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    - Rocket Lab Loses Seven Satellites After 'Something Went Wrong'
    An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: On Sunday morning, local time in New Zealand, Rocket Lab launched its 13th mission. The booster's first stage performed normally, but just as the second stage neared an altitude of 200km, something went wrong and the vehicle was lost... "We lost the flight late into the mission," said Peter Beck, the company's founder and chief executive, on Twitter. "I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon." The mission, dubbed "Pics Or It Didn't Happen," carried 5 SuperDove satellites for the imaging company Planet, as well as commercial payloads both for Canon Electronics and In-Space Missions. "The In-Space team is absolutely gutted by this news," the company said after the loss. Its Faraday-1 spacecraft hosted multiple experiments within a 6U CubeSat. "Two years of hard work from an incredibly committed group of brilliant engineers up in smoke. It really was a very cool little spacecraft." The article notes that since January of 2018, "the company had rattled off a string of 11 successful missions and emerged as a major player in the small satellite launch industry." In a video statement on Twitter, company founder Peter Beck said solemnly that "Today's issue is a reminder that space flight can be very unforgiving."

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    - Starting Soon: A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
    "If your family's Fourth of July fireworks plans are up in smoke because of the pandemic, watch the sky for a lunar eclipse instead," reports CNN. It begins in just 5 minutes -- and then lasts for two hours and 45 minutes: On July 4, just after 11 p.m. ET, the moon will begin its temporary new look. For exactly two hours and 45 minutes, the moon will pass through the feathered outer shadow cast from Earth, creating a partial penumbral lunar eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the faint penumbra shadow cast by Earth. The moon misses the Earth's umbral shadow, which is best known for creating total and partial lunar eclipses. This event might not be as illustrious as a partial or total lunar eclipse where parts of the moon seem to disappear. Still, a noticeable darkening of the moon's surface will be visible without a telescope. The eclipse will begin at 11:07 p.m. ET and last through 1:52 a.m. ET, with peak darkening occurring just after midnight. The article also notes that every night this summer will see "a great meeting of planets, known by astronomers as a conjunction... Expect a brighter than usual illumination of the planets as they take center stage across the horizon." While Jupiter will be 15 times brighter than Saturn, they'll both be approaching their closest approach to Earth in 20 years — which finally happens in mid-July.

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    - Stanford Economist Predicts Working-From-Home Continues, City Centers Decline
    The new "working-from-home economy" will likely continue after the pandemic, predicts Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, in an article shared by Slashdot reader schwit1. Bloom cites results from several nationwide surveys he's conducted: We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time. About another 33 percent are not working — a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26 percent — mostly essential service workers — are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work. More strikingly, if we consider the contribution to U.S. gross domestic product based on their earnings, this enlarged group of work-from-home employees now accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity... The stigma associated with working from home prior to COVID-19 has disappeared... And a number of corporations are developing plans for more work-from-home options beyond the pandemic. A recent separate survey of firms from the Survey of Business Uncertainty that I run with the Atlanta Federal Reserve and the University of Chicago indicated that the share of working days spent at home is expected to increase fourfold from pre-COVID levels, from 5 percent to 20 percent. Of the dozens of firms I have talked to, the typical plan is that employees will work from home one to three days a week, and come into the office the rest of the time... Growth of city centers are going to stall. During the pandemic, the overwhelming share of employees who shifted to telecommuting previously worked in offices in cities. I estimate that the loss of their physical presence slashed total daily spending at city center restaurants, bars and shops by more than half. This upsurge in working from home is largely here to stay, and I see a longer-run decline in city centers. The largest U.S. cities have seen incredible growth since the 1980s as younger, educated Americans have flocked into revitalized downtowns. But it looks like that trend will reverse in 2020 — with a flight of economic activity out of city centers. The upside is this will be a boom for suburbs and rural areas. Bloom also predicts firms trying to cut the density of their offices will scatter from high-rise city skyscrapers into low-rise buildings in industrial parks, reducing the crowds on mass transit -- and the need to ride on elevators.

