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22 States Ask US Appeals Court To Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia late Monday asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate the Obama administration's 2015 landmark net neutrality rules and reject the Trump administration's efforts to preempt states from imposing their own rules guaranteeing an open internet. The states argue the FCC reversal will harm consumers. The states also suggested the FCC failed to identify any "valid authority" for preempting state and local laws that would protect net neutrality. The FCC failed to offer a "meaningful defense of its decision to uncritically accept industry promises that are untethered to any enforcement mechanism," the states said. The state attorney generals suing represent states with 165 million people -- more than half the United States population -- and include California, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The states argue the FCC action could harm public safety, citing electrical grids as an example. They argue "the absence of open internet rules jeopardizes the ability to reduce load in times of extreme energy grid stress. Consequently, the order threatens the reliability of the electric grid." Several internet companies also filed a legal challenge to overturn the FCC ruling, including Mozilla, Vimeo, Etsy, and numerous media and technology advocacy groups, reports Reuters. The group of 22 state attorneys general first filed their lawsuit in January after the Trump administration voted to repeal the net neutrality rules in December.

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Judge Guts FTC's $4 Billion Lawsuit Against DirecTV

The FTC has "failed to convince a federal judge in San Francisco that DirecTV should pay nearly $4 billion in restitution to customers for allegedly misleading consumers about the costs of programming packages," reports the Los Angeles Times. From the report: The judge didn't eliminate all of the FTC's false-advertising claims but made clear that "the scope of the maximum potential recovery in this case has been substantially curtailed." "This case did not involve the type of strong proof the court would expect to see in a case seeking nearly $4 billion in restitution, based on a claim that all of DirecTV's 33 million customers between 2007 and 2015 were necessarily deceived," U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said Thursday. The ruling follows an August 2017 nonjury trial of the FTC suit, alleging that DirecTV failed to adequately disclose to consumers in 40,000 print, mail, online and TV advertisements that its lower introductory pricing lasted just one year but tied buyers to a two-year contract. The FTC also alleged the subscription television service failed to alert customers that its offer for 90 days of premium channels required them to cancel the subscription to avoid continuing monthly charges.

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NASA Supports SpaceX Plan To Fuel Rockets With Astronauts On Board

For years, NASA has been debating whether to allow SpaceX to fuel its spacecraft with super-cold propellant after astronauts have boarded. While the company typically fuels its rockets shortly before launch in order to prevent the coolant from warming up too much, the practice has been deemed "a potential safety risk" by NASA safety advisers due to the high risk of an explosion. Now, according to Engadget, NASA has "decided that it will move forward with the SpaceX plan to fuel rockets after astronauts have already boarded." From the report: "To make this decision, our teams conducted an extensive review of the SpaceX ground operations, launch vehicle design, escape systems and operational history," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement. "Safety for our personnel was the driver for this analysis, and the team's assessment was that this plan presents the least risk." SpaceX will have to prove its system is safe, however. The company will have to demonstrate the fueling procedure five times prior to its first crewed flight and afterwards, NASA will assess any remaining risk before certifying SpaceX's system. In September 2016, a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launchpad while it was being loaded with propellant. No injuries were reported, but it didn't look good to NASA which was already reviewing the fueling procedure.

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Tiny Plastic Is Everywhere

An anonymous reader shares a report from NPR about ecologist Chelsea Rochman, who has dedicated her career to studying how microplastics are getting into the food chain and affecting everything from beer to fish: Since modern plastic was first mass-produced, 8 billion tons have been manufactured. And when it's thrown away, it doesn't just disappear. Much of it crumbles into small pieces. Scientists call the tiny pieces "microplastics" and define them as objects smaller than 5 millimeters -- about the size of one of the letters on a computer keyboard. Researchers started to pay serious attention to microplastics in the environment about 15 years ago. They're in oceans, rivers and lakes. They're also in soil. Recent research in Germany found that fertilizer made from composted household waste contains microplastics. And, even more concerning, microplastics are in drinking water. In beer. In sea salt. In fish and shellfish. How microplastics get into animals is something of a mystery, and Chelsea Rochman is trying to solve it. Since she started studying microplastics, Rochman has found them in the outflow from sewage treatment plants. And they've shown up in insects, worms, clams, fish and birds. To study how that happens, [researcher Kennedy Bucci] makes her own microplastics from the morning's collection. She takes a postage stamp-size piece of black plastic from the jar, and grinds it into particles using a coffee grinder. "So this is the plastic that I feed to the fish," she says. The plastic particles go into beakers of water containing fish larvae from fathead minnows, the test-animals of choice in marine toxicology. Tanks full of them line the walls of the lab. Bucci uses a pipette to draw out a bunch of larvae that have already been exposed to these ground-up plastic particles. The larva's gut is translucent. We can see right into it. "You can see kind of a line of black, weirdly shaped black things," she points out. "Those are the microplastics." The larva has ingested them. Rochman says microplastic particles can sicken or even kill larvae and fish in their experiments.

