2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-03-22 13:38:42 UTC
2019-03-22 14:58:18 UTC
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A New Hampshire state court has dismissed a defamation suit filed by a patent owner unhappy that it had been called a "patent troll". The court ruled [PDF] that the phrase "patent troll" and other rhetorical characterizations are not the type of factual statements that can be the basis of a defamation claim. While this is a fairly routine application of defamation law and the First Amendment, it is an important reminder that patent assertion entities--or "trolls"--are not shielded from criticism. Regardless of your view about the patent system, this is a victory for freedom of expression.
[...] The court went on to explain that "patent troll" is a term without a precise meaning that "doesn't enable the reader or hearer to know whether the label is true or false". The court notes that the term could encompass a broad range of activity (which some might see as beneficial, while others see it as harmful).
The court also ruled that challenged statements such as "shakedown" and comparisons to "blackmail" were non-actionable "rhetorical hyperbole". This is consistent with a long line of cases finding such language to be protected. Indeed, this is why John Oliver can call coal magnate Robert Murray a "geriatric Dr. Evil" and tell him to "eat shit". As the ACLU has put it, you can't sue people for being mean to you. Strongly expressed opinions, whether you find them childish or hilariously apt (or both), are part of living in a free society.
El Reg reports:
Apple has gone full swivel-eyed, control-freak crazy on its own employees with a demented internal memo decrying information leaks.
"In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested", says the terror missive from Cupertino, ironically leaked to Bloomberg. "Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple's supply chain."
It then threatens long-lasting harm to anyone stupid enough to let anyone know anything about its products before, you know, it launches them and tries to sell as many as humanely possible.
"These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere", the letter rants.
[...] "Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes."
What a lovely company.
Unless you're the FCC.
On the Daily Dot:
The Facebook pages of Richard Spencer, the alt-right leader who was famously punched in the face last year, have been suspended.
The pages for the National Policy Institute, a lobbying group of sorts for white nationalists, and Spencer's online magazine "altright.com," vanished on Friday after Vice sent the social network an inquiry about hate groups. They had a combined following of almost 15,000 followers.
The action was taken just days after Mark Zuckerberg emphasized during his testimony before Congress that Facebook does not allow hate speech. But it wasn't until Vice flagged the accounts that Facebook suspended them. The social network said in a statement that it identifies violating pages using human monitors, algorithms, and partnerships with organizations.
El Reg reports:
Contract wrangle overshadows milestone
The F-35 fighter jet has completed one of its years-long flight testing programmes--just in time for the United States to suspend all deliveries of the new supersonic aircraft.
The final flight of the F-35's System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase took place earlier this week, flown by British BAE Systems test pilot Pete "Wizzer" Wilson. He flew an F-35C (the version designed for conventional aircraft carriers) on a flight intended to check that the aircraft can safely carry 2,000lb bombs and Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles together.
[...] Finishing SDD means that Block 3F of the aircraft's operating system can now be frozen and rolled out to all worldwide users. That block is not without its own rather fundamental problems, as the US Department of Operational Test and Evaluation has found. Flight tests will continue to validate later versions of the software, such as the still-in-beta Block 4, as well as ironing out bugs discovered during Block 3F testing and deferred to later releases.
However, even as the flight test programme came to a close, the US Department of Defence stopped accepting new jets from manufacturer Lockheed Martin over a contract wrangle. Reuters summarised it in the following terms: "Neither party discovered the issue at the time of production, so each has pointed to the other to fix it."
An American government spokesman said: "This is not a safety of flight issue but rather a contractual resourcing issue that needs to be resolved. The [US] government has implemented this pause to ensure the warfighter receives a quality product from industry."
Exploration Mission 2 using the Space Launch System was originally planned to launch using the Block 1B version, which includes the Exploration Upper Stage and can carry 105 metric tons (105,000 kg) to to low-Earth orbit. Now that Congress has given NASA additional money for a second SLS mobile launcher, the agency has the ability to fly astronauts on the smaller Block 1 version of SLS, capable of lifting 70 metric tons to LEO:
The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.
But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won't be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. "If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can't do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS]," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday [2h15m22s video].
[...] Meanwhile, it's also possible that the second flight of the SLS won't carry crew at all. NASA also needs to launch its upcoming mission to Jupiter's moon Europa pretty soon. Known as Europa Clipper, the mission is mandated by Congress to fly on the SLS by 2022. Lightfoot mentioned that Europa Clipper could come before the first crewed flight of the SLS. It just depends on if the Orion crew capsule, which will carry astronauts on the SLS, is ready before Europa Clipper is ready. If the Europa spacecraft comes first, then it could also fly on the small Block 1 rocket.
