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Siberian Wooden Statue is 'Twice as Old as Stonehenge'

Posted: 03 May 2018 10:08 AM PDT

The Independent has an article about a wooden statue found in peat bog which is 'twice as old as Stonehenge'. Named the Shigir Idol, it was found preserved in a peat bog back in 1890. New dating techniques suggest that it is around 11,000 years old, which would make it the oldest extant wooden sculpture.

Depicting a man with mysterious symbols inscribed on him - which scientists believe could be an ancient encrypted code - the statue is 1,500 years older than previously thought.

Scientists in Mannheim, Germany, used the most up-to-date carbon dating technology, called Accelerated Mass Spectrometry, to determine the statue's age.

Thomas Terberger, a professor at the Department of Cultural Heritage of Lower Saxony, part of the team who dated the Idol, told the Siberian Times: "The results exceeded our expectations.

"This is an extremely important date for the international scientific community. It is important for understanding the development of civilisation and the art of Eurasia and humanity as a whole.

"We can say that in those times, 11,000 years ago, the hunters, fishermen and gatherers of the Urals were no less developed than the farmers of the Middle East."


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Somebody Tried to Hide a Backdoor in a Popular JavaScript npm Package

Posted: 03 May 2018 08:35 AM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow8317

The Node Package Manager (npm) team avoided a disaster today when it discovered and blocked the distribution of a cleverly hidden backdoor mechanism inside a popular —albeit deprecated— JavaScript package.

The actual backdoor mechanism was found in "getcookies," a relatively newly created npm package (JavaScript library) for working with browser cookies.

The npm team —who analyzed this package earlier today after reports from the npm community— says "getcookies" contains a complex system for receiving commands from a remote attacker, who could target any JavaScript app that had incorporated this library. The npm team explains:

The backdoor worked by parsing the user-supplied HTTP request.headers, looking for specifically formatted data that provides three different commands to the backdoor. [...] We can see here that the headers are stringified and the result searched for values in the format of: gCOMMANDhDATAi

Source: https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/security/somebody-tried-to-hide-a-backdoor-in-a-popular-javascript-npm-package/


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Cambridge Analytica Shutting Down, Company Says

Posted: 03 May 2018 06:53 AM PDT

"Cambridge Analytica, the marketing research company at the heart of the Facebook data breach, is shutting down, according to reports. Parent company, SCL Group, said it was shutting its U.S. offices during a Wednesday conference call with employees." foxnews.com/tech/2018/05/02/cambridge-analytica-shutting-down-reports-say.html

Cambridge Analytica denied the accusations levied against it by Facebook and others, but said it could not correct the "unfounded accusations," even as it hired Queen's Counsel Julian Malins to conduct an independent investigation into the company's practices surrounding its political activities.

"Despite Cambridge Analytica's unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, which view is now fully supported by Mr. Malins' report, the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company's customers and suppliers," the company added in the release. "As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the Company into administration."


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NASA's Kilopower Nuclear Reactor Exceeds Expectations in Tests

Posted: 03 May 2018 05:26 AM PDT

NASA's Kilopower nuclear reactor with Stirling converters (not an RTG) has passed key tests:

The Kilopower team conducted the experiment in four phases. The first two phases, conducted without power, confirmed that each component of the system behaved as expected. During the third phase, the team increased power to heat the core incrementally before moving on to the final phase. The experiment culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission, including reactor startup, ramp to full power, steady operation and shutdown.

Throughout the experiment, the team simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, showing that the system could continue to operate and successfully handle multiple failures.

"We put the system through its paces," said Gibson. "We understand the reactor very well, and this test proved that the system works the way we designed it to work. No matter what environment we expose it to, the reactor performs very well."

The Kilopower project is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk reduction activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration. The project will remain a part of the STMD's Game Changing Development program with the goal of transitioning to the Technology Demonstration Mission program in Fiscal Year 2020.

The full system will generate 10 kW of power, but the prototype tested from November to March was designed to produce just 1 kW. The solid uranium-235 core is safe to handle.

The Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) prototype exceeded almost all performance metrics.

Multiple units could power missions on the Moon, Mars, or other destinations:

"Kilopower's compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power," NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in January.

Also at Beyond Nerva. 3m8s video.

Previously: NASA's Kilopower Project Testing a Nuclear Stirling Engine
Initial Tests of NASA's Kilopower Nuclear System Successful


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Soylentnews Server Reboot Schedule May 5-10

Posted: 03 May 2018 04:50 AM PDT

We have been informed by Linode (on which all of the SoylentNews servers are hosted) that maintenance is required to mitigate against the Spectre (v1 and v2) attacks. As a result, all of our servers will require a reboot. Historically, any given server is down for anywhere from 15-30 minutes. We have redundancies in place for many of our operations, but there may be some unavoidable downtime. We ask your patience and understanding during this process.

The scheduled reboots are:

Sat 2018-05-05 1:00:00 AM UTC fluorine [1] Production Cluster
Tue 2018-05-08 1:00:00 AM UTC helium Production Cluster
Tue 2018-05-08 3:00:00 AM UTC boron Services Cluster
Tue 2018-05-08 3:00:00 AM UTC magnesium Frontend Proxy
Tue 2018-05-08 3:00:00 AM UTC neon Production Cluster
Wed 2018-05-09 3:00:00 AM UTC lithium Development Cluster
Wed 2018-05-09 4:00:00 AM UTC sodium Frontend Proxy
Wed 2018-05-09 6:00:00 AM UTC beryllium [2] Services Cluster
Thu 2018-05-10 1:00:00 AM UTC hydrogen Production Cluster

[1] Unable to process subscriptions or update comment counts or deliver messages until it reboots.

[2] IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server will be unavailable.


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Portland Fast-Food Workers Win a Union

Posted: 03 May 2018 03:13 AM PDT

The International Socialist Organization reports

The Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) in Portland, Oregon, has become the first federally recognized fast-food workers union in the U.S.

With a vote of 18-4 in a National Labor Relations Board election, workers at Store #41 notched an important victory in the drive to organize the 1,500 workers at all 42 Burgerville sites located in Oregon and southwest Washington. BVWU spokesperson Emmett Schlenz says that six of the company's locations now have publicly active unions. Workers at another store have already filed for an NLRB election.

[...] The union has been pressing for a $5 an hour raise, stable scheduling, affordable health care, paid maternity/paternity leave, free childcare and transportation, and an end to the employer's use of e-verify to exclude undocumented immigrant workers.

Using direct action tactics, including mass picketing with community allies, occupations and a three-day strike at four restaurants, the all-volunteer BVWU has drawn the support of dozens of local unions, many community and faith-based organizations, and some elected officials.

The union called a boycott of Burgerville after a number of union activists were fired.

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Mobile Gaming is Dominant in the Marketplace / Blame Loot Boxes

Posted: 03 May 2018 01:36 AM PDT

I've shunned all games that include loot boxes, pay-to-win, etc. for quite some time. It used to be that just meant not playing mobile games or the few MMORPGS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) that consumed your life. I have recently taken to playing Gwent and Hearthstone some, but I've about given up on Hearthstone. There is some interesting content to be sure, but Hearthstone more so than Gwent seems to be very much pay-to-win. I've spent a grand total of $5 on the starter pack for Gwent, because after 10-20 hours worth of play I found I was having quite a bit of fun. I can actually win games against other people in Gwent. As for Hearthstone — it seems that no matter how I play there was no way I was going to win, because I don't have good enough cards.

With the massive user base of mobile platforms, it's not hard to believe that there's a lot of money rolling around. I just wish that mobile gaming wasn't by and large like playing in a Casino. Except, with mobile gaming, there's no chance of a payout.

