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Crime

Geek Avenges Stolen Laptop By Remotely Accessing Thief's Facebook Account (hothardware.com) 292

An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Stu Gale, who just so happens to be a computer security expert, had the misfortune of having his laptop stolen from his car overnight. However, Gale did have remote software installed on the device which allowed him to track whenever it came online. So, he was quite delighted to see that a notification popped up on one of his other machines alerting him that his stolen laptop was active. Gale took the opportunity to remote into the laptop, only to find that the not-too-bright thief was using his laptop to login to her Facebook account.

The thief eventually left her Facebook account open and left the room, after which Gale had the opportunity to snoop through her profile and obtain all of her private information. "I went through and got her phone numbers, friends list and pictures..." Given that Gale was able to see her phone numbers listed on Facebook, he sent text messages to all of those numbers saying that he was going to report her to the police. He also posted her info to a number of Facebook groups, which spooked the thief enough to not only delete her Facebook account, but also her listed phone numbers.

In 2008 Slashdot ran a similar story, where it took several weeks of remote monitoring before a laptop thief revealed his identity. (The victim complained that "It was kind of frustrating because he was mostly using it to watch porn.") But in this case, Gale just remotely left a note on the laptop -- and called one of the thief's friends -- and eventually turned over all the information to the police, who believe an arrest will follow.

Gale seems less confident, and tells one Calgary newspaper "I'm realistic. I'm not going to see that computer again. But at least I got some comic relief."
Government

CIA Releases 13M Pages of Declassified Documents Online (bbc.com) 88

About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. From a report on BBC: The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
Earth

US Puts Bumblebee On the Endangered Species List For First Time (npr.org) 130

For the first time for a bumblebee and a bee species in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the bumblebee an endangered species. The protected status goes into effect on February 10, and includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. NPR reports: "Today's Endangered Species listing is the best -- and probably last -- hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee," NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. "Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers." Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides. Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits. This means the species is vulnerable to extinction, the rule says, even without further habitat loss or insecticide exposure. Canada designated the species as endangered in 2012.
Businesses

Amazon Just Got Slapped With a $1 Million Fine For Misleading Pricing (recode.net) 159

Some deals are too good to be true. And, for Amazon, they will cost the company. From a report on Recode: A Canadian enforcement agency announced today that Amazon Canada will pay a $1 million fine for what could be construed as misleading pricing practices. The investigation centered on the practice of Amazon displaying its prices compared to higher "list prices" -- suggested manufacturer prices (MSRPs) designed as marketing gimmicks to make people think they are getting a deal, even though it's often the case that no shopper ever pays that price. "The Bureau's investigation concluded that these claims created the impression that prices for items offered on www.amazon.ca were lower than prevailing market prices," Canada's Competition Bureau said in a statement. "The Bureau determined that Amazon relied on its suppliers to provide list prices without verifying that those prices were accurate."
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Earth

Living Near Heavy Traffic Increases Risk of Dementia, Study Finds (theguardian.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: People living near a busy road have an increased risk of dementia, according to research that adds to concerns about the impact of air pollution on human health. Roughly one in 10 cases of Alzheimer's in urban areas could be associated with living amid heavy traffic, the study estimated -- although the research stopped short of showing that exposure to exhaust fumes causes neurodegeneration. Previously, scientists have linked air pollution and traffic noise to reduced density of white matter (the brain's connective tissue) and lower cognition. A recent study suggested that magnetic nano-particles from air pollution can make their way into brain tissue. The latest study, published in The Lancet, found that those who live closest to major traffic arteries were up to 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia -- a small but significant increase in risk. The study, which tracked roughly 6.6 million people for more than a decade, could not determine whether pollution is directly harmful to the brain. The increased dementia risk could also be a knock-on effect of respiratory and cardiac problems caused by traffic fumes or due to other unhealthy life-style factors associated with living in built-up urban environments. The study tracked all adults aged between 20 and 85 living in Ontario, Canada from 2001 to 2012, using postcodes to determine a person's proximity to major roads. The cohort's medical records were examined to see who went on to develop dementia, Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. Over the study period, more than 243,000 people developed dementia, 31,500 people developed Parkinson's disease and 9,250 people developed multiple sclerosis. The scientists found no link between living near a road and Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, but dementia was slightly more common in people living close to busy roads and the risk dropped off gradually in less built-up areas. Those living within 50 meters of a busy road had a 7% higher risk in developing dementia, the risk was 4% higher risk at 50-100 meters, 2% higher risk at 101-200 meters and there was no increase in risk in those living more than 200 meters away. Those who lived in a major city, within 50 meters of a major road and who did not move house for the duration of the study had the highest risk at 12%.
Star Wars Prequels

