "court challenges are inevitable."
Crime

Sweden Drops Julian Assange Rape Investigation (cnn.com) 187

rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
United States

Federal Agents Used a Stingray To Track an Immigrant's Phone (detroitnews.com) 103

An anonymous reader shares a report: Investigators from Immigration and Custom Enforcement as well as the FBI have been using controversial cell-spoofing devices to secretly track down undocumented immigrants, court records show. According to a report the Detroit News, which obtained an unsealed federal search warrant affidavit, FBI and ICE agents in Michigan used a Stingray device to ensnare a restaurant worker from El Salvador in March. The devices, which were originally intended for counter-terrorism use, have come under fire because there are currently no clear rules governing when law enforcement is allowed to deploy them. Even in cases where authorities have a clear target in mind, they run the risk of exposing personal information of other innocent people in range. Until 2015, Federal investigators were free to deploy the devices without a search warrant. At that point the Justice Department laid out a policy requiring investigators get approval to use the devices first.
Transportation

Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA (recode.net) 113

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.
IBM

IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave (wsj.com) 215

For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.

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