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/05/mobile-platforms-now-account-for-more-than-half-of-all-game-spending
https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/05/despite-backlash-loot-boxes-could-be-essential-to-gamings-future


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Prof Stephen Hawking's Multi-Verse Finale

Posted: 02 May 2018 11:59 PM PDT

Prof Stephen Hawking's final research paper suggests that our Universe may be one of many similar to our own. The theory resolves a cosmic paradox of the late physicist's own making. It also points a way forward for astronomers to find evidence of the existence of parallel universes. The study was submitted to the Journal of High-Energy Physics 10 days before Prof Hawking died.

[...] A crisis arises because if there are infinite types of universes with infinite variations in their laws of physics then the theory cannot predict what kind of universe we should find ourselves in. Prof Hawking joined forces with Prof Thomas Hertog at KU Leuven in Belgium, who is funded by the European Research Council to try to resolve this paradox.

[...] Prof Hawking's final paper is the fruit of 20 years' work with Prof Hertog. It has solved the puzzle by drawing on new mathematical techniques developed to study another esoteric branch of physics called string theory. These techniques enable researchers to view physics theories in a different way. And the novel assessment of the Hartle-Hawking theory in the new paper has restored order to a hitherto chaotic multi-verse. The new Hawking-Hertog assessment indicates that there can only be universes that have the same laws of physics as our own.

That conjecture means that our Universe is typical and so observations we make from our viewpoint will be meaningful in developing our ideas of how other universes emerged. Mind-bending as these ideas are, they will be of real help to physicists as they develop a more complete theory of how the Universe came into being, according to Prof Hertog.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43976977

Also covered by: LiveScience, BGR Media, CNN, Discover Magazine, and Space.Com.


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Facebook Launches Oculus Go, a $200 Standalone VR Headset

Posted: 02 May 2018 10:22 PM PDT

Facebook/Oculus has launched the standalone Oculus Go, which is an untethered wireless virtual reality headset similar to smartphone-based VR systems such as Samsung's Gear VR, but with its own built-in Snapdragon 821 SoC instead of using a smartphone:

The Oculus Go, a self-contained headset that offers mobile virtual reality without a smartphone, is going on sale today in 23 countries. The headset's $199 base version has 32GB of storage, and a 64GB version will sell for $249. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it "the easiest way to get into VR," and in our review, we've found that it's certainly easy to use — but it still has major limitations.

The Oculus Go lacks 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF), unlike the upcoming Lenovo Mirage Solo. It also has just about 1-2 hours of useful battery life before needing to be recharged for a couple of hours, and the company discourages you from wearing it while it is recharging. SuperData predicts that Oculus Go will outsell all other VR headsets this year. The low price of $200 and untethered design could bring VR closer to becoming mainstream.

At its F8 conference, Facebook hinted at some features coming to its future VR headsets, including variable depth-of-field using physically adjusted varifocal lenses, an increase from a 110 to a 140-degree field-of-view without increasing the size of the headset, and built-in hand tracking. (Also at TechCrunch.) Facebook also announced Oculus Venues, an app for displaying live sports events, concerts, comedy shows, etc. in VR. These live events will begin on May 30.

Also at Tom's Hardware, RoadtoVR, USA Today, and Digital Trends. MIT Technology Review has an interview with Rachel Franklin, Facebook's head of social VR, who admits "there's not much to do" in Facebook Spaces, the company's "social VR app".


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Man Who Attempted DIY Gene Therapy Found Dead

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:45 PM PDT

Aaron Traywick, a biohacker who once injected himself with an untested herpes therapy on a crusade to expand access to medications, was found dead on Sunday morning in Washington, DC, police confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

Traywick, 28, was found in a spa in Northwest DC, according to police. Staff discovered him in a sensory deprivation flotation tank, according to his colleague Tristan Roberts.

His body was taken for an autopsy, and his cause of death was not immediately known. Their investigation is still ongoing, but the police say they don't suspect foul play.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/aaron-traywick-biohacker-died

Also at Newsweek and the BBC.

Previously: "Biohacker" Injects DIY Herpes Vaccine in Front of Audience and Facebook Live (Aaron Traywick)
Biohacker Regrets Injecting Himself With Gene Therapy in Front of a Live Audience (Josiah Zayner reacting to Aaron Traywick)


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FTC Gives Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo 30 Days to Remove Illegal Warranty-Void-If-Removed Stickers

Posted: 02 May 2018 06:54 PM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow3941

The FTC says that if companies don't change their warranty practices, it may take 'legal action.'