Iconic Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher Dies at 60 (people.com) 456

Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" film franchise, died on Tuesday morning at the age of 60. From a report: "It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning," reads the statement. Fisher was flying from London to Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 23, when she went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics removed her from the flight and rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for a heart attack. She later died in the hospital. The daughter of renowned entertainers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Fisher was brought up in the sometimes tumultuous world of film, theater and television. Escaping Hollywood in 1973, the star enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where she spent over a year studying acting. Just two years later, though, the bright lights of Hollywood drew her back, and Fisher made her film debut in the Warren Beatty-led Shampoo. Her role in Star Wars would follow in 1977 -- and she detailed the experience, including her on-set affair with costar Harrison Ford, in her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist. She was only 19 when the first installment of the beloved sci-fi franchise was filmed. Fisher's fans, family, and colleagues have paid their tribute to the actress The Guardian has published an intense tribute to Fisher in an article titled "The loss of Carrie Fisher is felt by all who love Hollywood, warmth and wit".

From BBC's obituary of Fisher: She was a self-confessed bookworm as a child reading poetry and classical literature. Her high school education was disrupted by the lure of the stage when she appeared in the musical Irene alongside her mother, and she never graduated. She moved to London where she enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama before returning to the US and attending the Sarah Lawrence arts college near New York. Having managed to kick drugs and alcohol, she was rushed to hospital in 1985 after accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs. The episode formed the basis for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge, in which she satirised her own dependence on drugs and the sometimes difficult relationship she had with her mother. Three years later Fisher adapted it into a screenplay, and it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid. Fisher -- who had bipolar disorder -- also wrote and frequently talked in public about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. Carrie Fisher's fame as an actress rested on just one role, but it was a role in one of the best known and most successful film franchises in cinema history. She was remarkably frank about the personal difficulties she had fought and overcome. "There's a part of me that gets surprised when people think I am brave to talk about what I've gone through," she once said. "I was brave to last through it." The world is poorer without you, Fisher. Rest in peace.
Canada

Canada's CRTC Declares Broadband Internet Access a Basic Service (www.cbc.ca) 48

New submitter jbwiebe quotes a report from CBC.ca: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service. In a ruling handed down today, the national regulator ordered the country's internet providers to begin working toward boosting internet service and speeds in rural and isolated areas. With today's ruling, CRTC has set new targets for internet service providers to offer customers in all parts of the country download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps, and to also offer the option of unlimited data. The CRTC estimates two million Canadian households, or roughly 18 per cent, don't have access to those speeds or data. The CRTC's goal is to reduce that to 10 per cent by 2021. To achieve that, the CRTC will require providers pay into a fund that's set to grow to $750 million over five years. The companies will be able to dip into that fund to help pay for the infrastructure needed to extend high-speed service to areas where it is not currently available. The fund is similar to one that subsidized the expansion of local landline telephone service in years past. Providers used to pay 0.53 per cent of their revenues, excluding broadband, into that fund. Now they'll pay the same rate on all revenues, including broadband.
Earth

Obama Blocks Offshore Drilling In Atlantic, Arctic Areas (npr.org) 338

Before the new administration takes over next month, President Obama took new action Wednesday to place large sections of the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans off limits to oil drilling. NPR reports: The Arctic protections are a joint partnership with Canada. "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth," the White House said in a statement. "They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited," the White House added. "By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the region -- at a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels." Obama's action designates 31 Atlantic canyons "off limits to oil and gas exploration and development activity," totaling 3.8 million acres, according to the administration. It provides the same protections to much of the Arctic's waters, covering the "vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas," totaling 115 million acres. Canada is doing the same to "all Arctic Canadian waters," the joint statement adds. Obama took these actions by invoking a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president the authority to withdraw lands from oil and gas leases.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Hub In Canada (venturebeat.com) 37

BlackBerry's Unix-like OS, QNX, is already in millions of cars. But today they're expanding their facility in Ottawa "to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology," according to Reuters. And one analyst says "If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market." After a detour where QNX's industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself... "What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner," said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor who has worked with QNX since 2009.
Instead of focussing on AI, BlackBerry wants "a niche role as a trusty sidekick," Reuters reports, adding that besides a recent deal with Ford, BlackBerry is also holding advanced discussions with "more than one or two" major automakers, according to the head of the company.
Medicine