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Antenna Sales Are Rising, In Another Sign of Churn In TV Watching

Rick Schumann shares a report from Star Tribune: Twenty percent of homes in the U.S. use a digital antenna to access live TV, up from 16 percent just two years ago, according to Parks Associates market research in Texas. The Twin Cities has an even higher antenna percentage. Local antenna installers say business has been rising about 20 percent to 25 percent annually for several years. It's the eighth largest broadcast-only market in the country, with more than 22 percent of homes using antennas to get local TV, according to, a local broadcast trade association. Duane, Wawrzyniak, owner of Electronic Servicing in Silver Lake, Minnesota, cites high TV bills every month for the increased antenna sales. According to the report, "In the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota, antenna users can receive 10 to 60 TV channels, often in high-definition quality, over the air at no expense." You can check the DTV signals that are available at your location here.

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After 60 Years, 1,900-Mile-Long Interstate 95 Is Almost Finished

"It has taken 60 years, but a small, strange gap in Interstate-95 is being filled," writes Slashdot reader McGruber. Bloomberg reports: Near the Pennsylvania border, drivers have long been forced off the interstate and onto other roadways, only to join back 8 miles away. Transportation officials and civil engineers spent more than two decades and $425 million to eliminate this detour off I-95, the most traveled highway in America, spanning 1,900 miles from Miami to Maine. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which oversees the I-95 Interchange Project, said the new infrastructure -- which includes the creation of flyover ramps, toll plaza facilities, environmental mitigation sites, intersections, six overhead bridges, widened highways and new connections to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes -- will be open to the public by Sept. 24. "The benefit of completing this 'missing link' is mobility," said Carl DeFebo, the director of public relations at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The new infrastructure will reduce traffic time for north- and south-bound travelers and ease congestion on local roads that used to connect I-95 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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Man Sues Over Google's 'Location History' Fiasco, Case Could Affect Millions

Last week, The Associated Press found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've explicitly disabled the location sharing feature. As a result, Google has now been sued by a man in San Diego, who argues that Google is violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the state's constitutional right to privacy. Ars Technica reports: The lawsuit seeks class-action status, and it would include both an "Android Class" and "iPhone Class" for the potential millions of people in the United States with such phones who turned off their Location History and nonetheless had it recorded by Google. It will likely take months or longer for the judge to determine whether there is a sufficient class. Also on August 17, attorneys from the Electronic Privacy Information Center wrote in a sternly worded three-page letter to the FTC that Google's practices are in clear violation of the 2011 settlement with the agency. In that settlement, Google agreed that it would not misrepresent anything related to "(1) the purposes for which it collects and uses covered information, and (2) the extent to which consumers may exercise control over the collection, use, or disclosure of covered information." Until the Associated Press story on August 13, Google's policy simply stated: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored."

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Summer Weather Is Getting 'Stuck' Due To Arctic Warming

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Summer weather patterns are increasingly likely to stall in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, according to a new climate study that explains why Arctic warming is making heatwaves elsewhere more persistent and dangerous. Rising temperatures in the Arctic have slowed the circulation of the jet stream and other giant planetary winds, says the paper, which means high and low pressure fronts are getting stuck and weather is less able to moderate itself. The authors of the research, published in Nature Communications on Monday, warn this could lead to "very extreme extremes," which occur when abnormally high temperatures linger for an unusually prolonged period, turning sunny days into heat waves, tinder-dry conditions into wildfires, and rains into floods. One cause is a weakening of the temperature gradient between the Arctic and Equator as a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The far north of the Earth is warming two to four times faster than the global average, says the paper, which means there is a declining temperature gap with the central belt of the planet. As this ramp flattens, winds struggle to build up sufficient energy and speed to push around pressure systems in the area between them. As a result, there is less relief in the form of mild and wet air from the sea when temperatures accumulate on land, and less relief from the land when storms build up in the ocean.

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Scientists Find Direct Evidence of Ice On the Moon

According to a new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have found the first direct evidence of frozen water on the Moon's poles. "The discovery is based on data gathered by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a NASA instrument that flew to the Moon back in 2008," reports Quartz. From the report: Reanalyzing this data today, the researchers found tiny patches of ice mixed with rock on the surface of certain craters at the northernmost and southernmost points on the Moon. Shuai Li, a geologist at the University of Hawaii who worked on the study, says the data can't tell us where the ice originally came from. However, Li adds, it's likely that it came from comets that smashed into the Moon years ago. Collisions with other space objects, like meteorites and comets, gave the Moon its pockmarked surface, and could have easily brought a foreign substance like ice along with them. Ice on the lunar surface could also be a result of gases coming out of the rock below. It could also be due to solar winds -- energetically charged ions emanating from the sun -- bombarding the Moon's surface to cause the chemical reactions needed to make frozen water. However, to truly understand the ice's origins, Li hopes to get a rover onto the Moon to take actual samples of the frigid lunar ground and its ice.

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Microsoft Prepares To Kill the Windows 8 Store: No New Apps From November

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Windows 8.1 dropped out of mainstream support earlier this year, entering the five-year extended support period in which it receives only security fixes. However, Microsoft is still accepting new application submissions to the Windows 8 Store. Submissions for new Windows Phone 8 apps are also currently accepted. Today, Microsoft announced that this is soon coming to an end. After October 31, new applications will no longer be accepted for distribution through the store. Updates to existing applications will continue to be supported. However, there's now an end date for these, too: from July 1, 2023, Microsoft will cease to distribute any updates for Windows 8.1 Store applications. The deadline for Windows Phone 8 is sooner: updates for those apps will end on July 1, 2019.