The Federal Trade Commission put six companies on notice in early April for illegally telling customers that getting third-party repairs voids the warranty on their electronics. You've seen the stickers before and read the messages buried in end user license agreements. Plastered on the back of my PlayStation 4 is a little sticker that says "warranty void if removed." That's illegal.

Motherboard has obtained copies of the letters via a Freedom of Information Act request and has learned the names of the six companies that were warned. They are Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Hyundai, HTC, and computer hardware manufacturer ASUS.

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Avengers: Infinity War Sets Box Office Debut Records

Posted: 02 May 2018 05:17 PM PDT

Avengers: Infinity War Sets Box Office Debut Records

A Disney film has unseated another Disney film:

Disney and Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn't unfurl until May 11.

Fellow Disney title Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($248 million) was the previous record holder for biggest domestic bow, while Universal's The Fate of the Furious had held the record for biggest global start ($541.9 million).

Infinity War's box-office victory was aided by the biggest Saturday of all time in North America ($83 million), as well as the biggest Sunday (an estimated $61 million), reflecting powerful word of mouth. The tentpole cost close to $300 million to produce before a major marketing spend.

$250 million is a studio estimate, which may change. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is said to have earned $256,008,273 in the U.S. and Canada after being adjusted for inflation.

Could AI Predict the Next Avengers: Infinity War?

Meanwhile, an Anonymous Coward asks:

Some movies are obvious hits. Like, for example, Avengers: Infinity War, which made a record-breaking $258 million at the domestic box office last weekend, filling seats and the pockets of Marvel Studios parent company Disney. But not every summer—or spring, or fall—blockbuster has the benefit of 10 years and 18 movies of built-up audience goodwill. So while the Mouse House knew they had a potentially earth-shattering hit on their hands well before opening night, other studios trying to catch up have no way of predicting whether their latest attempts to hit big will do so.

Actually, they might. Machine learning is everywhere, and artificial intelligence is no longer just a Spielberg-Kubrick collaboration. These days, Amazon can practically anticipate when you might need toilet paper and Netflix can predict your next binge, so it only seems natural that Hollywood will start using AI to predict the next big blockbuster, or at least improve its chances of becoming one. In fact, several companies are already working on algorithmic ways to predict box office results. Whether or not algorithms are better at picking winners than studio execs, however, is another matter—one that's still far from resolved.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/artificial-intelligence-box-office-predictions/


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Tens of Thousands of Malicious Apps Using Facebook APIs

Posted: 02 May 2018 03:41 PM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow3941

The apps are deemed malicious by doing things such as capturing pictures and audio when the app is closed, or making an unusually large amount of network calls. These allow apps to access a range of information from Facebook profiles, like name, location and email address.

Trustlook discovered the malicious apps using a formula, which created a risk score for apps based on more than 80 pieces of information for each app, including permissions, libraries, risky API calls and network activity.

"The Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal was mainly a result of developers abusing the permissions associated with the Facebook Login feature," Trustlook researchers said, in a post. "When people use Facebook Login, they grant the app's developer a range of information from their Facebook profile. Back in 2015, Facebook also allowed developers to collect some information from the friend networks of people who used Facebook Login. That means that while a single user may have agreed to hand over their data, developers could also access some data about their friends. Needless to say, this realization among Facebook users has caused a huge backlash."

Source: https://threatpost.com/tens-of-thousands-of-malicious-apps-using-facebook-apis/131566/


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DNC's Lawsuit Against WikiLeaks is an Attack on Freedom of the Press

Posted: 02 May 2018 02:13 PM PDT

The DNC's Lawsuit Against WikiLeaks Is an Attack on the Freedom of the Press

It's a large world, filled with felonies big and misdemeanors small. And so I prefer to write long columns. But sometimes a short, sharp word is necessary. The Democratic Party is suing WikiLeaks and they shouldn't. As Glenn Greenwald wrote last week in The Intercept:

The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit this afternoon in a Manhattan federal court against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and various individuals it alleges participated in the plot to hack its email servers and disseminate the contents as part of the 2016 election. The DNC also sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing the hacked materials, though it does not allege that WikiLeaks participated in the hacking or even knew in advance about it; its sole role, according to the DNC's lawsuit, was publishing the hacked emails.