RIP Dr. Henry Heimlich, Inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver (bbc.com) 51

tomhath quotes the BBC: Dr Heimlich died at the age of 96. He invented the lifesaving technique, which uses abdominal thrusts to clear a person's airway, in 1974. In May he used the technique himself to save a woman at his retirement home. He dislodged a piece of meat with a bone in it from the airway of an 87-year-old woman, telling the BBC: "I didn't know I really could do it until the other day."
Government

White House Supports Claim Putin Directed US Election Hack (bbc.com) 715

The White House is suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in a hacking operation aimed at interfering with the U.S. presidential election. BBC reports: Ben Rhodes, adviser to President Barack Obama, said that Mr Putin maintains tight control on government operations, which suggests that he was aware. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest added that it was "pretty obvious" that Mr Putin was involved. "Everything we know about how Russia operates and how Putin controls that government would suggest that, again, when you're talking about a significant cyber intrusion like this, we're talking about the highest levels of government," Mr Rhodes said. "And ultimately, Vladimir Putin is the official responsible for the actions of the Russian government." NBC reported that the U.S. had evidence that Mr Putin personally directed how information hacked by Russian intelligence was leaked. The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also released a statement asserting Russia had orchestrated the hack, including breaches on the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The contents of those hacks, passed to Wikileaks and posted online, were embarrassing to the Democrats and shook up the presidential campaign. The NBC report, which cited two unnamed senior officials, said the hacking campaign began as a "vendetta" against Mrs Clinton before becoming "an effort to show corruption in American politics and split off key American allies." Mr Putin is said to have been furious when Mrs Clinton, as secretary of state, questioned the integrity of 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia. He publicly accused her of encouraging street protests.
Movies

Netflix Gets New Global Rival: Amazon Prime Video Now Available In Over 200 Countries (mashable.com) 65

Amazon announced Wednesday it is expanding its on-demand video streaming service Prime Video to nearly every country and territory except China. Prime Video, home to popular shows such as "The Grand Tour," "Transparent" and "The Man in the High Castle," will be bundled with Prime subscriptions in 19 countries including India, and Canada. In other new regions, Prime Video customers will have to pay $2.99 or 2.99 euros per month for the first six months, after which the price will be doubled to $5.99 or 5.99 euros. From a report: The global expansion of Prime Video comes nearly a year after Netflix announced it is making its streaming service available in 130 nations. Netflix is currently available in roughly 200 regions. Interestingly, Amazon is not only fighting back Netflix on content, but it is using its money power to gain instant foothold worldwide. In India, for instance, Amazon Prime Video costs less than a dollar per month for access.
Canada

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Makes Game For Third Annual Hour of Code (gamasutra.com) 135

Eloking writes: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter account lit up today with a message all too familiar to many indie devs: Mr. Trudeau has made a video game, and he'd like everyone to play it. It was a cute bit of promotion for Hour of Code, the computer science education event masterminded every year by the Code.org nonprofit. While the Hour of Code websites hosts one-hour tutorials (in 45 languages) for coding all sorts of simple applications, game developers may appreciate that the lion's share appears to be game projects, like the one Trudeau modified into a sort of hockey-themed Breakout variant.
Movies

Netflix Says People Watch Same Amount of Movies Regardless of Perceived Quality or Depth (news.com.au) 162

Two of the most common issues people have with Netflix is: the movie catalog is shrinking, and the quality of the movies aren't that great anymore. Netflix says it is aware of those issues, and it thinks, in reality, those factors don't really matter much as people end up watching the same amount of movies as they always have. From a report:According to the Netflix exec, subscribers spend about the same time watching movies on the service regardless of the depth or perceived quality of the movie library. "No matter what, we end up with about one-third of our watching being movies," he told the audience. Mr Sarandos cited two contrasting examples of the United States and Canada as proof of such behavior. In Canada, Netflix has five major deals with movie studios to use their content while in the US the company basically has none, with the exception of the recently signed Disney deal. Despite US subscribers having far less access to movies from big studios, both countries spend roughly the same proportion of their time on the service watching movies. Netflix believes that by the time many blockbuster movies make it onto the platform -- many months after being released in the cinema -- a majority of fans have already seen them. "If you were passionate (about a movie), you've already seen it," he said.
Power

