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Government

Feds Go After Mylan For Scamming Medicaid Out of Millions On EpiPen Pricing (arstechnica.com) 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Over the nine or so years that Mylan, Inc. has been selling -- and hiking the price -- of EpiPens, the drug company has been misclassifying the life-saving device and stiffing Medicaid out of full rebate payments, federal regulators told Ars. Under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program, drug manufacturers, such as Mylan, can get their products covered by Medicaid if they agree to offer rebates to the government to offset costs. With a brand-name drug such as the EpiPen, which currently has no generic versions and has patent protection, Mylan was supposed to classify the drug as a "single source," or brand name drug. That would mean Mylan is required to offer Medicaid a rebate of 23.1 percent of the costs, plus an "inflation rebate" any time Mylan raises the price of the brand-name drug at a rate higher than inflation. Mylan has opted for such price increases -- a lot. Since Mylan bought the rights to EpiPen in 2007, it has raised the price on 15 separate occasions, bringing the current list price to $608 for a two-pack up from about $50 a pen in 2007. That's an increase of more than 500 percent, which easily beats inflation. But instead of classifying EpiPen as a "single source" drug, Mylan told regulators that it's a "non-innovator multiple source," or generic drug. Under that classification, Mylan is only required to offer a rebate of 13 percent and no inflation rebates. It's unclear how much money Mylan has skipped out on paying in total to state and federal governments. But according to the state health department of Minnesota, as reported by CNBC, the misclassification cost that state $4.3 million this year alone.
Government

New California Law Allows Test of Autonomous Shuttle With No Driver (fortune.com) 24

If you live in California, you may soon start to see self-driving cars on the road with no operators to be seen. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Thursday a bill that allows a self-driving vehicle with no operator inside to test on a public road. Currently, companies are legally able to test self-driving cars in California as long as the operators are located inside the vehicles when they are being tested. Fortune reports: The bill introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla allows testing in Contra Costa County northeast of San Francisco of the first full-autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, brakes, accelerator or operator. New legislation was necessary because although driverless vehicles can be tested on private land like the office park, the shuttle will cross a public road on its loop through the campus. The new law means that two cube-like Easymile shuttles that travel no faster than 25 mph (40 kph) will be tested for a period of up to six months before being deployed and used by people. In an interview with Reuters in March, Bonilla said the "natural tension" between regulators concerned about safety and lawmakers trying to encourage innovation in their state necessitated a new bill. "They're risk averse and we're saying we need to open the door here and take steps (to innovate)," Bonilla said, calling the driverless shuttle project "a very wise first out-of-the-gate opportunity" to show how the technology could work safely.
Government

New US 'Secret' Clearance Unit Hires Firm Linked To 2014 Hacks (reuters.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. government bureau set up to do "secret" and "top secret" security clearance investigations has turned for help to a private company whose login credentials were used in hack attacks that looted the personal data of 22 million current and former federal employees, U.S. officials said on Friday. Their confirmation of the hiring of KeyPoint Government Solutions by the new National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) comes just days ahead of the bureau's official opening, scheduled for next week. Its creation was spurred, in part, by the same hacks of the Office of Personnel Management that have been linked to the credentials of KeyPoint, one of four companies hired by the bureau. The officials asked not to be named when discussing sensitive information. A spokesman for OPM said the agency in the past has said in public statements and in congressional testimony that a KeyPoint contractor's stolen credentials were used by hackers to gain access to government personnel and security investigations records in two major OPM computer breaches. Both breaches occurred in 2014, but were not discovered until April 2015, according to investigators. One U.S. official familiar with the hiring of KeyPoint said personnel records were hacked in 2014 from KeyPoint and, at some point, its login credentials were stolen. But no evidence proves, the official said, that the KeyPoint credentials used by the OPM hackers were stolen in the 2014 KeyPoint hack. OPM officials said on Thursday one aim for NBIB is to reduce processing time for "top secret" clearances to 80 days from 170 days and for "secret" clearances to 40 days from 120 days.
Earth

