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  • Egypt's Massive 1.8-Gigawatt Benban Solar Park Nears Completion (2019/09/18 09:00)
    Wave723 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: Amid the sand dunes of the western Sahara, workers are putting the finishing touches on one of the world's largest solar installations. There, as many as 7.2 million photovoltaic panels will make up Benban Solar Park -- a renewable energy project so massive, it will be visible from space. The 1.8-gigawatt installation is the first utility-scale PV plant in Egypt, a nation blessed with some of the best solar resources on the planet. The ambitious project is part of Egypt's efforts to increase its generation capacity and incorporate more renewable sources into the mix. Once operational, Benban Solar Park will avoid two million tons of CO2 emissions per year [PDF] compared with what's belched into the air by a thermal power station generating the same amount of electricity. That difference is roughly equivalent to half the annual emissions produced by one coal-fired power plant. To create the park, Egypt's government selected a remote desert site with high solar radiation and divided it into 41 plots of varying sizes. It assigned those plots to roughly 30 developers that expressed interest in the project, and the government promised to pay a competitive price (through financial incentives called feed-in tariffs [PDF]) for all power produced at Benban for 25 years. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Earth Warming More Quickly Than Thought, New Climate Models Show (2019/09/18 05:30)
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Greenhouse gases thrust into the atmosphere mainly by burning fossil fuels are warming Earth's surface more quickly than previously understood, according to new climate models set to replace those used in current UN projections, scientists said Tuesday. By 2100, average temperatures could rise 7.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels if carbon emissions continue unabated, separate models from two leading research centers in France showed. That is up to two degrees higher than the equivalent scenario in the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change's (IPCC) 2014 benchmark 5th Assessment Report. The new calculations also suggest that the Paris Agreement goals of capping global warming at "well below" two degrees, and 1.5C if possible, will be challenging at best, the scientists said. "With our two models, we see that the scenario known as SSP1 2.6 -- which normally allows us to stay under 2C -- doesn't quite get us there," Olivier Boucher, head of the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modeling Center in Paris, told AFP. A new generation of 30-odd climate models known collectively as CMIP6 -- including the two unveiled Tuesday -- will underpin the IPCC's next major report in 2021. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Facebook Expands Definition of Terrorist Organizations To Limit Extremism (2019/09/18 04:10)
    Facebook on Tuesday announced a series of changes to limit hate speech and extremism on the social network, expanding its definition of terrorist organizations and planning to deploy artificial intelligence to better spot and block live videos of shooters. The company is also expanding a program that redirects users searching for extremism to resources intended to help them leave hate groups behind. The New York Times reports: The announcement came the day before a hearing on Capitol Hill on how Facebook, Google and Twitter handle violent content. Lawmakers are expected to ask executives how they are handling posts from extremists. In its announcement post, Facebook said the Christchurch tragedy "strongly" influenced its updates. And the company said it had recently developed an industry plan with Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Amazon to address how technology is used to spread terrorist accounts. Facebook said that it had mostly focused on identifying organizations like separatists, Islamist militants and white supremacists. The company said that it would now consider all people and organizations that proclaim or are engaged in violence leading to real-world harm. The team leading its efforts to counter extremism on its platform has grown to 350 people, Facebook said, and includes experts in law enforcement, national security, counterterrorism and academics studying radicalization. To detect more content relating to real-world harm, Facebook said it was updating its artificial intelligence to better catch first-person shooting videos. The company said it was working with American and British law enforcement officials to obtain camera footage from their firearms training programs to help its A.I. learn what real, first-person violent events look like. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Fossil Fuel Divestment Has 'Zero' Climate Impact, Says Bill Gates (2019/09/18 03:30)
