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Bitcoin

Bitcoin Not Money, Rules Miami Judge In Dismissing Laundering Charges (miamiherald.com)

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Miami Herald: Bitcoin does not actually qualify as money, a Miami-Dade judge ruled Monday in throwing out criminal charges against a Miami Beach man charged with illegally selling the virtual currency. The defendant, Michell Espinoza, was charged with illegally selling and laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins to undercover detectives who told him they wanted to use the money to buy stolen credit-card numbers. But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler ruled that Bitcoin was not backed by any government or bank, and was not "tangible wealth" and "cannot be hidden under a mattress like cash and gold bars." "The court is not an expert in economics, however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, the Bitcoin has a long way to go before it the equivalent of money," Pooler wrote in an eight-page order. The judge also wrote that Florida law -- which says someone can be charged with money laundering if they engage in a financial transaction that will "promote" illegal activity -- is way too vague to apply to Bitcoin. "This court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning," she wrote. Espinoza's case is believed to be the first money-laundering prosecution involving Bitcoin.
Communications

Sprint CEO Hints at Price Hikes Ahead of iPhone 7 (cnet.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you're considering jumping ship to Sprint to take advantage of its "half-off" promotion, don't dawdle. The promotion, which promises to cut your existing rate plan at a competing carrier in half, has been a hit with consumers. The nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier said it added 173,000 post-paid customers, or folks who pay at the end of each month, in its fiscal first quarter that ended June 30. That figure marks a reversal from a loss of 12,000 customers a year ago. But the half-off promotion isn't sticking around forever, according to Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who hinted at price increases later this summer. "You can expect us to come up with a new set of rate plans before the next iPhone," Claure said Monday on a call with journalists. New iPhone typically arrive in mid-September.
Microsoft

Microsoft Can't Shield User Data From Government, Says Government (bloomberg.com) 154

Microsoft is now arguing in court that their customers have a right to know when the government is reading their e-mail. But "The U.S. said federal law allows it to obtain electronic communications without a warrant or without disclosure of a specific warrant if it would endanger an individual or an investigation," according to Bloomberg. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The software giant's lawsuit alleging that customers have a constitutional right to know if the government has searched or seized their property should be thrown out, the government said in a court filing... The U.S. says there's no legal basis for the government to be required to tell Microsoft customers when it intercepts their e-mail... The Justice Department's reply Friday underscores the government's willingness to fight back against tech companies it sees obstructing national security and law enforcement investigations...

Secrecy orders on government warrants for access to private e-mail accounts generally prohibit Microsoft from telling customers about the requests for lengthy or even unlimited periods, the company said when it sued. At the time, federal courts had issued almost 2,600 secrecy orders to Microsoft alone, and more than two-thirds had no fixed end date, cases the company can never tell customers about, even after an investigation is completed.

United States

New Illinois Law Limits Police Use Of Cellphone-Tracking Stingray (go.com) 31

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from ABC News: A new Illinois law limits how police can use devices that cast a wide net in gathering cellphone data... [Stingray] gathers phone-usage data on targets of criminal investigations, but it also gathers data on other cellphones -- hundreds or even thousands of them -- in the area. The new law requires police to delete the phone information of anyone who wasn't an investigation target within 24 hours. It also prohibits police from accessing data for use in an investigation not authorized by a judge.

A dozen other states have adopted such regulations, and Congress is considering legislation that would strengthen federal guidelines already in place... Privacy advocates worry that without limits on how much data can be gathered or how long it can be stored, law enforcement could use the technology to build databases that track the behavior and movement of people who are not part of criminal investigations.

Earlier this month a U.S. judge threw out evidence gathered with Stingray for the first time, saying that without a search warrant, "the government may not turn a citizen's cell phone into a tracking device." The ACLU has identified 66 agencies in 24 states using Stingray technology, "but because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically underrepresents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide."
Transportation

7-Eleven Just Used a Drone To Deliver Slurpees and a Chicken Sandwich (roboticstrends.com) 112

An anonymous Slashdot reader write: A drone has autonomously delivered Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, doughnuts, hot coffee and candy from a Reno, Nevada 7-Eleven to a nearby home. The delivery was made "in a matter of minutes" to two busy working parents near their store in Reno, Nevada, and the drone hovered in place and gently lowered each package to the ground in the family's backyard.

