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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday February 06, @09:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

The independent review of Australia's main environment law, released last week, provided a sobering but accurate appraisal of a dire situation.

The review was led by Professor Graeme Samuel and involved consultation with scientists, legal experts, industry and conservation organizations. Samuel's report concluded Australia's biodiversity is in decline and the law (the EPBC Act) "is not fit for current or future environmental challenges".

[...] To reverse Australia's appalling track record of protecting biodiversity, four major reforms recommended by Samuel must be implemented as a package.

  1. Setting standards [...]
  2. Greater government accountability [...]
  3. Decent funding [...]
  4. Increase ecological knowledge [...]

[...] Samuel recommends Regional Recovery Plans be adequately funded to help develop some knowledge. But we suggest substantial new environmental capacity is needed, including new ecological research positions, increased environmental monitoring infrastructure, and appropriate funding of recovery plans, to ensure enough knowledge supports decision making.

Samuel's report has provided a path forward that could make a substantial difference to Australia's shocking track record of biodiversity conservation and land stewardship.

But Environment Minister Sussan Ley's response so far suggests the Morrison government plans to cherry pick from Samuel's recommendations, and rush through changes without appropriate safeguards.

If the changes we outlined above aren't implemented as a package, our precious natural heritage will continue to decline.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday February 02, @10:21AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept.

Oregon law to decriminalize all drugs goes into effect, offering addicts rehab instead of prison:

"I lived in the bottom for years," says [Janie] Gullickson, 52. "For me and people like me, I laid there and wallowed in it for a long time."

But if she has to pick the lowest point – one that lasted years, not days, she says – it came shortly after she hit 30 in 1998. At that time, Gullickson had five kids, ages 5 to 11, by four different men. She came home from work one day as a locksmith to find that her ex-husband had taken her two youngest and left the state. Horrified, devastated and convinced that this was the beginning of the end, her life spiraled: She dropped her other son off with his dad, left her two daughters with her mom and soon became an IV meth user.

In prison six years later, Gullickson was contemplating joining an intensive recovery program when a "striking, magnetic gorgeous Black woman walked in the room, held up a mug shot and started talking about being in the very chairs where we were sitting," Gullickson remembers. There was life on the other side of addiction and prison, the woman said. But you have to fight for it. Gullickson believed her.

"I remember thinking, I may not be able to do all that, be what she was, but maybe I could do something different than this," Gullickson says. "That day, I felt the door open to change and healing."

Now Gullickson, executive director of the Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon, is determined to give other addicts the same opportunity. That's why she pushed for the passage of Measure 110, first-of-its-kind legislation that decriminalizes the possession of all illegal drugs in Oregon, including heroin, cocaine, meth and oxycodone. Instead of a criminal-justice-based approach, the state will pivot to a health-care-based approach, offering addicts treatment instead of prison time. Those in possession will be fined $100, a citation that will be dropped if they agree to a health assessment.

The law goes into effect Monday and will be implemented over the next decade by the state officials at the Oregon Health Authority.

[...] "I hope that we all become more enlightened across this country that substance abuse is not something that necessitates incarceration, but speaks to other social ills – lack of health care, lack of treatment, things of that nature," says Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs.

[...] Watson Coleman also points out that it's far more expensive to pay to incarcerate someone than get them treatment. Rehab programs not only empower people, she says, but they also save communities money.

Also at: CNN.


Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Wednesday January 27, @05:55PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ok-google-reduce-casualties dept.

US has 'moral imperative' to develop AI weapons, says panel:

The US should not agree to ban the use or development of autonomous weapons powered by artificial intelligence (AI) software, a government-appointed panel has said in a draft report for Congress.

The panel, led by former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, on Tuesday concluded two days of public discussion about how the world’s biggest military power should consider AI for national security and technological advancement.

Its vice-chairman, Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said autonomous weapons are expected to make fewer mistakes than humans do in battle, leading to reduced casualties or skirmishes caused by target misidentification.

“It is a moral imperative to at least pursue this hypothesis,” he said.

[...] Mary Wareham, coordinator of the eight-year Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, said the commission’s “focus on the need to compete with similar investments made by China and Russia … only serves to encourage arms races.”