    dryriver shares a report from The Financial Times: Climate activists are wasting their time lobbying investors to ditch fossil fuel stocks, according to Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder who is one of the world's most prominent philanthropists. Those who want to change the world would do better to put their money and energy behind the disruptive technologies that slow carbon emissions and help people adapt to a warming world, Mr Gates told the Financial Times. "Divestment, to date, probably has reduced about zero tons of emissions. It's not like you've capital-starved [the] people making steel and gasoline," he said. "I don't know the mechanism of action where divestment [keeps] emissions [from] going up every year. I'm just too damn numeric." Mr Gates questioned the divestment movement's "theory of change," arguing that investors who want to use their money to promote progress will have better results by funding innovative businesses such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, two alternative protein companies he has backed. "When I'm taking billions of dollars and creating breakthrough energy ventures and funding only companies who, if they're successful, reduce greenhouse gases by 0.5 percent, then I actually do see a cause and effect type thing," he said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Researchers Uncover 125 Vulnerabilities Across 13 Routers and NAS Devices (2019/09/18 02:50)
    Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) discovered a total of 125 different security vulnerabilities across 13 IoT devices, likely affecting millions of consumers. Help Net Security reports: In nearly all the devices (12 of the 13), ISE achieved its goal of obtaining remote root-level access. The table below shows the types of vulnerabilities that ISE identified in the targets. All 13 of the devices evaluated by ISE had at least one web application vulnerability such as cross-site scripting (XSS), operating system command injection (OS CMDi), or SQL injection (SQLi) that could be leveraged by an attacker to get remote access to the device's shell or gain access to the device's administrative panel. ISE obtained root shells on 12 of the devices, allowing complete control over the device. Six of them can be remotely exploited without authentication: the Asustor AS-602T, Buffalo TeraStation TS5600D1206, TerraMaster F2-420, Drobo 5N2, Netgear Nighthawk R9000, and TOTOLINK A3002RU. "We found that many of these issues were trivial to exploit and should have been discovered even in a rudimentary vulnerability assessment," says ISE founder Stephen Bono. "This indicates that these manufacturers likely undergo no such assessment whatsoever, that the bug bounty programs they employ are ineffective, that vulnerability disclosures sent to them are not addressed, or more likely, all of the above." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • AT&T Sued For Allegedly Inflating DirecTV Now Subscriber Numbers (2019/09/18 02:10)
    A lawsuit seeking class action status says AT&T is inflating AT&T TV Now -- previously known as DirecTV Now -- subscriber numbers by creating fake users. From a report: It's accusing the company's management of carrying out the scheme in an effort to make the service look good in the eyes of investors even though it was struggling with serious technical and financial problems. The management did so, according to the lawsuit, by encouraging employees to add DirecTV Now subscription fees to subscribers' accounts without their knowledge or consent. One of the methods employees allegedly used is tacking on up to three accounts to a single customer's phone number -- including those who just signed up for a free trial -- and running their credit card three times. In some cases, customers were reportedly charged for a subscription even though they made it clear that they didn't want it. Sales employees allegedly made and used fake email accounts in both instances. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Millions of Americans' Medical Images and Data Are Available On the Internet (2019/09/18 01:30)
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans, including X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, are sitting unprotected on the Internet and available to anyone with basic computer expertise. The records cover more than 5 million patients in the United States and millions more around the world. In some cases, a snoop could use free software programs -- or just a typical Web browser -- to view the images and private data, an investigation by ProPublica and the German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk found. We identified 187 servers -- computers that are used to store and retrieve medical data -- in the U.S. that were unprotected by passwords or basic security precautions. The computer systems, from Florida to California, are used in doctors' offices, medical-imaging centers, and mobile X-ray services. The insecure servers we uncovered add to a growing list of medical records systems that have been compromised in recent years. Unlike some of the more infamous recent security breaches, in which hackers circumvented a company's cyber defenses, these records were often stored on servers that lacked the security precautions that long ago became standard for businesses and government agencies. The exposed data varied depending on the health provider and the software they use. "For instance, the server of U.S. company MobilexUSA displayed the names of more than a million patients -- all by typing in a simple data query," reports ProPublica. "Their dates of birth, doctors, and procedures were also included." "Another imaging system, tied to a physician in Los Angeles, allowed anyone on the Internet to see his patients' echocardiograms," the report adds. "All told, medical data from more than 16 million scans worldwide was available online, including names, birthdates, and, in some cases, Social Security numbers." The authors of the report recommend you ask your health care provider or doctor if access to your images requires a login and password, and to ask if they conduct a regular security assessment as required by HIPAA. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • AI Surveillance is Expanding Worldwide (2019/09/18 00:50)