"To find customers willing to have their order handled by a flying robot, the companies surveyed households within a one-mile radius of the store from which they planned to deliver," reports Tech Crunch. 7-Eleven partnered with drone-delivery company Flirtey, which has also used its drones to perform a ship-to-shore delivery of medical supplies . They're calling this flight the first FAA-approved drone delivery to a home and a historic milestone in commercial deliveries, and both companies plan to continue working together in the future to perform more testing on drone deliveries.

Government

Homeland Security Border Agents Can Seize Your Phone (cnn.com) 302

Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: A Wall Street Journal reporter has shared her experienced of having her phones forcefully taken at the border -- and how the Department of Homeland Security insists that your right to privacy does not exist when re-entering the United States. Indeed, she's not alone: Documents previously released under FOIA show that the DHS has a long-standing policy of warrantless (and even motiveless) seizures at the border, essentially removing any traveler's right to privacy.
"The female officer returned 30 minutes later and said I was free to go," according to the Journal's reporter, adding. "I have no idea why they wanted my phones..."
Democrats

Hillary Clinton Chooses Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine As Running Mate (go.com) 373

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has been chosen as Hillary Clinton's running mate -- a man she called a "relentless optimist" who "devoted his life to fighting for others." Kaine has long been considered to be at the top of Clinton's short list. He was previously vetted for the vice presidency by Barack Obama in 2008. Kaine was an early supporter of Clinton's, appearing at a "Ready for Hillary" breakfast in May 2014 where he urged her to enter the 2016 presidential race. Kaine told NBC in June that he "encouraged her to run in May of 2014, because I could telescope forward and see some of the challenges that this nation would be facing. And I decided that by reason of character, by reason of background, and experience, but also especially by reason of results, she would be the most qualified person to be president in January of 2017." Prior to being elected to the Senate, Kaine served as governor and lieutenant governor of Virginia. In 2009, President Obama picked Kaine to lead the Democratic National Committee. Last week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced Mike Pence as his VP running mate.
Government

Issa Bill Would Kill A Big H-1B Loophole (computerworld.com) 246

ErichTheRed writes: This isn't perfect, but it is the first attempt I've seen at removing the "body shop" loophole in the H-1B visa system. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would raise the minimum wage for an H-1B holder from $60K to $100K, and place limits on the body shop companies that employ mostly H-1B holders in a pass-through arrangement. Whether it's enough to stop the direct replacement of workers, or whether it will just accelerate offshoring, remains to be seen. But, I think removing the most blatant and most abused loopholes in the rules is a good start. "The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world's best talent," said Issa in a statement. "Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas."
Businesses

Amazon Loses Huge Footwear Company Because Of Fake Products, a Problem It Denies Is Happening (cnbc.com) 337

Several sellers on Amazon had noted earlier this month that the platform is riddled with counterfeit products and that things have gotten worse after Chinese manufacturers were allowed to sell goods to the consumers in the United States. Amid the report, the German footwear company Birkenstock has announced it will no longer sell its sandals on Amazon. The company added that it will also ban any sales of its products by third-party sellers on Amazon, effectively making its products unavailable on the world's largest online store, according to a report on CNBC. From the report: "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an 'open market,' creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand," Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan wrote from the company's U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. "Policing this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has proven impossible."
Government

EPA's Gasoline Efficiency Tests Provide No Valid Information At All (hotair.com) 136

schwit1 writes from a report via Behind The Black: The tests the EPA uses to establish the fuel efficiency of cars are unreliable, and likely provide no valid information at all about the fuel efficiency of the cars tested. Robert Zimmerman reports from Behind The Black: "The law requiring cars to meet these fuel efficiency tests was written in the 1970s, and specifically sets standards based on the technology then. Worse, the EPA doesn't know exactly how its CAFE testing correlates with actual results, because it has never done a comprehensive study of real-world fuel economy. Nor does anyone else. The best available data comes from consumers who report it to the DOT (WARNING: Source may be paywalled) -- hardly a scientific sampling. Other than that, everything is fine. Companies are forced to spend billions on this regulation, the costs of which they immediately pass on to consumers, all based on fantasy and a badly-written law. Gee, I'm sure glad we never tried this with healthcare!"
Businesses