The Americas Are Now Officially 'Measles-Free' (theverge.com) 238

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Americas are now free of measles and we have vaccines to thank, the Pan American Health Organization said earlier this week. This is the first region in the world to be declared measles-free, despite longtime efforts to eliminate the disease entirely. The condition -- which causes flu-like symptoms and a blotchy rash -- is one of the world's most infectious diseases. It's transmitted by airborne particles or direct contact with someone who has the disease and is highly contagious, especially among small children. To be clear, there are still people with measles in the Americas, but the only cases develop from strains picked up overseas. Still, the numbers are going down: in the U.S. this year, there have been 54 cases, down from 667 two years ago. The last case of measles that developed in the Americas was in 2002. (It took such a long time to declare the region measles-free because of various bureaucratic issues.) Health officials say that credit for this victory goes to efforts to vaccinate against the disease. Though the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for all children and required by many states, anti-vaxxers have protested it due to since-discredited claims that vaccines can cause autism. NPR interviewed Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of GAVI, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and provide vaccine and immunization coverage to children in the world's poorest countries. She says that 90 to 95 percent of people in a given region need to be vaccinated in order to stop transmission in a region. The rate worldwide is about 80 percent for measles, which means that 20 percent of people around the world are not covered.
Yahoo!

Yahoo's Delay in Reporting Hack 'Unacceptable', Say Senators (zdnet.com) 72

Yahoo won't be able to get away with its mega data breach from 2014 that it only reported this month. Six senior senators have said Yahoo's two-year delay in reporting the largest known data breach in history is unacceptable. The senators have asked Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to explain why the massive hack of more than 500 million accounts wasn't reported two years ago when the breach occurred. From a ZDNet report:The senators said they were "disturbed" that a breach of that size wasn't noticed at the time. "That means millions of Americans' data may have been compromised for two years. This is unacceptable. This breach is the latest in a series of data breaches that have impacted the privacy of millions of American consumers in recent years, but it is by far the largest," the letter wrote. Sens. Patrick Leahy, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Roy Wyden, and Edward Markey signed the letter, dated Tuesday. The senators also requested a briefing to senate staffers on its incident response and how it intends to protect affected users.
The Courts

US Department of Labor Is Suing Peter Thiel's Startup 'Palantir' For Discriminating Against Asians (reuters.com) 463

Palantir Technologies is a secretive start-up in Silicon Valley that specializes in big data analysis. It was founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Nathan Gettings, and is backed by the FBI and CIA as it "helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud," according to Reuters. Today, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it discriminated against Asian job applicants. Reuters reports: The lawsuit alleges Palantir routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the resume screening and telephone interview phases, even when they were as qualified as white applicants. In one example cited by the Labor Department, Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of those who applied were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir's conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion," said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. The majority of Palantir's hires as engineering interns, as well as two other engineering positions, "came from an employee referral system that disproportionately excluded Asians," the lawsuit said. Palantir denied the allegations in a statement and said it intends to "vigorously defend" against them. The lawsuit seeks relief for persons affected, including lost wages.
Earth

Study: Earth Is At Its Warmest In 120,000 Years (washingtonpost.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record. Snyder's temperature reconstruction, published Monday in the journal Nature, doesn't estimate temperature for a single year, but averages 5,000-year time periods going back a couple million years. Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity. But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said. These are rough estimates with large margins of errors, she said. But she also found that the temperature changes correlated well to carbon dioxide levels. Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years -- which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases -- are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found. And two interglacial time periods, the one 120,000 years ago and another just about 2 million years ago, were the warmest Snyder tracked. They were about 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the current 5,000-year average. Snyder said if climate factors are the same as in the past -- and that's a big if -- Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years. "This is based on what happened in the past, Snyder noted. "In the past it wasn't humans messing with the atmosphere."
Education

The Ig Nobel Awards Celebrate Their 26th First Annual Awards Ceremony (improbable.com) 36

Thursday Harvard's Sanders Theatre hosted the 26th edition of the humorous research awards "that make people laugh, then think...intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." One of this year's winners actually lived as a goat, wearing prosthetic extensions on his arms and legs so he could travel the countryside with other goats. Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath writes: The Journal of Improbable announced these winners:

REPRODUCTION PRIZE [EGYPT] -- The late Ahmed Shafik, for studying the effects of wearing polyester, cotton, or wool trousers on the sex life of rats, and for conducting similar tests with human males.