The trans-lunar injection (TLI) payload capacity for SLS Block 1B is 39.2 metric tons, enough to carry a ~25.9 ton crewed Orion capsule with an 8-10 ton component of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), as was the original plan for Exploration Mission 2. Block 1 cannot accomplish these two tasks at the same time. Perhaps they should launch LOP-G using Falcon Heavy instead?
President Trump has promised Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado that he will support states that choose to legalize cannabis, despite rescinding the Cole Memo earlier in the year. In exchange, Gardner will stop holding up the confirmation of Trump's Department of Justice nominees:
"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states' rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said in a statement. "Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees," Gardner added.
The Washington Post first reported the development, and the White House confirmed on Friday Gardner's statement was accurate.
In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, Obama-era guidance designed to discourage prosecutors from targeting states that have legalized marijuana. The move provoked an outcry from marijuana friendly states, including Gardner's Colorado, in which the marijuana industry has flourished since 2000. Angry that Sessions had reneged on his pledge to leave marijuana states alone, Gardner promised to block all DOJ nominations, pending a resolution. Since then, he has held up about 20 Justice nominations, the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who was "unalterably opposed" to legalization of cannabis back in 2011, has now evolved and is seeing green. Boehner announced that he has joined a board of advisers for Acreage Holdings, a cannabis corporation operating in 11 states. Is it a "watershed moment" for the industry?
Deep space is not as silent as we have been led to believe. Every few minutes a pair of black holes smash into each other. These cataclysms release ripples in the fabric of spacetime known as gravitational waves. Now Monash University scientists have developed a way to listen in on these events. The gravitational waves from black hole mergers imprint a distinctive whooping sound in the data collected by gravitational-wave detectors. The new technique is expected to reveal the presence of thousands of previously hidden black holes by teasing out their faint whoops from a sea of static.
[...] "Measuring the gravitational-wave background will allow us to study populations of black holes at vast distances. Someday, the technique may enable us to see gravitational waves from the Big Bang, hidden behind gravitational waves from black holes and neutron stars," Dr Thrane said.
[...] Importantly the researchers will have access to a new $4 million supercomputer, launched last month (March) at the Swinburne University of Technology. The computer, called OzSTAR, will be used by scientists to look for gravitational waves in LIGO data.
Submitted via IRC for SoyCow9228
Video game characters could soon be truer to life thanks to AI that can teach itself to fight and flip.
Video game developers often turn to motion capture when they want realistic character animations. Mocap isn't very flexible, though, as it's hard to adapt a canned animation to different body shapes, unusual terrain or an interruption from another character. Researchers might have a better solution: teach the characters to fend for themselves. They've developed a deep learning engine (DeepMimic) that has characters learning to imitate reference mocap animations or even hand-animated keyframes, effectively training them to become virtual stunt actors. The AI promises realistic motion with the kind of flexibility that's difficult even with methods that blend scripted animations together.
Uber has acquired bike-sharing startup JUMP for an undisclosed amount of money. This comes shortly after TechCrunch reported that JUMP was in talks with Uber as well as with investors regarding a potential fundraising round involving Sequoia Capital's Mike Moritz. At the time, JUMP was contemplating a sale that exceeded $100 million. We're now hearing that the final price was closer to $200 million, according to one source close to the situation.
JUMP's decision to sell to Uber came down to the ability to realize the bike-share company's vision at a large scale, and quickly, JUMP CEO Ryan Rzepecki told TechCrunch over the phone. He also said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's leadership impacted his decision.
[...] JUMP is best known for operating dockless, pedal-assist bikes. JUMP's bikes can be legally locked to bike parking racks or the "furniture zone" of sidewalks, which is where you see things like light poles, benches and utility poles. The bikes also come with integrated locks to secure the bikes.
Chinese police have used facial recognition technology to locate and arrest a man who was among a crowd of 60,000 concert goers. The suspect, who has been identified only as Mr Ao, was attending a concert by pop star Jacky Cheung in Nanchang city last weekend when he was caught. Police said the 31-year-old, who was wanted for "economic crimes", was "shocked" when he was caught.
China has a huge surveillance network of over 170 million CCTV cameras.
Mr Ao was identified by cameras at the concert's ticket entrance, and apprehended by police after he had sat down with other concert goers. "The suspect looked completely caught by surprise when we took him away," police officer Li Jin told state news agency Xinhua.
Also at The Washington Post.
Submitted via IRC for chromas
President Trump announced Friday night that the U.S. and its allies had launched attacks on Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack last week by President Bashar Assad's regime.
In televised remarks from the White House, Trump said the attacks were underway, and that Great Britain and France were also taking part.
The president did not provide details, but U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea, armed with cruise missiles, were in position to strike. British and French forces were also in place.
[...] The president said the U.S. prepared to sustain effort until the Syrian regime stops using chemical weapons.
[...] In the days leading up to the U.S. attack, Russia had warned that it would defend its troops in Syria. This has raised fears of a possible direct clash of U.S. and Russian forces.