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    - US Senate Amends EARN IT Act -- To Let States Restrict Encryption
    Long-time Slashdot reader stikves reminded us that a committee in the U.S. Senate passed an amended version of the "EARN IT" act on Thursday. And this new version could do more than just end personal end-to-end encryption, warns Engadget: The other major concern opponents of the EARN IT Act raise has to do with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that companies are not liable for much of the content that users post. Originally, the EARN IT Act proposed requiring that companies "earn" Section 230 protections by following recommended practices outlined by a Department of Justice commission. Without those protections, companies like Twitter or Facebook might be compelled to remove anything that might prompt a legal challenge, which could threaten freedom of speech. The amendments passed Thursday strip the Department of Justice commission of any legal authority and will not require companies to earn Section 230 protections by following recommended practices. But the amended bill would change Section 230 to allow lawsuits from states, and state legislatures could restrict or outlaw encryption technologies. The senior policy counsel for Free Press Action, a media reform advocacy group, harshly criticized the legislation's new version. "Even as amended today, it invites states to begin passing all sorts of laws under the guise of protecting against abuse, but replicating the problems with the original EARN IT Act's text."

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    - Microsoft Released an Emergency Security Update to Fix Two Bugs in Windows Codecs
    Tuesday Microsoft published two out-of-band security updates to patch two vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows Codecs Library, reports ZDNet: Tracked as CVE-2020-1425 & CVE-2020-1457, the two bugs only impact Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019 distributions... Microsoft said the two security flaws can be exploited with the help of a specially crafted image file. If the malformed images are opened inside apps that utilize the built-in Windows Codecs Library to handle multimedia content, then attackers would be allowed to run malicious code on a Windows computer and potentially take over the device. The two bugs -- described as two remote code execution vulnerabilities -- received patches Wednesday. "Customers do not need to take any action to receive the update," Microsoft said.

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    - Divers Find Evidence of Prehistoric Mining Operation in North America
    Iwastheone shared this article from CBS News: Experts and cave divers in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula have found ocher mines that are some of the oldest on the continent. Ancient skeletons were found in the narrow, twisting labyrinths of now-submerged sinkhole caves... The discovery of remains of human-set fires, stacked mining debris, simple stone tools, navigational aids and digging sites suggest humans went into the caves around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, seeking iron-rich red ocher, which early peoples in the Americas prized for decoration and rituals. Such pigments were used in cave paintings, rock art, burials and other structures among early peoples around the globe. The early miners apparently brought torches or firewood to light their work, and broke off pieces of stalagmites to pound out the ocher. They left smoke marks on the roof of the caves that are still visible today... The research was published Friday in the journal Science Advances... "Now, for the first time we know why the people of this time would undertake the enormous risk and effort to explore these treacherous caves," said CINDAQ founder Sam Meacham. At least one reason, Meacham said, was to prospect and mine red ocher.

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    - Halfway Through ISS Mission, NASA Astronauts Anticipate Their Ride Back to Earth
    "They've been up there about a month now, floating around on the International Space Station, keeping tabs on their ride home," reports the Washington Post: "Certainly, the highlight for both Doug and I was the initial arrival at space station, coming through the hatch again and being on board after several years of working on a new spacecraft," Behnken said in an interview from the station this week. Since then, he has performed two spacewalks with Cassidy, successfully replacing batteries on the outside of the station... Now, NASA and the astronauts are turning their focus to the return trip. At the moment, the space agency says the soonest Behnken and Hurley could return is Aug. 2. If all goes well, the Dragon would undock from the station, fire its thrusters and descend through the atmosphere. The entire mission is a test to see how SpaceX's Dragon capsule performs, and while NASA said its ascent went flawlessly, there still are many risks ahead. As it plunges down, the thickening air will cause friction and generate enormous heat, testing the capsule's heat shield. Then the spacecraft's parachutes are to deploy to slow the vehicle further. SpaceX has struggled with its parachute designs in the past, however. "Parachutes are way harder than they look," Elon Musk said in an interview with The Post before the launch. "The Apollo program actually had a real morale issue with the parachutes because they were so damn hard. They had people quitting over how hard the parachutes were. And then you know we almost had people quit at SpaceX over how hard the parachutes were. I mean they soldiered through, but, man, the parachutes are hard." Another risk will be landing in the ocean. American astronauts have not splashed down in the water since 1975 — the Space Shuttles landed on land, as do the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Behnken said he and Hurley expect to spend about an hour bobbing on the ocean surface before they are hoisted on the deck of a ship. SpaceX has been training extensively for the recovery mission, working to get the astronauts to safety as quickly as possible, but that will also be a key test.