ECONOMICS PRIZE [NEW ZEALAND, UK] -- Mark Avis, Sarah Forbes, and Shelagh Ferguson, for assessing the perceived personalities of rocks, from a sales and marketing perspective...

PEACE PRIZE [CANADA, USA] -- Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek Koehler, and Jonathan Fugelsang for their scholarly study called 'On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit'...

PERCEPTION PRIZE [JAPAN] -- Atsuki Higashiyama and Kohei Adachi, for investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs.

The Improable Research site lists the rest of this year's 10 winners, as well as every winner for the previous 25 years.
Education

How ITT Tech Screwed Students and Made Millions (gizmodo.com) 330

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares "a grim story about a company that screwed poor people, military veterans, and taxpayers to turn a profit." Gizmodo reports: By the time ITT Technical Institute closed its doors earlier this month, the for-profit college had been selling tenuous diplomas at exorbitant prices for more than 20 years...burying low-income and first-generation students in insurmountable debt, and evading regulators since the early 1990s...
ITT collected $178 million over two years just in federal education funding for veterans -- even while the company projected 33% of its students would ultimately default on their loans -- and last year 70% of the school's total revenue came directly from federal financial aid programs. Gizmodo spoke to one student who "will now spend the rest of his life paying back loans for a degree that is practically useless," after compounding interest turned his $70,000 loan into $200,000 in debt. "Like all of the former students interviewed by Gizmodo, he was placed in a job that did not require professional training" -- specifically, a game-testing position that didn't even require a high school diploma, while ITT "placed" another student in a $5.95-an-hour telemarketing job. Her assessment of ITT? "It was totally worthless."
United States

Kentucky's Shotgun 'Drone Slayer' Gets Sued Again (yahoo.com) 305

"Technology has surpassed the law..." argues a Kentucky man who fired a shotgun at a drone last year. An anonymous Slashdot reader reports: The drone's owner has now filed for damages in Federal Court over the loss of his $1,800 drone, arguing that the shotgun blast was unjustified because his drone wasn't actually trespassing or invading anyone's privacy. The defendant -- who has dubbed himself 'the Drone Slayer' -- said the aerial vehicle was over his garden and his daughter, and the verdict could ultimately set a new precedent in U.S. law: who owns the air?

"Operators need to know where they can fly," argued the drone pilot's lawyer, "and owners must know when they can reasonably expect privacy and be free of prying eyes." He estimates a drone is shot from he skies about once a month, and "What happens typically is that law enforcement doesn't know what to do and civil suits are uncommon as most people don't want to get involved due to the costs."

The Drone Slayer was originally charged with felony counts of wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. But all of those charges were dismissed in October when a district judge ruled he "had a right to shoot at the aircraft."
United States

US Panel Extends Nuclear Power Tax Credit (thehill.com) 248

Slashdot reader mdsolar quotes The Hill: The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to remove a key deadline for a nuclear power plant tax credit... The credit was first enacted in 2005 to spur construction of new nuclear plants, but it has gone completely unused because no new plants have come online since then...

It would likely benefit two reactors under construction at Southern Co.'s Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia and another two at Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina. Both projects are at risk of missing the 2020 deadline... "When Congress passed the 2005 act, it could not have contemplated the effort it would take to get a nuclear plant designed and licensed," said representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.).

Although one Democrat criticized the extension by arguing that nuclear power "does better in a socialist economy than in a capitalist one, because nuclear energy prefers to have the public do the cleanup, do the insurance, cover all of the losses and it only wants the profits."
Government

Senators Accuse Russia Of Disrupting US Election (washingtonpost.com) 199

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Washington Post: Two senior Democratic lawmakers with access to classified intelligence on Thursday accused Russia of "making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election," a charge that appeared aimed at putting pressure on the Obama administration to confront Moscow... "At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes," the statement said. "We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government..."