Nikola Motor Company Reveals Hydrogen Fuel Cell Truck With Range of 1,200 Miles (valuewalk.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ValueWalk: Nikola Motor Company just unveiled a huge class 8 truck which will run on hydrogen fuel cells. Nikola claimed that the truck's operational range will be as much as 1,200 miles (1,900 km), and it will be released in 2020. Nikola designed the Nikola One for long-haul transport across a large landmass. The truck will deliver over 1,000 horsepower and 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. Provided these claims are true, the vehicle will provide nearly double the power of the current-gen diesel-powered semis/articulated lorries, notes Ars Technica. The leasing cost of the trucks will include the fuel price, servicing costs and warranty, but exactly how the lease will work is not known now, notes Ars Technica. The company says it has already accepted nearly $3 billion in future orders. A fully-electric drivetrain which gets power from high-density lithium batteries runs the vehicle, and a hydrogen fuel cell charges the batteries on the go. Its reach is presently limited, as hydrogen fueling stations currently exist in only small numbers. This made Nikola decide to construct a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the U.S. and Canada, just like Tesla with its network of Superchargers. Milton claims it will come with a smart dashboard which has the capability of picking the most cost-efficient route for drivers. Also one or two full-size beds will be included inside the vehicle's enormous cab. It will have other luxuries and necessities as well, such as Wi-Fi, a refrigerator, 4G LTE connectivity, freezer, a 40-inch curved 4K TV with Apple TV and a microwave.
Earth

Google Earth's Timelapses Offer a 32-Year Look At Earth's Changing Surface (pcmag.com) 85

Google has partnered with TIME to release an improved version of Google Earth Timelapse that provides animated satellite imagery covering the past 32 years, from 1984 to 2016. In 2013, Google and TIME launched Timelapse with a time-lapse from 1984 to 2012. However, this time around the project uses the higher-resolution maps introduced back in June to provide a look that's more detailed and more seamless than in the past. ZDNet reports: The 10-second snapshots of Earth from space over 32 years captures urban sprawl, deforestation and reforestation, receding glaciers, and major engineering feats, such as the Oresund Bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden, or the spread of the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada. Google Earth engine program manager, Chris Herwig says it created the new "annual mosaics" by stitching together 33 images of the Earth, each representing one year. Each image contains 3.95 trillion pixels, cherry-picked from an original set of three quadrillion pixels. "Using Google Earth Engine, we sifted through about three quadrillion pixels, that's three followed by 15 zeroes, from more than 5,000,000 satellite images," Herwig said. "We took the best of all those pixels to create 33 images of the entire planet, one for each year. We then encoded these new 3.95-terapixel global images into just over 25,000,000 overlapping multi-resolution video tiles, made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab's Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable time-lapses over space and time." The satellite images come from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and US Geological Survey. Since 2015, they also contain some data from the European Space Agency's Copernicus Program and its Sentinel-2A satellite.
Space

Theory Challenging Einstein's View On Speed of Light Could Soon Be Tested (theguardian.com) 244

mspohr writes: The Guardian has a news article about a recently published journal entry proposing a way to test the theory that the speed of light was infinite at the birth of the universe: "The newborn universe may have glowed with light beams moving much faster than they do today, according to a theory that overturns Einstein's century-old claim that the speed of light is a constant. Joao Magueijo, of Imperial College London, and Niayesh Afshordi, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, propose that light tore along at infinite speed at the birth of the universe when the temperature of the cosmos was a staggering ten thousand trillion trillion celsius. Magueijo and Afshordi came up with their theory to explain why the cosmos looks much the same over vast distances. To be so uniform, light rays must have reached every corner of the cosmos, otherwise some regions would be cooler and more dense than others. But even moving at 1bn km/h, light was not traveling fast enough to spread so far and even out the universe's temperature differences." Cosmologists including Stephen Hawking have proposed a theory called inflation to overcome this conundrum. Inflation theorizes that the temperature of the cosmos evened out before it exploded to an enormous size. The report adds: "Magueijo and Afshordi's theory does away with inflation and replaces it with a variable speed of light. According to their calculations, the heat of universe in its first moments was so intense that light and other particles moved at infinite speed. Under these conditions, light reached the most distant pockets of the universe and made it look as uniform as we see it today. Scientists could soon find out whether light really did outpace gravity in the early universe. The theory predicts a clear pattern in the density variations of the early universe, a feature measured by what is called the 'spectral index.' Writing in the journal Physical Review, the scientists predict a very precise spectral index of 0.96478, which is close to the latest, though somewhat rough, measurement of 0.968."
Canada

The Internet Archive Is Building a Canadian Copy To Protect Itself From Trump (theverge.com) 590

The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. The Verge adds: Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States. "On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change," writes founder Brewster Kahle. "It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase."
EU

EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands (phys.org) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the U.S. and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.

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