More Info:


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday January 24, @03:34AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

How Law Enforcement Gets Around Your Smartphone's Encryption:

Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies around the world, including in the United States, have increasingly called for backdoors in the encryption schemes that protect your data, arguing that national security is at stake. But new research indicates governments already have methods and tools that, for better or worse, let them access locked smartphones thanks to weaknesses in the security schemes of Android and iOS.

Cryptographers at Johns Hopkins University used publicly available documentation from Apple and Google as well as their own analysis to assess the robustness of Android and iOS encryption. They also studied more than a decade's worth of reports about which of these mobile security features law enforcement and criminals have previously bypassed, or can currently, using special hacking tools. The researchers have dug into the current mobile privacy state of affairs, and provided technical recommendations for how the two major mobile operating systems can continue to improve their protections.

"It just really shocked me, because I came into this project thinking that these phones are really protecting user data well," says Johns Hopkins cryptographer Matthew Green, who oversaw the research. "Now I've come out of the project thinking almost nothing is protected as much as it could be. So why do we need a backdoor for law enforcement when the protections that these phones actually offer are so bad?"

Before you delete all your data and throw your phone out the window, though, it's important to understand the types of privacy and security violations the researchers were specifically looking at. When you lock your phone with a passcode, fingerprint lock, or face recognition lock, it encrypts the contents of the device. Even if someone stole your phone and pulled the data off it, they would only see gibberish. Decoding all the data would require a key that only regenerates when you unlock your phone with a passcode, or face or finger recognition. And smartphones today offer multiple layers of these protections and different encryption keys for different levels of sensitive data. Many keys are tied to unlocking the device, but the most sensitive require additional authentication. The operating system and some special hardware are in charge of managing all of those keys and access levels so that, for the most part, you never even have to think about it.

With all of that in mind, the researchers assumed it would be extremely difficult for an attacker to unearth any of those keys and unlock some amount of data. But that's not what they found.

[...] The main difference between Complete Protection and AFU [(After First Use)] relates to how quick and easy it is for applications to access the keys to decrypt data. When data is in the Complete Protection state, the keys to decrypt it are stored deep within the operating system and encrypted themselves. But once you unlock your device the first time after reboot, lots of encryption keys start getting stored in quick access memory, even while the phone is locked. At this point an attacker could find and exploit certain types of security vulnerabilities in iOS to grab encryption keys that are accessible in memory and decrypt big chunks of data from the phone.

[...] The researchers shared their findings with the Android and iOS teams ahead of publication. An Apple spokesperson told WIRED that the company's security work is focused on protecting users from hackers, thieves, and criminals looking to steal personal information. The types of attacks the researchers are looking at are very costly to develop, the spokesperson pointed out; they require physical access to the target device and only work until Apple patches the vulnerabilities they exploit. Apple also stressed that its goal with iOS is to balance security and convenience.

[...] Similarly, Google stressed that these Android attacks depend on physical access and the existence of the right type of exploitable flaws. "We work to patch these vulnerabilities on a monthly basis and continually harden the platform so that bugs and vulnerabilities do not become exploitable in the first place," a spokesperson said in a statement. "You can expect to see additional hardening in the next release of Android."

[...] As long as mainstream mobile operating systems have these privacy weaknesses, though, it's even more difficult to explain why governments around the world—including the US, UK, Australia, and India—have mounted major calls for tech companies to undermine the encryption in their products.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 20, @10:38PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Grants of Clemency

Anthony Levandowski – President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski. This pardon is strongly supported by James Ramsey, Peter Thiel, Miles Ehrlich, Amy Craig, Michael Ovitz, Palmer Luckey, Ryan Petersen, Ken Goldberg, Mike Jensen, Nate Schimmel, Trae Stephens, Blake Masters, and James Proud, among others. Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google's efforts to create self-driving technology. Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a "brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs." Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.

Wikipedia entry on pardon within the United States.