White House officials have repeatedly insisted that they are awaiting the outcome of a formal FBI investigation, even though U.S. intelligence are said to have concluded with "high confidence" that Russia was responsible for the DNC breach and other attacks. The White House hesitation has become a source of frustration to critics, including senior members of Congress.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials are reportedly investigating whether Donald Trump's foreign policy adviser "opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president."
United States

U.S. Funds Challenges To North Korea's 'Information Shield' (freekorea.us) 86

The U.S. State Department is pursuing "a detailed plan for making unrestricted, unmonitored, and inexpensive electronic mass communications available to the people of North Korea." Slashdot reader Greg Jones reports: Plenty of government-designed "information" flows out of North Korea. At One Free Korea Joshua Stanton reports that the U.S. State Department just announced a new grant program for information technology solutions to punch through the wall that prevents the free flow of information into North Korea.
"Those of us who wrote and negotiated the [North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act] were equally concerned with direct engagement of the North Korean people..." Stanton writes on his blog, reporting that there's now grants available to fund multiple projects. "If you have the technical knowledge to make this a reality, or know a place online where people with those talents congregate, please share and repost this solicitation and help spread the word."
Medicine

UPS Is Starting To Test Drone Deliveries In the US (qz.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: UPS announced Sept. 23 that it has begun testing drone deliveries in the U.S. with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works. The two companies yesterday completed a test of delivering medicine from the coastal town of Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children's Island, a small island about three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. CyPhy's drone has night-vision capabilities, according to a release shared with Quartz. The test yesterday involved a trial situation where an asthmatic child urgently needed an inhaler, which was dispatched from the mainland to the island, arriving far more quickly than it would've taken a boat to get there. CyPhy's drone autonomously flew supplies over the ocean to a group waiting to receive them on the other end, although there was no actual child with asthma in danger. In May, UPS had announced that it was partnering with the drone company Zipline to deliver medical supplies to rural Rwanda, having invested nearly $1 million into the company. UPS has also invested an undisclosed amount in CyPhy. UPS told Quartz that the FAA was aware of its test, and Houston Mills, a commercial pilot with UPS for over a decade and the company's director of airline safety, was recently announced as a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. The committee is working with industry experts and companies to figure out how to safely integrate a network of commercial drones into U.S. airspace. You can watch the heroic footage of the trial run here.
Television

You're Paying 40% More For TV Than You Were 5 Years Ago (businessinsider.com) 219

According to data from Leichtman Research's annual study, pay TV subscriptions keep going up and up. So much so that in the last five years, they have gone up by 40 percent. In 2011, subscribers were paying an average of $73.63 for cable or satellite, but now that average stands at roughly $103. From a BusinessInsider report: And it's not helping subscriber growth. "About 82% of households that use a TV currently subscribe to a pay-TV service," Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. "This is down from where it was five years ago, and similar to the penetration level eleven years ago." The pay-TV industry lost 800,000 last quarter subscribers last quarter, according to the research firm SNL Kagan. Putting that on a personal level, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke recently said his own kids don't even pay for TV. Burke has five "millennial" children, ages 19 to 28, and exactly "none" subscribe to cable or satellite, he said at a conference last week.
United States

Probe Of Leaked US NSA Hacking Tools Examines Operative's Mistake (reuters.com) 57

Joseph Menn and John Walcott, reporting for Reuters: A U.S. investigation into a leak of hacking tools used by the National Security Agency is focusing on a theory that one of its operatives carelessly left them available on a remote computer and Russian hackers found them, four people with direct knowledge of the probe told Reuters. The tools, which enable hackers to exploit software flaws in computer and communications systems from vendors such as Cisco Systems and Fortinet Inc, were dumped onto public websites last month by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. The public release of the tools coincided with U.S. officials saying they had concluded that Russia or its proxies were responsible for hacking political party organizations in the run-up to the Nov. 8 presidential election. On Thursday, lawmakers accused Russia of being responsible. Various explanations have been floated by officials in Washington as to how the tools were stolen. Some feared it was the work of a leaker similar to former agency contractor Edward Snowden, while others suspected the Russians might have hacked into NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Government