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    - Is Our Technology Literally Changing Our Brains?
    Nicholas Carr authored The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains back in 2010. This week he offered an up-to-date assessment in his newest interview with Vox co-founder Ezra Klein. "The point of this conversation is not that the internet is bad, nor that it is good," Klein writes. "It's that it is changing us, just as every medium before it has. We need to see those changes clearly in order to take control of them ourselves..." But the conversation soon turns to neuroplasticity, the brain's special ability to physically adapt to changes happening in its environment: Nicholas Carr: When we adapt to a new medium — whether printed page or television or, more recently, the internet and social media and so forth — more and more neurons get recruited to the particular brain processes that you're using more often thanks to the different information technologies. But ways of thinking that aren't encouraged by the technology — we begin to lose those abilities... I think it was quite clear even back then [in 2010] that we were making this big tradeoff between getting lots and lots of information very, very quickly and developing a rich base of knowledge. What was lost was not only the ability to engage in deep reading and attentive thought and contemplation, but also when we come across new information, the ability to bring it into our mind and put it into a broader context. That takes time. That takes attention. That takes focus. The fundamental argument of The Shallows was that we were making this tradeoff. What I worried about then, and what I still worry about, is whether that tradeoff is worth it — are we losing more than we ultimately gain? What's happened since then? On one level, I think it's magnified all of my concerns. Over the last 10 years, the smartphone took over as the dominant form of the computer. Unlike a laptop, the smartphone is always on. It's always with us. We can access it almost instantaneously. People walk around with it in their hands. So this constant distraction that I documented with laptops and desktops is now much more dominant. It goes on all the time. Also social media exploded and became one of, if not the main, things people do with computers. And the way social media distributes information, the way it gives particular value or particular emphasis to very emotional information and simplified, kind of strong messages, I think all of this has made the problems I tried to delineate more intense in kind of [a] deeper set within society. What has also become clearer and clearer in the last 10 years is that now there's also a big social effect of the technology. On the one hand, all the distractions that we had 10 years ago have proliferated, but also the way we make sense of things socially has changed dramatically as social media has essentially taken over media.

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    - Former Yahoo Engineer Who Infiltrated 6,000 Accounts Avoids Jail
    This week finally saw the federal sentencing of a former Yahoo software engineer who "admitted to using his access through his work at the company to hack into about 6,000 Yahoo accounts" back in 2018, according to America's Department of Justice: Ruiz admitted to targeting accounts belonging to younger women, including his personal friends and work colleagues. He made copies of images and videos that he found in the personal accounts without permission, and stored the data at his home. Once he had access to the Yahoo accounts, Ruiz admitted to compromising the iCloud, Facebook, Gmail, DropBox, and other online accounts of the Yahoo users in search of more private images and videos. After his employer observed the suspicious account activity, Ruiz admitted to destroying the computer and hard drive on which he stored the images. He stopped working at Yahoo in July of 2018. The next month the FBI visited his home. He was indicted in April of 2019 and pleaded guilty in September — facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But it was not until this week that a federal court finally handed down its sentence for the "former Yahoo! engineer who hacked 6,000 accounts on a hunt for private sexual videos and pictures," according to one Bay Area newspaper. The sentence? Five years of probation, with a home confinement condition: Reyes Daniel Ruiz, 35, of Tracy, is allowed to leave his home for "verified employment, medical needs and religious services," according to the sentencing terms. He has also been ordered to pay nearly $125,000 in fines and restitution, court records show... He also accessed financial information, but his main goal was to steal pornographic files, prosecutors said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Kaleba asked for Ruiz to be sentenced to "a period of incarceration," arguing he'd violated not only the trust of his employee but the privacy of thousands of people. "By his estimation, he downloaded approximately two terabytes of data, and possessed between 1,000 and 4,000 private images and videos," Kaleba wrote in a sentencing memo. The defense argued that Ruiz, who has no criminal history, deserved leniency because he accepted responsibility quickly. He admitted to destroying the hard drive where he stored the ill-gotten files when the FBI visited his home in August 2018. Ruiz told federal investigators that he acquired the pictures and videos for his own personal "self-gratification" and that he didn't share them online, a pre-sentence report says. In October Gizmodo reported that Ruiz was now working for a Silicon Valley company specializing in SSO (single sign-on) solutions.