El Reg reports:
Data exfiltrators send info over PCs' power supply cables
Malware tickles unused cores to put signals in current
If you want your computer to be really secure, disconnect its power cable.
So says Mordechai Guri and his team of side-channel sleuths at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The crew have penned a paper titled PowerHammer: Exfiltrating Data from Air-Gapped Computers through Power Lines that explains how attackers could install malware that regulates CPU utilisation and creates fluctuations in the current flow that could modulate and encode data. The variations would be "propagated through the power lines" to the outside world.
Depending on the attacker's approach, data could be exfiltrated at between 10 and 1,000 bits-per-second. The higher speed would work if attackers can get at the cable connected to the computer's power supply. The slower speed works if attackers can only access a building's electrical services panel.
The PowerHammer malware spikes the CPU utilisation by choosing cores that aren't currently in use by user operations (to make it less noticeable).
Guri and his pals use frequency shift keying to encode data onto the line.
After that, it's pretty simple, because all the attacker needs is to decide where to put the receiver current clamp: near the target machine if you can get away with it, behind the switchboard if you have to.
This seems hinky to me.
First, there's the point that the bad guys will need PHYSICAL ACCESS to the premises or even to the individual machine.
Next, if the current clamp is put around the typical line cord, the sum of the current in the hot wire and the neutral (return) wire will be zero. (An inductive current sensor is typically put over only one of the wires, so they will need to do some surgery on that cable — which will be obvious.)
Putting a 100% online UPS between the computer and the AC power supply will also interfere. [ed.]
A California technology billionaire said on Thursday that his longtime and perhaps quixotic effort to partition the Golden State into multiple new states could soon be put before voters.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper said he had gathered about 600,000 signatures on a petition to put his proposal to divide California on the November ballot, more than the 366,000 needed to qualify. It is his third attempt to get voters to weigh in on his call to break up the most populous U.S. state.
Draper, who in 2014 and 2016 failed in his efforts to win approval for a ballot initiative to divide the state into six parts, said in a news release Thursday that he planned to file the signatures with election officials next week.
[...] To go into effect, California would first have to certify the signatures that Draper has gathered, and then voters in November would need to pass the measure. After that, the U.S. Congress would have to approve it.
Russian telecoms and mass communications regulator Roskomnadzor has filed a lawsuit it hopes will see secure messaging app Telegram turfed out of the country.
Moscow’s been unhappy with Telegram for some time, dating back to a mid-2017 dispute over the company’s non-compliance with requests to register as a telecoms service provider. The service and the Kremlin have also tangled over access to encryption keys.
The latter dispute is at the root of this latest episode, which has seen Roskomnadzor seek to have Telegram booted out of Russia for non-compliance.
Telegram has previously asserted it doesn’t have any keys to hand over, so can’t comply with Russian orders to do so.
A court in Moscow has approved a request from the Russian media regulator to block the Telegram messaging app immediately. The media regulator sought to block the app because the firm had refused to hand over encryption keys used to scramble messages.
Security officials say they need to monitor potential terrorists. But the company said the way the service was built meant it had no access to customers' encryption keys. Telegram had missed a deadline of 4 April to hand over the keys.
Russia's main security agency, the FSB, has said Telegram is the messenger of choice for "international terrorist organisations in Russia". A suicide bomber who killed 15 people on a subway train in St Petersburg last April used the app to communicate with accomplices, the FSB said last year. The app is also widely used by the Russian authorities, Reuters news agency reports.
The best endorsement.
"I don't know Mr. Libby," Trump said in a statement, "but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life."
President Trump plans to pardon I. Lewis Libby Jr., who as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of perjury in connection with the leak of a C.I.A. officer's identity, a person familiar with the decision said on Thursday.
Mr. Libby's case has long been a cause for conservatives who maintained that he was a victim of a special prosecutor run amok, an argument that may have resonated with the president. Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained that the special counsel investigation into possible cooperation between his campaign and Russia in 2016 has gone too far and amounts to an unfair "witch hunt."
Mr. Libby, who goes by Scooter, was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to F.B.I. investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby's 30-month prison sentence but refused to grant him a full pardon despite the strenuous requests of Mr. Cheney, a decision that soured the relationship between the two men.
A pardon of Mr. Libby would paradoxically put Mr. Trump in the position of absolving one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump has denounced as a catastrophic miscalculation. It would also mean he was forgiving a former official who was convicted in a case involving leaks despite Mr. Trump's repeated inveighing against those who disclose information to reporters.
Critics of Mr. Trump quickly interpreted the prospective pardon as a signal by the president that he would protect those who refuse to turn on their bosses, as Mr. Libby was presumed not to have betrayed Mr. Cheney. Mr. Trump has not ruled out pardons in the Russia investigation.
Is this President Trump's "Chelsea Manning moment"?