Senate Panel Authorizes Money For Mission To Mars (usatoday.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: With a new president on the horizon, a key Senate committee moved Wednesday to protect long-standing priorities of the nation's space program from the potential upheaval of an incoming administration. Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bipartisan bill authorizing $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station from U.S. soil -- regardless of shifting political winds. Under the Senate bill, NASA would have an official goal of sending a crewed mission to Mars within the next 25 years, the first time a trip to the Red Planet would be mandated by law. The legislation would authorize money for different NASA components, including $4.5 billion for exploration, nearly $5 billion for space operations and $5.4 billion for science. Beyond money, the measure would: Direct NASA to continue working on the Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose vehicle that are the linchpins of a planned mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The bill includes specific milestones for an unmanned exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021. Require development of an advanced space suit to protect astronauts on a Mars mission. Continue development of the Commercial Crew Program designed to send astronauts to the space station -- no later than 2018 -- on private rockets launched from U.S. soil. Expand the full use and life of the space station through 2024 while laying the foundation for use through 2028. Allow greater opportunities for aerospace companies to conduct business in Low Earth Orbit. Improve monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of the medical effects astronauts experience from spending time in deep space.
Businesses

Tesla Sues Michigan Over Sales Ban (usatoday.com) 260

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Electric automaker Tesla Motors filed a lawsuit Thursday against Michigan state officials, escalating its multi-year battle to sell vehicles directly to consumers. Tesla's action comes less than a week after Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson effectively rejected the automaker's application for dealership and service facilities by asking for proof that Tesla is a franchised dealer. Tesla, unlike other automakers, sells its cars directly to consumers through company-owned stores in other states. "Tesla Motors brings this lawsuit to vindicate its rights under the United States constitution to sell and service its critically-acclaimed, all-electric vehicles at Tesla owned facilities in the State of Michigan," the automaker said in its complaint in federal court. The California automaker named Johnson, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette as defendants. Tesla submitted an application for a dealership license in fall 2015 with a plan to open a retail gallery in Grand Rapids, Mich. In a Sept. 7 hearing, a panel of administrative law examiners heard arguments. Last Thursday, they rejected the license for Tesla. "The license was denied because state law explicitly requires a dealer to have a bona fide contract with an auto manufacturer to sell its vehicles," Johnson said in a statement. Tesla wants to sell its high-end battery-powered cars directly to consumers without a franchised dealer, much like Apple sells its products. The automaker's lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare that the state violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and the constitution's commerce clause. Snyder signed a law in October, 2014, that prohibited Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers by requiring all automakers to sell through a network of franchised dealers.
Verizon

Verizon Says It Knows You Don't Need Unlimited Data (digitaltrends.com) 222

Ed Oswald, writing for DigitalTrends: While the wireless industry is moving back to unlimited data, one carrier is not. Verizon chief financial officer Fred Shammo told attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York on Thursday that his company doesn't think you need it, and slammed current offerings. "At the end of the day, people don't need unlimited plans," Shammo said. While this is not the first time he's said this -- in March he claimed unlimited data "doesn't work in an LTE environment," and in 2011 he helped Verizon move away from unlimited plans -- it's now an entirely different market.
Republicans

Trump Opposes Plan For US To Hand Over Internet Oversight To a Global Governance (reuters.com) 527

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposes a long-planned transition of oversight of the internet's technical management from the U.S. government to a global community of stakeholders, his campaign said in a statement on Wednesday. Congress should block the handover, scheduled to occur on Oct. 1, "or internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost," Stephen Miller, national policy director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a former presidential primary foe of Trump's who has refused to endorse the real estate developer, has led a movement in Congress to block the transition, arguing it could cede control of the internet itself to authoritarian regimes like Russia and China and threaten online freedom. Technical experts have said those claims are baseless, and that a delay will backfire by undermining U.S. credibility in future international negotiations over internet standards and security. Publicly proposed in March 2014, the transfer of oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is expected to go forward unless Congress votes to block the move. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supports the Obama administration's planned transition to a global community of technologists, civil society groups and internet users, according to policy positions available on her campaign website.

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