Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 17

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.

EFF: the Final Leaked TPP Text Is All That We Feared ( 140

An anonymous reader writes: Wikileaks has released the finalized Intellectual Property text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which international negotiators agreed upon a few days ago. Unfortunately, it contains many of the consumer-hostile provisions that so many organizations spoke out against beforehand. This includes the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years, and a ban on the circumvention of DRM. The EFF says, "If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever." The EFF walks us through all the other awful provisions as well — it's quite a lengthy analysis.

Researchers Say Fukushima Child Cancer Rates 20-50x Higher Than Expected ( 100

New submitter JackSpratts writes: According to the Associated Press, "A new study says children living near the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a rate 20 to 50 times that of children elsewhere, a difference the authors contend undermines the government's position that more cases have been discovered in the area only because of stringent monitoring.

Most of the 370,000 children in Fukushima prefecture (state) have been given ultrasound checkups since the March 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The most recent statistics, released in August, show that thyroid cancer is suspected or confirmed in 137 of those children, a number that rose by 25 from a year earlier. Elsewhere, the disease occurs in only about one or two of every million children per year by some estimates."


US Government Will Not Force Companies To Decode Encrypted Data... For Now ( 99

Mark Wilson writes: The Obama administration has announced it will not require companies to decrypt encrypted messages for law enforcement agencies. This is being hailed as a "partial victory" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation; partial because, as reported by the Washington Post, the government "will not — for now — call for [such] legislation." This means companies will not be forced to build backdoors into their products, but there is no guarantee it won't happen further down the line. The government wants to continue talks with the technology industry to find a solution, but leaving things in limbo for the time being will create a sense of unease on both sides of the debate. The EFF has also compiled a report showing where the major tech companies stand on encryption.

Chicago Mayor Calls For National Computer Coding Requirement In Schools ( 185

theodp writes: On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on the federal government to make computer coding classes a requirement of high-school graduation (video). Back in December 2013, Emanuel — who previously served as President Obama's chief of staff — joined then-Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to announce a comprehensive K-12 computer science program for CPS students, including a partnership with then-nascent "[Y]ou need this skill Make it a high-school graduation requirement," Emanuel said. "They need to know this stuff. In the way that I can get by kind of being OK by it, they can't.

Google Helped Cause the Mysterious Increase In 911 Calls SF Asked It To Solve ( 154

theodp writes: Android users have long complained publicly that it's way too easy to accidentally dial 911. So it's pretty astonishing that it took a team of Google Researchers and San Francisco Department of Emergency Management government employees to figure out that butt-dialing was increasing the number of 911 calls. The Google 9-1-1 Team presented its results in How Googlers helped San Francisco Use Data Science to Understand a Surge in 911 Calls, a Google-sponsored presentation at the Code for America Summit, and in San Francisco's 9-1-1 Call Volume Increase, an accompanying 26-page paper.

ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 143

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 175

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

What Non-Geeks Hate About the Big Bang Theory 403

v3rgEz writes: It has been said that there is a lot to dislike about the Big Bang Theory, from the typical geek's point of view: It plays in stereotypes of geekdom for cheap laughs, makes non-sensical gags, and has a laugh track in 2015. But what does the rest of America (well, the part of America not making it the number one show on television) think? FCC complaints recently released accuse the show of everything from animal cruelty to subliminal messaging, demanding that the sitcom be ripped from the airwaves lest it ruin America. The full complaints for your reading pleasure.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached 278

An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that negotiators have finally reached agreement over the Trans-Pacific Partnership from the U.S. and 11 other nations. The TPP has been in development for eight years, and has the potential to dramatically strengthen U.S. economic ties to east Asia. Though the negotiations have been done in secret, the full text of the agreement should be published within a month. Congress (and the legislative houses of the other participating countries) will have 90 days to review it and decide whether to ratify it. The TPP has been criticized in tech circles for how it regards intellectual property and facilitates website blocking, among other issues.