    A growing number of countries are following China's lead in deploying artificial intelligence to track citizens, according to a research group's report published Tuesday. From a report: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says at least 75 countries are actively using AI tools such as facial recognition for surveillance. The index of countries where some form of AI surveillance is used includes liberal democracies such as the United States and France as well as more autocratic regimes. Relying on a survey of public records and media reports, the report says Chinese tech companies led by Huawei and Hikvision are supplying much of the AI surveillance technology to countries around the world. Other companies such as Japan's NEC and U.S.-based IBM, Palantir and Cisco are also major international providers of AI surveillance tools. Hikvision declined comment Tuesday. The other companies mentioned in the report didn't immediately return requests for comment. The report encompasses a broad range of AI tools that have some public safety component. The group's index doesn't distinguish between legitimate public safety tools and unlawful or harmful uses such as spying on political opponents. "I hope citizens will ask tougher questions about how this type of technology is used and what type of impacts it will have," said the report's author, Steven Feldstein, a Carnegie Endowment fellow and associate professor at Boise State University. Many of the projects cited in Feldstein's report are "smart city" systems in which a municipal government installs an array of sensors, cameras and other internet-connected devices to gather information and communicate with one another. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Modified Tesla Model S Reportedly Outguns Porsche Taycan at Nurburgring (2019/09/18 00:10)
    Tesla is being a busy bee at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, and after multiple videos and rumors, we have our first idea of how capable its modified Model S electric sedan is. From a report: Road & Track reported Tuesday that the stripped-down Model S clocked a lap time of 7:23. Do note, that is not an official time and comes from well-placed sources hand-timing the electric car with a clear view of the track. It also happens to be 20 seconds quicker than the Porsche Taycan's lap time at the 'Ring. However, what's impressive is that this time comes during an industry-pool session. This is when all automakers are free to make rounds around the track, which leads to traffic. At the end of the day, the time doesn't reflect the car's full potential. It's not possible to clock a flying lap during an industry-pool session. If we do get an official time this week, expect it to be even quicker than 7:23. At the same time, the magazine's sources also described the fact that this Model S is nowhere near close to the kind of electric sedan Tesla sells to buyers. It's rumored to house a new three-motor powertrain (one motor for each rear wheel) and sports plenty of variations outside. They include wider tires, reportedly Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport RS rubber, fender flares to help cover the extra width and a massive gurney flap at the rear. Massive carbon-ceramic brakes are supposedly hiding behind the wheels, too. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
  • Amazon Music Rolls Out Lossless Streaming Tier (2019/09/17 23:30)
    Amazon Music HD is a new tier of Amazon's music service that offers lossless versions of audio files for streaming or downloading at a price that aggressively undercuts Tidal, the main competition for this kind of audio. "Amazon will charge $14.99 a month for the HD tier, or $12.99 if you're an Amazon Prime customer," reports The Verge. "Tidal's Hi-Fi plan costs $19.99 monthly." From the report: Amazon says it has a catalog of over 50 million songs that it calls "High Definition," which is the term it's applying to songs with CD-quality bit depth of 16 bits and a 44.1kHz sample rate. It also has "millions" (read: less than 10 million, more than one million) of songs it's calling "Ultra HD," which translates to 24-bit with sample rates that range from 44.1kHz up to 192kHz. Amazon Music HD will deliver them all in the lossless FLAC file format, instead of the MQA format that Tidal uses. Amazon's VP of Music, Steve Boom, tells me that Amazon chose the HD and UltraHD terminology because it found it was more comprehensible to a mass audience than the current terminology for audio quality. And "mass audience" is exactly what Amazon is going for; it doesn't want Amazon Music HD to be a niche player like Tidal and other lossless music platforms like HDtracks or Qobuz. Boom says that "It's a pretty big deal that one of the big three global streaming services is doing this -- we're the first one." In response to today's news, Rock legend Neil Young said (with no hyperbole whatsoever): "Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses. This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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