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Scientists Are 99 Percent Sure They Just Detected a Black Hole Eating a Neutron Star

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Wednesday, a gravitational wave called S190814bv was detected by the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and its Italian counterpart Virgo. Based on its known properties, scientists think there is a 99% probability that the source of the wave is a black hole that ate a neutron star. In contrast to black hole mergers, neutron star collisions do produce a lot of light. When a gravitational wave from a neutron star crash was detected in 2017, scientists were able to pinpoint bright emissions from the event -- called an optical counterpart -- in the days that followed the wave detection. This marked the dawn of a technique called "multi-messenger astronomy," in which scientists use multiple types of signals from space to examine astronomical objects. Ryan Foley, an astronomer at UC Santa Cruz, was part of the team that tracked down that first optical counterpart, a feat that has not yet been repeated. He and his colleagues are currently scanning the skies with telescopes, searching for any light that might have been radiated by the new suspected merger of a black hole and neutron star. If the team were to pick up light from the event within the coming weeks, they would be witnessing the fallout of a black hole spilling a neutron star's guts while devouring it. This would provide a rare glimpse of the exotic properties of these extreme astronomical objects and could shed light on everything from subatomic physics to the expansion rate of the universe. "We've never detected a neutron star and a black hole together," said Foley. "If it turns out to be right, then we've confirmed a new type of star system. It's that fundamental." He added: "If you learn about how neutron stars are built, that can tell you about how atoms are built. This is something that is fundamental to everything in our daily life works."

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Jaguar and Audi SUVs Fail To Dent Tesla's Electric-Car Dominance

Tesla has managed to expand its electric-car marketshare, despite two new battery-powered luxury SUVs that have been in U.S. showrooms for the last 10 months: Jaguar's I-Pace and Audi's e-tron. Bloomberg reports: Their starts are the latest indications that legacy automakers aren't assured instant success when they roll out new plug-in models. Tesla's Model S and X have largely held its own against the two crossovers that offer shorter range and less plentiful public charging infrastructure. Jaguar and Audi also lack the cool factor Musk has cultivated for the Tesla brand by taking an aggressive approach to autonomy and using over-the-air software updates to add games and entertainment features. Tesla's Model X and Model S each boast more than 300 miles of range, and the cheaper Model 3 travels 240 miles between charges. Jaguar's $69,500 I-Pace is rated at 234 miles, and Audi's $74,800 e-tron registers 204 miles. Jaguar's marketing team spent years laying the groundwork to introduce the I-Pace. In 2016, the brand joined Formula E, an open-wheeled, electric-powered race circuit similar to Formula One. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are also joining Formula E for the 2019-2020 season to help generate buzz for the new all-electric models they have coming out. The circuit makes stops in cities including New York, Hong Kong and London, which the brands are banking on as major markets for plug-in cars. But while Formula E is drawing crowds of urban dwellers and a substantial audience on social media, all that buzz may not necessarily translate into showroom traffic.

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Pentagon Conducts First Test of Previously Banned Missile

The U.S. military has conducted a flight test of a type of missile banned for more than 30 years by a treaty that both the United States and Russia abandoned this month, the Pentagon said. The Associated Press reports: The test off the coast of California on Sunday marked the resumption of an arms competition that some analysts worry could increase U.S.-Russian tensions. The Trump administration has said it remains interested in useful arms control but questions Moscow's willingness to adhere to its treaty commitments. The Pentagon said it tested a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which was launched from San Nicolas Island and accurately struck its target after flying more than 500 kilometers (310 miles). The missile was armed with a conventional, not nuclear, warhead. Defense officials had said last March that this missile likely would have a range of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and that it might be ready for deployment within 18 months. The missile would have violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987, which banned all types of missiles with ranges between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 5,500 kilometers (3,410 miles). The U.S. and Russia withdrew from the treaty on Aug. 2, prompted by what the administration said was Russia's unwillingness to stop violating the treaty's terms. Russia accused the U.S. of violating the agreement. The Pentagon says it also intends to begin testing, probably before the end of this year, an INF-range ballistic missile with a range of roughly 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) to 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles).