Proponents will also have to answer broader questions about whether it stifles competition, how it treats individuals versus large corporations, as if it creates environmental problems. To give you an idea of how complex it is: "The Office of the United States Trade Representative said the partnership eventually would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on United States exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products ranging from avocados in California to wheat, pork and beef from the Plains states."

Sex, Drugs, and Transportation: How Politicians Tried To Keep Uber Out of Vegas 135 writes: Johana Bhuiyan has written an interesting article about how the Las Vegas taxi industry used every political maneuver in its arsenal to keep Uber and Lyft off the strip. Vegas is one of the most lucrative transportation markets in the country, with some 41.1 million visitors passing through it annually. The city's taxi industry has raked in a whopping $290 million this year to date (PDF). What made Vegas unique — what made it Uber's biggest challenge yet — was the extent to which local governments were willing to protect the incumbents. According to Bhuiyan, in Las Vegas, Uber and its pugnacious CEO Travis Kalanick really did run into the corrupt taxi cartel bogeymen they'd long claimed to be saving us from, and this cartel would prove to be their most formidable opponent. But when push came to shove and the fight turned ugly, the world's fastest-growing company ran right over its entrenched opposition.

The Decline of 'Big Soda': Is Drinking Soda the New Smoking? 570 writes: Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the NYT that soda consumption is experiencing a serious and sustained decline as sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture but bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years. The changing patterns of soda drinking appear to come thanks, in part, to a loud campaign to eradicate sodas. School cafeterias and vending machines no longer contain regular sodas. Many workplaces and government offices have similarly prohibited their sale.

For many public health advocates, soda has become the new tobacco — a toxic product to be banned, taxed and stigmatized. "There will always be soda, but I think the era of it being acceptable for kids to drink soda all day long is passing, slowly," says Marion Nestle. "In some socioeconomic groups, it's over." Soda represents nearly 25% of the U.S. beverage market and its massive scale have guaranteed profit margins for decades. Historically, beverage preferences are set in adolescence, the first time that most people begin choosing and buying a favorite brand. But the declines in soda drinking appear to be sharpest among young Americans. "Kids these days are growing up with all of these other options, and there are some parents who say, 'I really want my kids to drink juice or a bottled water,' " says Gary A. Hemphill. "If kids grow up without carbonated soft drinks, the likelihood that they are going to grow up and, when they are 35, start drinking is very low."

Selected Provisions: TPP, CETA, and TiSA Trade Agreements 43

While proponents suggest that international trade agreements increase economic prosperity, writes reader Dangerous_Minds, it's often hard to find much detail about their details. Here's an exception: Freezenet is offering an update to known provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trades in Services Agreement (TiSA). Among the findings are provisions permitting a three-strikes law and site blocking, multiple anti-circumvention laws, ISP liability, the search and seizure of personal devices to enforce copyright at the border, and an open door for ISP-level surveillance. Freezenet also offers a brief summary of what was found while admitting that provisions found in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as it relates to digital rights remains elusive for the time being.

Soon-to-Be US Ed Chief Was Almost FB CEO's Ed Chief 30

theodp writes: Before President Obama announced John B. King as his pick to replace outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is returning to Chicago, where his kids now attend a $30K-a-year private school), King was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pick to lead Zuck's failed $100 million "reform" effort of Newark's Schools. From The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?: "[Newark Mayor Cory] Booker asked [NJ Governor Chris] Christie to grant him control of the schools by fiat, but the governor demurred, offering him instead a role as unofficial partner in all decisions and policies, beginning with their joint selection of a 'superstar' superintendent to lead the charge. Booker's first choice was John King, then deputy New York State education commissioner, who had led some of the top-performing charter schools in New York City and Boston and who credited public school teachers with inspiring him to persevere after he was orphaned as a young boy in Brooklyn. [Mark] Zuckerberg and [his wife Priscilla] Chan flew King to Palo Alto for a weekend with them and [Facebook executive Sheryl] Sandberg; Christie hosted him at the governor's beach retreat on the Jersey Shore; and Booker led King and his wife, Melissa, on a tour of Newark, with stops at parks and businesses that hadn't existed before his mayoralty. But after much thought, King turned them down. Zuckerberg, Christie, and Booker expected to arrive at their national model within five years. King believed it could take almost that long to change the system's fundamental procedures and to raise expectations across the city for children and schools. "John's view was that no one has achieved what they're trying to achieve: build an urban school district serving high-poverty kids that gets uniformly strong outcomes," said an acquaintance who talked with King about the offer. "You'd have to invest not only a long period of time but tremendous political capital to get it done." King had questions about a five-year plan overseen by politicians who were likely to seek higher office."