See also: Former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski among list of last-minute Trump pardons
Trump's last-minute pardons include Bannon, Lil Wayne and scores of others
Trump Reportedly Abandoned Pardons For Snowden And Assange
Trump declines to pardon Assange, Snowden, or 'Joe Exotic' – here's the 143 people he chose

Previously: Text Messages Between Uber's Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski Released
The Fall of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber Shutting Down Self-Driving Truck Division
Ex-Uber Engineer Levandowski Pleads Guilty To Trade Secrets Theft
Uber Accuses Levandowski of Fraud, Refuses to Pay $179M Google Judgment
Ex-Googler Levandowski Gets 18 Months in Prison for Trade-Secret Theft


Original Submission   Alternate Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 19, @09:22PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Census Bureau director to resign amid criticism over data:

Facing criticism that he was acceding to President Donald Trump's demand to produce citizenship information at the expense of data quality, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office. Dillingham's term was supposed to be finished at the end of the year.

The Census Bureau director's departure comes as the statistical agency is crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

In his statement, Dillingham said he had been considering retiring earlier, but he had been persuaded at the time to stick around.

"But I must do now what I think is best," said Dillingham, 68. "Let me make it clear that under other circumstances I would be honored to serve President-Elect Biden just as I served the past five presidents."

[...] During Dillingham's tenure, the Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census questionnaire and named a handful of political appointees that statisticians and Democratic lawmakers worried would politicize the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident. The president also issued two directives that advocacy groups said were part of efforts to suppress the participation of minorities and immigrants in the 2020 census.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday January 15, @02:01PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

'No longer acceptable' for platforms to take key decisions alone, EU Commission says

It is "no longer acceptable" for social media giants to take key decisions on online content removals alone, following the high profile takedowns of US President Trump's accounts on Facebook and Twitter, the European Commission has said.

Trump's accounts have been suspended by the two platforms for inciting calls to violence ahead of the violent riots that hit Washington's Capitol Hill last week.

Speaking to lawmakers on Monday (11 January), Prabhat Agarwal, an official who heads up the eCommerce unit at the European Commission's DG Connect, noted how the EU executive's Digital Services Act attempts to realign the balance between effective content removal and preserving freedom of expression online.

"It is no longer acceptable in our view that platforms take some key decisions by themselves alone without any supervision, without any accountability, and without any sort of dialogue or transparency for the kind of decisions that they're taking," Agarwal said.

"Freedom of expression is really a key value in this," he told the European Parliament's internal market committee.

The comments came following concerns raised by some lawmakers in the European Parliament following the suspension of Trump's social media accounts. In doing so, platforms giants had demonstrated that they yield a disproportionate degree of power over the freedom of speech online.

"The fact that platforms like Twitter and Facebook decide who can speak freely is dangerous," Green MEP Kim van Sparrentak said.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday January 13, @10:15PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Trump impeached for 'inciting' US Capitol riots:

The US House of Representatives has impeached President Donald Trump for "incitement of insurrection" at last week's Capitol riot.

Ten Republicans sided with Democrats to impeach the president by 232-197.

He is the first president in US history to be impeached twice, or charged with crimes by Congress.

Mr Trump, a Republican, will now face a trial in the Senate, where if convicted he could face being barred from ever holding office again.

But Mr Trump will not have to quit the White House before his term in office ends in one week because the Senate will not reconvene in time.

Mr Trump will leave office on 20 January, following his election defeat last November to Democrat Joe Biden.

The Democratic-controlled House voted after several hours of impassioned debate on Wednesday as armed National Guard troops stood guard inside and outside the Capitol.

[...] Impeachment charges are political, not criminal.

Also at Newsweek, c|net, Al Jazeera, Washington Post.

[Ed Note - The linked article has been revised since submission. The quoted text has been revised accordingly. - Fnord]


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11, @03:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

It's been one heck of a week:

Against the backdrop of record-setting numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in the US and around the world, there was turmoil in Washington, DC. As court cases surrounding the presidential election were filed and dismissed, a close race in Georgia was coming down to the wire and with it control of the US Senate. While the US Congress was completing the Electoral College tally and certification, a mob formed outside — and eventually broke into — the US Capitol. This resulted in a 4-hour lock-down. Eventually, the intrusion was repelled, and the Electoral College count was completed: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was confirmed as the 46th president of the United States of America.

Conspiracy theories have flourished. Propaganda has streamed forth across multiple platforms. Tempers have flared.

And SoylentNews has been there for you. And have you ever spoken up! Two of the most-commented stories in the site's nearly seven-year history were posted in just the past week!