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Nvidia Unveils Powerful New RTX 2070 and 2080 Graphics Cards

During a pre-Gamescom 2018 livestream from Cologne, Germany, Nvidia on Monday unveiled new GeForce RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti high-end graphics cards. These new 20-series cards will succeed Nvidia's current top-of-the-line GPUs, the GeForce GTX 1070, GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti. While the company usually waits to launch the more powerful Ti version of a GPU, this time around, it's releasing the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti at once. Polygon adds: They won't come cheap. The Nvidia-manufactured Founders Edition versions will cost $599 for the RTX 2070, $799 for the RTX 2080 and $1,199 for the RTX 2080 Ti. The latter two cards are expected to ship "on or around" Sept. 20, while there is no estimated release date for the RTX 2070. Pre-orders are currently available for the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang announced different "starting at" prices during the keynote presentation. Huang's presentation said the RTX 2070 will start at $499, the RTX 2080 at $699 and the RTX 2080 Ti at $999. Asked for clarification, an Nvidia representative told Polygon that these amounts reflect retail prices for third-party manufacturers' cards. The RTX 2070, 2080 and 2080 Ti will be the first consumer-level graphics cards based on Nvidia's next-generation Turing architecture, which the company announced earlier this month at the SIGGRAPH computing conference. At that time, Nvidia also revealed its first Turing-based products: three GPUs in the company's Quadro line, which is geared toward professional applications. All three of the new RTX cards will feature built-in support for real-time ray tracing, a rendering and lighting technique for photorealistic graphics that gaming companies are starting to introduce this year

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Staff At Gatwick Airport Use Whiteboards After Flight Information Screens Fail

Staff at the Gatwick Airport in southeast England had to write flight information on whiteboards for most of the day due to a technical problem with its digital screens. The BBC reports: Vodafone provides the service, and said a damaged fibre cable had caused the information boards to stop working. In a statement at 17:00 BST, a Gatwick spokesman said the issue had been resolved and flight information was being displayed as normal. "Tens of thousands" of people departed on time and no flights were cancelled. Apologizing to customers, he added that the airport's "manual contingency plan," which included having extra staff on hand to help direct passengers, had worked well. The airport earlier said a "handful of people" had missed their flights due to the problems.

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President Trump Says It is 'Very Dangerous' When Companies Like Twitter Regulate Own Content

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, the U.S. President Donald Trump said that it is "very dangerous" for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to regulate the content on their own platforms. Trump's remarks come on the backdrop of technology giants Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and YouTube ridding select kind of content of their platforms in the recent weeks. On Saturday, Trump argued that social media companies are "closing down the opinions" of conservatives. He tweeted, "They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen." Further reading: Twitter Is 'Rethinking' Its Service, and Suspending 1M Accounts Each Day.

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It's Time to End the 'Data Is' vs 'Data Are' Debate

dmoberhaus writes: After receiving too many irate emails about using "data" in the singular, a reporter spoke to two lexicographers about how the language changes over time and why it's perfectly acceptable and perhaps even "standard" to use data as a singular noun, rather than a plural noun in an attempt to settle an old debate. Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer for the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, told the reporter that data's transition between its historical roots and contemporary use is related to a lexical phenomenon called "semantic bleaching," where a word's original meaning is lost or diminished over time. An example of semantic bleaching include the contemporary use of the word "literally," whose Latin root, littera, means "letter." In the case of "data," it has transitioned from "things given" to mean something like "a collection of information in aggregate" when used in everyday speech.

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How Amazon, One of the Richest Companies in the World, Secretly Offloads Its Electricity Costs To Local Taxpayers Who Live Near Its Data Centers

Several readers have shared this Bloomberg report: Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud computing business, is its fastest-growing and most profitable division, but it comes with a lot of upfront infrastructure costs and ongoing expenses, the biggest of which is electricity. Over the past two years, Amazon has almost doubled the size of its physical footprint worldwide, to 254 million square feet, including dozens of new data centers with vast fields of servers running 24/7. In at least two states, it's also negotiated with utilities and politicians to stick other people with the bills, piling untold millions of dollars on top of the estimated $1.2 billion in state and municipal tax incentives the company has received over the past decade. Other companies, including Google and Tesla, have taken advantage of the power industry's hunger for growth and the relative secrecy that followed its 1990s deregulation in dozens of states. But Amazon stands out for its success in offloading its power costs and also because it dominates America's cloud business, which has gone from nonexistent to using 2 percent of U.S. electricity in about a decade. "Amazon had a huge advantage, because there weren't a lot of other sectors growing in the electricity market," says Neal Elliott, senior director of research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a green lobbying group. The company has also ratcheted up the secrecy around who's paying for electricity, says environmental advocate Greenpeace, which calls Amazon the single biggest obstacle to industry transparency.

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