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Twitter Blocks State-Controlled Media Outlets From Advertising On Its Social Network

Twitter is now blocking state-run media outlets from advertising on its platform. The new policy was announced just hours after the company was criticized for running promoted tweets by China's largest state agency that paint pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong as violent, even though the rallies, including one that drew an estimated 1.7 million people this weekend, have been described as mostly peaceful by international media. TechCrunch reports: State-funded media enterprises that do not rely on taxpayer dollars for their financing and don't operate independently of the governments that finance them will no longer be allowed to advertise on the platform, Twitter said in a statement. That leaves a big exception for outlets like the Associated Press, the British Broadcasting Corp., Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, according to reporting from BBC reporter, Dave Lee. The affected accounts will be able to use Twitter, but can't access the company's advertising products, Twitter said in a statement. The policy applies to news media outlets that are financially or editorially controlled by the state, Twitter said. The company said it will make its policy determinations on the basis of media freedom and independence, including editorial control over articles and video, the financial ownership of the publication, the influence or interference governments may exert over editors, broadcasters and journalists, and political pressure or control over the production and distribution process. Twitter said the advertising rules wouldn't apply to entities that are focused on entertainment, sports or travel, but if there's news in the mix, the company will block advertising access. Affected outlets have 30 days before they're removed from Twitter and the company is halting all existing campaigns.

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Terrorists Turn To Bitcoin For Funding, and They're Learning Fast

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, has been designated a terrorist organization by Western governments and some others and has been locked out of the traditional financial system. But this year its military wing has developed an increasingly sophisticated campaign to raise money using Bitcoin. In the latest version of the website set up by the wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, every visitor is given a unique Bitcoin address where he or she can send the digital currency, a method that makes the donations nearly impossible for law enforcement to track. The site, which is available in seven languages and features the brigades' logo, with a green flag and a machine gun, contains a well-produced video that explains how to acquire and send Bitcoin without tipping off the authorities. Terrorists have been slow to join other criminal elements that have been drawn to Bitcoin and have used it for everything from drug purchases to money laundering. But in recent months, government authorities and organizations that track terrorist financing have begun to raise alarms about an uptick in the number of Islamist terrorist organizations experimenting with Bitcoin and other digital coins. The yields from individual campaigns appear to be modest -- in the tens of thousands of dollars. But the authorities note that terrorist attacks often require little funding. And the groups' use of cryptocurrencies appears to be getting more sophisticated. The Middle East Media Research Institute, a nonprofit that tracks and translates communication from terrorist groups, is about to publish a 253-page report about the increased signs of cryptocurrency use by terrorist organizations. According to the NYT, the report will focus on groups in Syria that are on the run as Islamic militants have lost almost all the territory they used to hold.

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How Malformed Packets Caused CenturyLink's 37-Hour, Nationwide Outage

Ars Technica reports on what went wrong last December when CenturyLink had a nationwide, 37-hour outage that disrupted 911 service for millions of Americans and prevented completion of at least 886 calls to 911. From the report: Problems began the morning of December 27 when "a switching module in CenturyLink's Denver, Colorado node spontaneously generated four malformed management packets," the FCC report said. CenturyLink and Infinera, the vendor that supplied the node, told the FCC that "they do not know how or why the malformed packets were generated." Malformed packets "are usually discarded immediately due to characteristics that indicate that the packets are invalid," but that didn't happen in this case, the FCC report explained: "In this instance, the malformed packets included fragments of valid network management packets that are typically generated. Each malformed packet shared four attributes that contributed to the outage: 1) a broadcast destination address, meaning that the packet was directed to be sent to all connected devices; 2) a valid header and valid checksum; 3) no expiration time, meaning that the packet would not be dropped for being created too long ago; and 4) a size larger than 64 bytes." The switching module sent these malformed packets "as network management instructions to a line module," and the packets "were delivered to all connected nodes," the FCC said. Each node that received the packet then "retransmitted the packet to all its connected nodes." The report continued: "Each connected node continued to retransmit the malformed packets across the proprietary management channel to each node with which it connected because the packets appeared valid and did not have an expiration time. This process repeated indefinitely. The exponentially increasing transmittal of malformed packets resulted in a never-ending feedback loop that consumed processing power in the affected nodes, which in turn disrupted the ability of the nodes to maintain internal synchronization. Specifically, instructions to output line modules would lose synchronization when instructions were sent to a pair of line modules, but only one line module actually received the message. Without this internal synchronization, the nodes' capacity to route and transmit data failed. As these nodes failed, the result was multiple outages across CenturyLink's network." While CenturyLink dispatched network engineers to log in to affected nodes and removed the Denver node that had generated the malformed packets, the outage continued because "the malformed packets continued to replicate and transit the network, generating more packets as they echoed from node to node," the FCC wrote. Just after midnight, at least 20 hours after the problem began, CenturyLink engineers "began instructing nodes to no longer acknowledge the malformed packets." They also "disabled the proprietary management channel, preventing it from further transmitting the malformed packets." The FCC report said that CenturyLink could have prevented the outage or lessened its negative effects by disabling the system features that were not in use, using stronger filtering to prevent the malformed packets from propagating, and setting up "memory and processor utilization alarms" in its network monitoring.