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    - Moderate Drinking May Improve Cognitive Health for Older Adults, Study Says
    "A new study found low to moderate drinking may improve cognitive function for White middle-aged or older adults," reports CNN: The findings support prior research which found that, generally, one standard drink a day for women and two a day for men -- which is the US guidance -- appears to offer some cognitive benefits... "There is now a lot of observational evidence showing that light to moderate alcohol drinking is associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia compared with alcohol abstaining," said senior principal research scientist Kaarin Anstey, a director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration in Australia, who was not involved in the study... The new study, published Monday in JAMA Network Open, analyzed data on nearly 20,000 participants from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of Americans on a variety of health issues. Study participants, who were predominately white, female and a mean age of 62, were given cognitive tests starting in 1996 through 2008, and were surveyed every other year for approximately nine years. When compared with those who said they never drank, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall and vocabulary over time, as well as with lower rates of decline in each of those areas. But before you get too excited, CNN has a "However..." paragraph: However, a major global study released last year found that no amount of liquor, wine or beer is safe for your overall health. It found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths... "What we know for sure is that drinking too much alcohol definitely harms the brain in a major way. What is less clear is whether or not low to moderate intake may be protective in certain people, or if total abstinence is the most sound advice," said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Based on conflicting studies, I don't think at this time we can know for sure whether none versus low to moderate consumption is best in each individual person..."

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    - Does Success in Life Depend on Understanding Both Technology and Constitutional Law?
    Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In 2019's The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman reported that of all the skills and knowledge the College Board tested young people for, it determined that mastering "two codes" — computer science and the U.S. Constitution — were the most correlated to success in college and in life. On Wednesday, Rhode Island announced it's teaming with the College Board to ensure schoolkids study the "Two Codes"... The press release says they're "launching a partnership to advance two key educational goals: understanding how the U.S. Constitution works and how technology can power solutions to problems facing our world... Each school will identify two teacher leads, a Computer Science teacher and a Government and Politics teacher, who will coordinate their school's participation in the program. The leads will receive a stipend of $1,500 per year, and the College Board will provide a broad range of support for the training of teachers and implementation of the effort." The College Board's Chief of Global Policy and External Relations says in the announcement that "It's not enough to be users of technology; this generation of students needs to guide it and make it work for democracy."

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    - Americans Lag Behind Other Countries -- and Pay More for Their Cellphone Service
    "American consumers pay significantly more for cellphone service than people in many other countries," reports the New York Times. It's in an article headlined "The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why." Although executives' salaries have risen in most countries, relative to those of workers, in recent decades, the trend is more extreme in the U.S... The minimum wage is higher in other countries than it is in much of the United States... In addition to minimum wage, the United States has done less to combat rising corporate concentration. Large U.S. companies are better able to hold down the wages of workers, who don't always have good employment options, and are also able to charge higher prices because of less competition... Arguably the biggest outlier is the American health care system. Prices for drugs, medical procedures and doctors' visits are all substantially higher in the United States than in other countries... In all, Americans pay almost twice as much on average for medical care as citizens of other rich countries. And as you may remember from the opening chart in this article, Americans are far from the world's healthiest people... The middle class and poor receive a smaller share of national income in the U.S. than in much of Europe, while the rich receive a greater share. If anything, these statistics understate American exceptionalism on inequality, because Americans also work longer hours for their pay than workers in many other places.