Verizon Begins Charging a Fee Just to Use an Older Router (dslreports.com) 180

Karl Bode, reporting for DSLReports: Several users have written in to note that Verizon has informed them the company will begin charging FiOS customers with an older router a new "Router Maintenance Charge." An e-mail being sent to many Verizon FiOS customers says that the fee of $2.80 will soon be charged every month -- unless users pay Verizon to get a more recent iteration of its FiOS gateway and router. Since Verizon FiOS often uses a MOCA coax connection and the gateway is needed for Verizon TV, many FiOS users don't have the ability to swap out gear as easily as with other ISPs. "Our records indicate that you have an older model router that is being discontinued," states the e-mail. "If you do plan to keep using your current router, we will begin billing, on 9.29.16, a monthly Router Maintenance Charge of $2.80 (plus taxes), to ensure we deliver the best support."
Android

Army Special Operations Command Ditching Android For iPhone, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 252

The United States Army's Special Operations Command is ditching its Android phones for the "faster" iPhone, according to a report. The source cited in the story says that Android phones were freezing unexpectedly, which was one of the reasons they decided to give the iPhone 6s a spin. Gizmodo adds: The smartphones allow members of the Special Operations Command to access rich information about the battlefield. There's also quickly accessible information, like a weapons and ammunitions guide. Other apps can help with high altitude jumps; another can detect radiation. While DARPA helped develop the program on Android due to the operating system's open platform, Apple's hardware is apparently superior enough to warrant the switch.
Businesses

Volkswagen Sued For Violating State Environmental Statutes With Dieselgate (theverge.com) 123

The attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland are suing Volkswagen for violating state environmental regulations with its diesel emissions cheating scandal. The states say that the car company has violated their air quality laws, combined with some sort of anti-fraud measure for the defeat mechanisms to bypass emissions testing. The move comes after many states agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement for violating consumer protection and EPA and California state environmental regulations. The Verge reports: "Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche defrauded thousands of Massachusetts consumers, polluted our air, and damaged our environment and then, to make matters worse, plotted a massive cover-up to mislead environmental regulators," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement. This was echoed by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who released his own statement saying "the allegations against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche reveal a culture of deeply-rooted corporate arrogance, combined with a conscious disregard for the rule of law and the protection of public health and the environment."
Government

Google: Government Requests For User Data Hit All-Time High In Second Half Of 2015 (zdnet.com) 40

Stephanie Condon, writing for ZDNet: Government requests for user data from Google hit an all-time high in the second half of 2015, the internet company revealed on Monday. Through July to December 2015, governments from around the globe made 40,677 requests, impacting as many as 81,311 user accounts. That's an 18 percent spike from the first half of 2015, when government requests for data impacted 68,908 users. By far and away, the most requests came from the United States, which made 12,523 data requests for this reporting period. The requests impacted 27,157 users or accounts. Google reports the number of user data requests it has received every six-month period going as far back as the second half of 2009. It started detailing the number of users and/or accounts impacted in the first half of 2011. "Usage of our services have increased every year, and so have the user data request numbers," the company noted. Since the second half of 2010, Google has reported the percentage of user data requests it at least partially complies with. For the second half of 2015, the company produced at least some data for 64 percent of requests. That figure has been about the same since 2013, but it's been trending slightly downward. Google complied with 79 percent of requests from the United States.
Moon

Taiwan Building Lunar Lander For NASA Moon-Mining Mission (blastingnews.com) 84

MarkWhittington quotes a report from Blasting News: According to AFP, the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology in Taiwan is building a $47 million, 3.7 metric ton lunar lander on behalf of NASA. The vehicle is designed to carry a rover called Resource Prospector, which would roll about the lunar surface searching out deposits of oxygen, hydrogen, and water. The Resource Prospector mission is still being formulated but is envisioned to be a joint project with several national space agencies and commercial companies. The lunar lander is the first vehicle of its type to be built in Taiwan. "The Resource Prospector would take samples from about a meter beneath the lunar surface and then heat them in an oven to ascertain what the materials are that comprise it," reports Blasting News. The mission is part of the second stage to NASA's Journey to Mars program called "Proving Ground." "Should the Resource Prospector prove to be successful, the moon could be used as a base for space journeys into Mars," says Han Kuo-change, the head of CSIST's international cooperation program.
Security

DARPA Will Stage an AI Fight in Las Vegas For DEF CON (yahoo.com) 89

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A bunch of computers will try to hack each other in Vegas for a $2 million prize," reports Tech Insider calling it a "historic battle" that will coincide with "two of the biggest hacking conferences, Blackhat USA and DEFCON". DARPA will supply seven teams with a supercomputer. Their challenge? Create an autonomous A.I. system that can "hunt for security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to attack a computer, create a fix that patches that vulnerability and distribute that patch -- all without any human interference."