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Sony Buys Spider-Man Developer Insomniac Games

Sony has purchased the California-based game studio Insomniac Games, best known for last year's Spider-Man on PS4, which sold 13.2 million copies. Sony says Insomniac will become an exclusive PlayStation developer. Kotaku reports: Founded in 1994, Insomniac remained independent for 25 years, working largely with Sony on series like Ratchet & Clank and Resistance but also with other big game companies like Microsoft, which published the colorful open-world game Sunset Overdrive (unlikely to get a sequel any time soon). Insomniac has also worked on several VR games with Oculus, including the upcoming Stormland, currently announced as an Oculus Rift exclusive. Notably, Insomniac's previous VR games have not been released on PlayStation VR.

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Paging Big Brother: In Amazon's Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite

As fake and illegitimate texts proliferate online, books are becoming a form of misinformation. The author of "1984" would not be surprised. From a report: In George Orwell's "1984," the classics of literature are rewritten into Newspeak, a revision and reduction of the language meant to make bad thoughts literally unthinkable. "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words," one true believer exults. Now some of the writer's own words are getting reworked in Amazon's vast virtual bookstore, a place where copyright laws hold remarkably little sway. Orwell's reputation may be secure, but his sentences are not. Over the last few weeks I got a close-up view of this process when I bought a dozen fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon. Some of them were printed in India, where the writer is in the public domain, and sold to me in the United States, where he is under copyright. Others were straightforward counterfeits, like the edition of his memoir "Down and Out in Paris and London" that was edited for high school students. The author's estate said it did not give permission for the book, printed by Amazon's self-publishing subsidiary. Some counterfeiters are going as far as to claim Orwell's classics as their own property, copyrighting them with their own names.

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Cerebras Systems Unveils a Record 1.2 Trillion Transistor Chip For AI

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: New artificial intelligence company Cerebras Systems is unveiling the largest semiconductor chip ever built. The Cerebras Wafer Scale Engine has 1.2 trillion transistors, the basic on-off electronic switches that are the building blocks of silicon chips. Intel's first 4004 processor in 1971 had 2,300 transistors, and a recent Advanced Micro Devices processor has 32 billion transistors. Samsung has actually built a flash memory chip, the eUFS, with 2 trillion transistors. But the Cerebras chip is built for processing, and it boasts 400,000 cores on 42,225 square millimeters. It is 56.7 times larger than the largest Nvidia graphics processing unit, which measures 815 square millimeters and 21.1 billion transistors. The WSE also contains 3,000 times more high-speed, on-chip memory and has 10,000 times more memory bandwidth.

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Newt Gingrich Trying To Sell Trump on a Cheap Moon Plan

WindBourne writes: Newt Gingrich and an eclectic band of NASA skeptics are trying to sell President Donald Trump on a reality show-style plan to jump-start the return of humans to the moon -- at a fraction of the space agency's estimated price tag. The proposal, whose other proponents range from an Air Force lieutenant general to the former publicist for pop stars Michael Jackson and Prince, includes a $2 billion sweepstakes pitting billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other space pioneers against each other to see who can establish and run the first lunar base, according to a summary of the plan shared with POLITICO. That's far less taxpayer money than NASA's anticipated lunar plan, which relies on traditional space contractors, such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and is projected to cost $50 billion or more. Backers of the novel approach have briefed administration officials serving on the National Space Council, several members of the group confirmed, though they declined to provide specifics of the internal conversations.

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Bernie Sanders Wants To Ban Facial Recognition Use By Police

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants to put an end to police use of facial recognition software. Sanders called for the ban as part of a criminal justice reform plan introduced over the weekend ahead of a two-day tour of South Carolina. From a report: The plan also calls for the ban of for-profit prisons and would revoke the practice of law enforcement agencies benefiting from civil asset forfeitures. Sanders kicked off his campaign by saying "I'm running for president because we need to understand that artificial intelligence and robotics must benefit the needs of workers, not just corporate America and those who own that technology."