Insomuch as the activities in the US Capitol were far from the US' most shining moments, neither were things all unicorns and rainbows on SoylentNews. Tempers flared. People were attacked and called names. I even accidentally deleted a story and the 17 comments attached to it! [NB: Problem addressed: the delete button no longer appears by default for our editors.]

IRC (Internet Relay Chat):

Even our IRC service was not free from controversy. We had a spate of nick (nickname) impersonations. Going forward, IRC users are free to use whatever nick they like with the following caveats:

  • Prefix / suffix of a nick is fine for practical purposes (e.g. ${nick}_laptop)
  • Impersonation or misrepresentation will not be tolerated
  • The use of another user's website nick or derivative thereof on IRC will be subject to sanctions up to and including perma ban.

Further, we understand conversations can easily ramble from subject to subject, but there are separate channels for different topics. (Use the /list comand to see what is available.) As #soylent is the default landing channel, we want to keep the discussions there civil. Name calling and personal attacks are grounds for a timeout. I have had discussions with deucalion (the site's CEO and also IRC-maintainer) about these activities.

NOTE: we are NOT going to sit there watching every discussion, poised to take action. But, if such activity is seen by staff on IRC, they are free to take such actions as they deem necessary.

Aspirations:

As I approach posting my 10,000th story(!) to SoylentNews, I think back to when it all started. How a group of people got together. They shared freely of their expertise, of their free time, and of their hard-earned funds. They tried to create a place free from corporate overlords where people could engage in discussions that focused primarily on technology, but with a dabbling in other areas and current events.

SoylentNews provides a forum for discussion. It also provides tools so the community can express themselves in the comments and moderate those comments, as well.

This got me to thinking. What are our aspirations today? What are our guiding principles? I will list some of my guiding principles, and I encourage the community to share what guides them in the comments.

  • "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken (cite)
  • "People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov (cite)
  • "If you speak when angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." -- Groucho Marx (cite)
  • "Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."
  • "Don't get furious, get curious" -- Miley Cyrus (cite)
  • "Humiliation is when someone points out my shortcomings. Humility is when I confess them myself."
  • "I need not participate in every fight I am invited to."
  • The most difficult behaviors to observe in another person are the ones I dislike in my own.
  • "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." -- John, Lord Morley (cite)

How about you? What sayings guide your aspirations?

Thank You!

Lastly, I thank all of you for supporting me as Editor-in-Chief. I have no formal background in writing or management. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to own up to them as they happened. I strive to be fair, impartial, and open-minded. Under the watchful gaze of the community, I have grown. It is my hope that I may continue to earn your respect and continue in service for many years to come.


Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Saturday January 09, @01:05PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the twitter-and-facebook-and-twitch-and-snapchat-and... dept.

Twitter permanently suspends Trump's account:

US President Donald Trump has been permanently suspended from Twitter "due to the risk of further incitement of violence", the company says.

Twitter said the decision was made "after close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them".

Mr Trump had earlier been locked out of his account for 12 hours.

Twitter then said that it would ban Mr Trump "permanently" if he breached the platform's rules again.

Reacting to the permanent ban, Trump 2020 campaign adviser Jason Miller tweeted: "Disgusting... if you don't think they're coming for you next, you're wrong."

It comes after Mr Trump tweeted several messages on Wednesday, calling the people who stormed the US Capitol "patriots".

Hundreds of his supporters entered the Capitol building as the US Congress attempted to certify Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election. The ensuing violence led to the deaths of four civilians and a police officer.

The siege took place just hours after Trump addressed supporters and told them: "We will never give up; we will never concede."

[...] On Thursday, Facebook said it had suspended Mr Trump "indefinitely". The popular gaming platform Twitch also placed an indefinite ban on the outgoing president's channel, which he has used for rally broadcasts. So has Snapchat.

Two online Trump memorabilia stores were closed this week by e-commerce company Shopify. On Friday, Reddit banned its "donaldtrump" forum for the president's supporters.

[...] The big question now is, can Trumpism survive without the backing of mainstream media? Or will it simply slip into the shadows of the internet?

(Emphasis retained from original.)

Also at Ars Technica, CNET

Full Twitter explanation at: blog.twitter.com


Original Submission