DHS Detains Mayor of Stockton, CA, Forces Him To Hand Over His Passwords 396

schwit1 writes: Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, California, recently went to China for a mayor's conference. On his return to San Francisco airport he was detained by Homeland Security, and then had his two laptops and his mobile phone confiscated. They refused to show him any sort of warrant (of course) and then refused to let him leave until he agreed to hand over his password.

EPA Gave Volkswagen a Free Pass On Emissions Ten Years Ago Due To Lack of Budget 203

An anonymous reader writes: A new report suggests that continuing cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget contributed to Volkswagen being able to cheat on its emissions tests. When the test scripts were developed the department — which can still only conduct 'spot tests' on 20% of all qualifying vehicles — was forced to concentrate on heavy machinery and truck manufacturers, which at the time had a far higher incidence of attempting to cheat on vehicle standards tests. Discounting inflation the EPA's 2015 budget is on a par with its 2002 budget (PDF), and has been cut by 21% since 2010.

Xiaomi Investigated For Using Superlatives In Advertising, Now Illegal In China 109

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is under investigation for using superlative messaging on its website, according to a leaked document from the Beijing Ministry of Industry and Commerce. A new Chinese law states that adjectives used to promote products must not mislead consumers. The Xiaomi investigation [Chinese] follows claims made by rival Cong that the company used phrases such as 'the best' and 'the most advanced', in its online campaigns and therefore violated the country's advertising law. (The law against suprelatives doesn't seem to apply to communications by the government, about the government.)

Former Cisco CEO: China, India, UK Will Lead US In Tech Race Without Action 109

Mickeycaskill writes: Former Cisco CEO John Chambers says the US is the only major country without a proper digital agenda and laments the fact none of the prospective candidates for the US Presidential Election have made it an issue. Chambers said China, India, the UK and France were among those to recognize the benefits of the trend but the US had been slow — risking any economic gains and support for startups. "This is the first time that our government has not led a technology transition," he said. "Our government has been remarkably slow. We are the last major developed country in the world without a digital agenda. I think every major country has this as one of their top two priorities and we don't. We won't get GDP increase and we won't be as competitive with our startups. The real surprise to me was how governments around the world, except ours, moved."

Citadel Botnet Operator Gets 4.5 Years In Prison 42

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that Dimitry Belorossov, a.k.a. Rainerfox, an operator of the "Citadel" malware, has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison following a guilty plea. Citadel was a banking trojan capable of stealing financial information. Belorossov and others distributed it through spam emails and malvertising schemes. He operated a 7,000-strong botnet with the malware, and also collaborated to improve it. The U.S. government estimates Citadel was responsible for $500 million in losses worldwide. Belorossov will have to pay over $320,000 in restitution.

Uber Raided By Dutch Authorities, Seen As 'Criminal Organization' 471

An anonymous reader writes: Uber offices in Amsterdam have been raided by Dutch authorities, as reported by several local media sources (Google translation of original in Dutch). This follows intimidatory deterrence practices earlier in The Netherlands, with Uber drivers being fined in the past months, and fresh allegations that the company would act as a "criminal organization" by offering a platform for taxi rides without license (read: without the authorities earning money from the practice). Time for tech companies to consider moving their European offices elsewhere? Uber's lawyers must be incredibly busy. Proposed regulations in London would effectively end the company's service there, while the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said he would ban Uber's operations outright. They're receiving mixed messages from Australia — just a day after running afoul of regulations in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory is moving to legalize it.