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Yahoo says hack of 500 million users "state-sponsored," but a security firm calls bullshit

Yahoo logo at Mobile World Congress in Spain. February 24, 2016. REUTERS

So, that huge hack of 500 million Yahoo user accounts last week that Yahoo blamed on a "state-sponsored actor"? A private internet security firm is calling bullshit on the "state-sponsored" part.

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Polar bears hold Russian scientists hostage on tiny Arctic island

ITAR-TASS
A group of Russian scientists have been trapped for two weeks by polar bears at an Arctic island weather station. The scientists face a month-long wait for a rescue.

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Five government contractors account for 80% of America's surveillance workforce

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When Edward Snowden came in from the cold, it catapulted his employer, Booz Allen Hamilton -- a giant military/intelligence contractor -- into the public eye, but Booz is small potatoes, one of the Big Five in the intelligence contractor industry, but it's dwarfed by Leidos Holdings, which recently merged with Lockheed's  Information Systems & Global Solutions to become the largest business in the $50B industry. Read the rest

ISIS left behind at least 14,000 landmines when it retreated from Manbij

Once it became clear that a US-backed militia coalition was going to chase Isis out of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, Isis planted at least 14,000 mines, boobytrapping refrigerators, onion-baskets, rocks, appliances, tea-kettles, "everything." Read the rest

Woman sues cops because they destroyed her empty house, thinking a suspect was hiding in it

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The police in Caldwell, Idaho told Shariz West that they thought her ex-boyfriend might have run into her house and they asked for permission to look inside; she said yes, but then the cops engaged in a 10-hour armed standoff against her empty home (the family dog was inside, but there were no humans), blasting holes in the walls, crashing through the ceilings, smashing out the windows, and filling the house with tear-gas, which destroyed most of the family's possessions. Read the rest

US Army committed $6.5 trillion in accounting fraud in one year

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In June, the Defense Department’s Inspector General released a report on the US Army's accounting, revealing that the Army had invented $6.5 trillion in "improper adjustments" ($2.8T in one quarter!) to make its books appear balanced though it could not account for where the funds had gone. Read the rest

It's pretty easy to hack traffic lights

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Researchers from the University of Michigan EE/Computer Science Department (previously) presented their work on hacking traffic signals at this year's Usenix Security Symposium (previously), and guess what? It's shockingly easy to pwn the traffic control system. Read the rest

If the 2016 election is hacked, it's because no one listened to these people

Ever since the Supreme Court ordered the nation's voting authorities to get their act together in 2002 in the wake of Bush v Gore, tech companies have been flogging touchscreen voting machines to willing buyers across the country, while a cadre computer scientists trained in Ed Felten's labs at Princeton have shown again and again and again and again that these machines are absolutely unfit for purpose, are trivial to hack, and endanger the US election system. Read the rest

2 Muslim women kicked off American Airlines flight in Miami

Niala Mohammad Khalil

Two Muslim-American women were kicked off an American Airlines flight this week, basically for flying while Muslim.

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Zika hits the US military: 33 service members now have virus, says Pentagon

REUTERS
Pentagon officials told reporters today that at least 33 active-duty American service members, one of whom is a pregnant woman, have Zika.

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Chelsea Manning cut off from contact with lawyers after medical emergency

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U.S. military officials are preventing imprisoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning from having contact with her legal team or her friends, following unconfirmed reports that she was hospitalized after a health crisis.

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Claude Shannon, MOOCs, and nanoassembly: what 3D printing is really about

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Neal Gershenfeld, founder of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, has been talking about making digital things physical and physical things digital longer than almost anyone, and his books -- notably FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop -- are visionary and inspirational ways to think about how information technology has changed our species' relationship with the universe; while the Fab Labs he helped invent represent the best and most thoughtful way that a makerspace can be built to suit local community needs. Read the rest

UK cops routinely raided police databases to satisfy personal interest or make money on the side

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Between 2011-2015, there were more than 800 individual UK police personnel who raided official databases to amuse themselves, out of idle curiosity, or for personal financial gain; and over 800 incidents in which information was inappropriately leaked outside of the police channels. Read the rest

White House plan to use data to shrink prison populations could be a racist dumpster fire

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The US imprisons more people than any other country in history, both as a total number and as a proportion of its population; a White House data-mining effort proposes to set free prisoners who are "low risk," which is something we can all get behind. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning on the end of U.S. ban on transgender people in the military

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From her prison cell, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has written a beautiful piece for the Guardian about the Pentagon's announcement that it will end a longtime ban on transgender people serving in the Armed Forces, and the implications this has for ordinary trans Americans who serve our country, just like her.

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U.S. military ends trans ban

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses reporters at the Pentagon. REUTERS
The Pentagon today ended its ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. The historic announcement formally removes some of the risks faced by an estimated thousands of U.S. troops, who could have been expelled from the armed forces because of their gender identity. Trans people who serve in the armed forces still have harassment, sexual violence, physical assault, and prejudice to face, but the hatred and sickness no longer has a Pentagon directive to hid behind.

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Human or machine: can you tell who wrote these poems?

By Mirko Tobias Schaefer [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

NPR has a quiz that invites you to guess which of six poems were written by a computer program, and which were written by humans. A group of 10 judges weren't fooled, but I had trouble correctly guessing all of them. I appreciated the computer-generated poems as much as the human-written ones.

SONNET #2

The dirty rusty wooden dresser drawer. A couple million people wearing drawers, Or looking through a lonely oven door, Flowers covered under marble floors.

And lying sleeping on an open bed. And I remember having started tripping, Or any angel hanging overhead, Without another cup of coffee dripping.

Surrounded by a pretty little sergeant, Another morning at an early crawl. And from the other side of my apartment, An empty room behind the inner wall.

A thousand pictures on the kitchen floor, Talked about a hundred years or more.

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