"The idea here is to start a technology revolution," said Mike Walker, DARPA's manager for the Cyber Grand Challenge contest. Yahoo Tech notes that it takes an average of 312 days before security vulnerabilities are discovered -- and 24 days to patch it. "if all goes well, the CGC could mean a future where you don't have to worry about viruses or hackers attacking your computer, smartphone or your other connected devices. At a national level, this technology could help prevent large-scale attacks against things like power plants, water supplies and air-traffic infrastructure.

It's being billed as "the world's first all-machine hacking tournament," with a prize of $2 million for the winner, while the second and third place tem will win $1 million and $750,000.
Government

The Case Against a Universal Basic Income (vox.com) 1134

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: A prominent think tank founder argues that a Universal Basic Income is more likely to increase poverty than decrease it. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates just in the U.S. the cost would reach $3 trillion a year, "close to 100 percent of all tax revenue the federal government collects... A UBI that's financed primarily by tax increases would require the American people to accept a level of taxation that vastly exceeds anything in U.S. history..."

In a long interview with Vox, he warns that "If you have big, very expensive, and therefore highly politically unrealistic proposals, then I worry that people will look at them and say, 'Okay, we can do one or two pieces,' and too often the pieces that get selected out are pieces where a lot of the money goes to the middle or upper middle class... even UBI's staunchest supporters say we can get there in 15 to 20 years. I am totally not comfortable with any policy prescription that says we wait 15 to 20 years to deal with very deep poverty." He suggests instead focussing on the neediest people first, possibly by subsidizing jobs programs and making housing more affordable.

Businesses

Cities Struggling To Crack Down On Airbnb Renters (latimes.com) 260

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: A California man has been charged with eight misdemeanors for renting several apartments under his own name, and then subletting them all. "Apartments in Santa Monica that might fetch $3500 a month as ordinary rentals, are worth three or four times that on a daily or weekly basis," reports one newsweekly, and the subletter notes that he only received two years of probation plus a $3,500 fine, "what one of my properties makes in a month." On Wednesday three prominent U.S. Senators "called for a regulatory probe into whether short-term rental websites such as Airbnb are taking housing away from long-term renters and pushing up prices," but the number of Americans planning to use Airbnb this summer has apparently already doubled since last year.

The Hotel and Lodging Association of Alaska is complaining that the state's renters "are not required to follow the same state and federal safety mandates that are required for other hotels and lodges creating an unsafe and unfair market for consumers as well as hoteliers." But it seems like currently the only pushback is coming from local and city officials, like the short-term rental rules that Airbnb is currently fighting in their home city of San Francisco. For example, in Maine, the owner of one of Portland's 425 rentals units is now fighting a city order "demanding that he stop renting out part of his home through Airbnb. "Portland has a limited staff to enforce zoning rules, so it comes down on the most egregious cases, said City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin."

I laughed at the quote from the City Hall spokeswoman. "It's kind of like speeding on the highway. You know it is illegal, you do it anyway, and you get caught."
Government

U.S. Curtails Federal Election Observers (fortune.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year's U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court's 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act...

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Friday the Justice Department's ability to deploy election observers had been "severely curtailed" by the Supreme Court's decision... Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, said federal observers are especially needed this year because 17 states have tightened restrictions on voting since the last presidential election.

Government

Is The DOJ Using Obsolete Software To Subvert FOIA Requests? (theguardian.com) 85

"A new lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Department of Justice intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public," reports The Guardian. Slashdot reader Bruce66423 writes: An MIT PhD student has filed a suit in Federal court alleging that the use of a 21-year-old, IBM green screen controlled search software to search the Department of Justice databases...constitutes a deliberate failure to provide the data that should be being produced.
Ryan Shapiro's lawsuit alleges "failure by design," saying that the Justice Department records are inadequately indexed -- and that they fail to search the full text of their records when responding to requests "When few or no records are returned, Shapiro said, the FBI effectively responds 'sorry, we tried' without making use of the much more sophisticated search tools at the disposal of internal requestors." The FBI has a $425 million software system to handle FOIA requests, but refuses to use it, saying that would be "needlessly duplicative...and wasteful of Bureau resources."

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