As Greenwald points out, the Dems' claim that "WikiLeaks is liable for damages it caused when it 'willfully and intentionally disclosed' the DNC's communications ... would mean that any media outlet that publishes misappropriated documents or emails (exactly what media outlets quite often do) could be sued by the entity or person about which they are reporting."

After the Manning releases in 2010, the Obama Justice Department wanted to sue WikiLeaks. However, they couldn't prove that anyone from WikiLeaks had actually stolen documents. They knew that suing WikiLeaks would have infringed on press freedom. Sue WikiLeaks, and you have to sue the Washington Post as well.

The DNC has no such qualms now.

Also at Al Jazeera.

See also: Why the DNC Is Fighting WikiLeaks and Not Wall Street


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Amazon Web Services Threatens to Kick Out Signal Messaging App Over Domain Fronting

Posted: 02 May 2018 12:43 PM PDT

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

The team behind secure messaging app Signal says Amazon has threatened to drop the app if it doesn't stop using an anti-censorship practice known as domain-fronting. Google recently banned the practice, which lets developers disguise web traffic to look like it's coming from a different source, allowing apps like Signal to evade country-level bans. As a result, Signal moved from Google to the Amazon-owned Souq content delivery network. But Amazon implemented its own ban on Friday. In an email that Moxie Marlinspike — founder of Signal developer Open Whisper Systems — posted today, Amazon orders the organization to immediately stop using domain-fronting or find another web services provider.

Amazon has said that it's banning domain-fronting so malware purveyors can't disguise themselves as innocent web traffic. But Signal used the system to provide service in Egypt, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it's officially banned. It got around filters by making traffic appear to come from a huge platform, since countries weren't willing to ban the entirety of a site like Google to shut down Signal.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/1/17308508/amazon-web-services-signal-domain-fronting-ban-response

Also at TechCrunch and TechRepublic.

See also: A Google update just created a big problem for anti-censorship tools
APT29 Domain Fronting With TOR

Previously: Encrypted Messaging App Signal Uses Google to Bypass Censorship

Related: Open Whisper Systems Releases Standalone "Signal" Desktop App


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Opera Discontinues its Mobile VPN App

Posted: 02 May 2018 11:21 AM PDT

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow4408

Opera has dropped its mobile VPN app now that the development team has left.

The browser maker has discontinued both its Android and iOS VPN clients after SurfEasy, the developer Opera had acquired in 2015, parted ways with the company.

[...] If you're an Opera Gold user, you'll have the option of a free one-year subscription to SurfEasy's Ultra VPN service. Everyone else, meanwhile, can use the Opera VPN app to subscribe to SurfEasy Total for 99 cents per month instead of the usual $5.

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/04/30/opera-discontinues-mobile-vpn-app/


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Gig Economy Business Model Dealt a Blow in California Ruling

Posted: 02 May 2018 09:54 AM PDT

In a ruling with potentially sweeping consequences for the so-called gig economy, the California Supreme Court on Monday made it much more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The decision could eventually require companies like Uber, many of which are based in California, to follow minimum-wage and overtime laws and to pay workers' compensation and unemployment insurance and payroll taxes, potentially upending their business models.

Industry executives have estimated that classifying drivers and other gig workers as employees tends to cost 20 to 30 percent more than classifying them as contractors. It also brings benefits that can offset these costs, though, like the ability to control schedules and the manner of work.

"It's a massive thing — definitely a game-changer that will force everyone to take a fresh look at the whole issue," said Richard Meneghello, a co-chairman of the gig-economy practice group at the management-side law firm Fisher Phillips.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/business/economy/gig-economy-ruling.html


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