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    - Facebook, Twitter, Google Face Free-Speech Test in Hong Kong
    U.S. technology titans face a looming test of their free-speech credentials in Hong Kong as China's new national-security law for the city demands local authorities take measures to supervise and regulate its uncensored internet. From a report: Facebook and its Instagram service, Twitter and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet's Google, operate freely in the city even as they have been shut out or opted out of the mainland's tightly controlled internet, which uses the "Great Firewall" to censor information. In Hong Kong many citizens have grown accustomed to freely using their accounts to speak out on political matters, voice support for antigovernment protests, and register their anger at China's increasing sway over the city. Now the U.S. tech companies face a high-wire act, analysts say, if authorities here ask them to delete user accounts or their content. Refusal could invite Beijing's scrutiny and potentially put them at risk of legal action under the new national-security law. Complying would alienate longtime users in the city, some of whom continue to speak out on their platforms, and leave the companies open to criticism from politicians in the U.S. or U.K. Among the tech giants, Twitter said in a statement it "has grave concerns" about the law and is "committed to protecting the people using our service and their freedom of expression." Twitter said it is reviewing the new rules, "particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition." Measures to better supervise the internet and foreign media were provisions tucked into China's national-security law for the city. The law criminalizes activities in four vaguely defined areas covering secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. "Tech companies will absolutely receive more requests to remove information that is allegedly harmful to natural security from the relevant authorities," said Haochen Sun, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. He said companies will face difficulties especially with borderline cases, such as potential requests to remove songs, for instance, that protesters have used in antigovernment demonstrations.

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    - Ubisoft CEO Lays Out a Plan To Change the Company's Toxic Culture
    A week after launching investigations into many claims of harassment and misconduct, Ubisoft's CEO gave an update on what the company is doing to change things. From a report: In a letter posted on its website and emailed to employees, Yves Guillemot said "the types of inappropriate behavior we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated." That's sharply in contrast to reports from employees and statements posted internally, citing complaints made to HR in the past that they said have been ignored. Even today, Chelsea O'Hara, touted as a success story of the company's mentorship program, wrote extensively about the reality of her experience at Ubisoft where she felt marginalized and exploited. Beyond the ongoing investigations, Ubisoft says it has set up an online confidential alert platform where people can report harrasment or other inappropriate behavior, that's run by a third party. Guillemot also said they will shake up the Editorial Group that oversees creative decisions, which Kotaku notes has a roster made up exclusively of white males.

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    - Chrome for Android is Finally Going 64-bit, Giving it a Speed Boost in Benchmarks
    An anonymous reader shares a report: The first Android version to support 64-bit architecture was Android 5.0 Lollipop, introduced back in November 2014. Since then, more and more 64-bit processors shipped, and today, virtually all Android devices are capable of running 64-bit software (excluding one or two or more oddballs). However, Google Chrome has never made the jump and is only available in a 32-bit flavor, potentially leading to some unnecessary security and performance degradations. That's finally changing: Starting with Chrome 85, phones running Android 10 and higher will automatically receive a 64-bit version. A look at chrome://version confirms as much: The current stable and beta builds, version 83 and 84, note that they're still 32-bit applications. Chrome Dev and Chrome Canary (release 85 and 86) are proper 64-bit apps. Google confirms as much on its Chromium Bugs tracker. When compared in a number of Octane 2.0 benchmarks, the 64-bit version got consistently better results than the 32-bit version. It's possible that there have been other optimizations that make Chrome 85 faster than 83 -- the architecture is not necessarily all there is to it. Still, the benchmark results suggest that there are some enhancements, even if these tests aren't easy to translate to real-world usage.

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