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Hacker Releases First Public Jailbreak for Up-to-Date iPhones in Years

Apple has mistakenly made it a bit easier to hack iPhone users who are on the latest version of its mobile operating system iOS by unpatching a vulnerability it had already fixed. From a report: Hackers quickly jumped on this over the weekend, and publicly released a jailbreak for current, up-to-date iPhones -- the first free public jailbreak for a fully updated iPhone that's been released in years. Security researchers found this weekend that iOS 12.4, the latest version released in June, reintroduced a bug found by a Google hacker that was fixed in iOS 12.3. That means it's currently relatively easy to not only jailbreak up to date iPhones, but also hack iPhone users, according to people who have studied the issue. "Due to 12.4 being the latest version of iOS currently available and the only one which Apple allows upgrading to, for the next couple of days (till 12.4.1 comes out), all devices of this version (or any 11.x and 12.x below 12.3) are jail breakable -- which means they are also vulnerable to what is effectively a 100+ day exploit," said Jonathan Levin, a security researcher and trainer who specializes in iOS, referring to the fact that this vulnerability can be exploited with code that was found more than 100 days ago. Pwn20wnd, a security researcher who develops iPhone jailbreaks, published a jailbreak for iOS 12.4 on Monday.

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An Ode To Microsoft Encarta

Scott Hanselman: Microsoft Encarta came out in 1993 and was one of the first CD-ROMs I had. It stopped shipping in 2009 on DVD. I recently found a disk and was impressed that it installed just perfectly on my latest Window 10 machine and runs nicely. Encarta existed in an interesting place between the rise of the internet and computer's ability to deal with (at the time) massive amounts of data. CD-ROMs could bring us 700 MEGABYTES which was unbelievable when compared to the 1.44MB (or even 120KB) floppy disks we were used to. The idea that Encarta was so large that it was 5 CD-ROMs (!) was staggering, even though that's just a few gigs today. Even a $5 USB stick could hold Encarta - twice! My kids can't possibly intellectualize the scale that data exists in today. We could barely believe that a whole bookshelf of Encyclopedias was now in our pockets. I spent hours and hours just wandering around random articles in Encarta. The scope of knowledge was overwhelming, but accessible. But it was contained - it was bounded. Today, my kids just assume that the sum of all human knowledge is available with a single search or a "hey Alexa" so the world's mysteries are less mysteries and they become bored by the Paradox of Choice. In a world of 4k streaming video, global wireless, and high-speed everything, there's really no analog to the feeling we got watching the Moon Landing as a video in Encarta - short of watching it live on TV in the 1969! For most of us, this was the first time we'd ever seen full-motion video on-demand on a computer in any sort of fidelity - and these are mostly 320x240 or smaller videos!

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Developers Accuse Apple of Anti-Competitive Behavior With Its Privacy Changes in iOS 13

A group of app developers have penned a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, arguing that certain privacy-focused changes to Apple's iOS 13 operating system will hurt their business. From a report: In a report by The Information, the developers were said to have accused Apple of anti-competitive behavior when it comes to how apps can access user location data. With iOS 13, Apple aims to curtail apps' abuse of its location-tracking features as part of its larger privacy focus as a company. Today, many apps ask users upon first launch to give their app the "Always Allow" location-tracking permission. Users can confirm this with a tap, unwittingly giving apps far more access to their location data than is actually necessary, in many cases. In iOS 13, however, Apple has tweaked the way apps can request location data. There will now be a new option upon launch presented to users, "Allow Once," which allows users to first explore the app to see if it fits their needs before granting the app developer the ability to continually access location data. This option will be presented alongside existing options, "Allow While Using App" and "Don't Allow." The "Always" option is still available, but users will have to head to iOS Settings to manually enable it. The app developers argue that this change may confuse less technical users, who will assume the app isn't functioning properly unless they figure out how to change their iOS Settings to ensure the app has the proper permissions.

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Twitter is Blocked in China, But Chinese State News Agency is Buying Promoted Tweets To Portray Hong Kong Protestors as Violent

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua is promoting tweets attacking the protestors and claiming they do not have wider support. From a report: Twitter is being criticized for running promoted tweets by China's largest state news agency that paint pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong as violent, even though the rallies, including one that drew an estimated 1.7 million people this weekend, have been described as mostly peaceful by international media. Promoted tweets from China Xinhua News, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, were spotted and shared by the Twitter account of Pinboard, the bookmarking service founded by Maciej Ceglowski, and other users. The demonstrations began in March to protest a now-suspended extradition bill, but have grown to encompass other demands, including the release of imprisoned protestors, inquiries into police conduct, the resignation of current Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam and a more democratic process for electing Legislative Council members and the chief executive. UPDATE: Twitter is now blocking state-run media outlets from advertising on its platform.

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