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Posts of News Briefs
  • Thursday May 15
    FCC Builds Pseudo-Net Neutrality Plan
    The Federal Communications Commission has proposed new rules that will prohibit Internet Service Providers from discriminating against data that it carries, while at the same time allowing them to provide a paid "fast lane" for a premium, faster connection for companies that can afford it. This comes after Netflix was forced to make a deal with Comcast and Verizon to keep their video streaming service at a speed that would work for consumers.

  • Tuesday April 29
    Disclosure of drone-strike victims dropped from Senate bill
    At the request of US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, US senators have removed a section from a crucial intelligence bill that would have required the White House to disclose information on those killed by US drone strikes overseas. The fiscal year 2014 intelligence authorization bill passed through the Senate Intelligence Committee in November with a provision that required the president to offer annual statistics that outline the total number of “combatants” and “noncombatant civilians” killed or injured by US drone strikes in the previous year. But at the behest of Clapper, Senate leaders have removed the requirement from the legislation ahead of the bill’s upcoming vote on the Senate floor, the Guardian reported.

    A push to make campuses tobacco-free

    In Rhode Island, smoking is not allowed at beaches, parks, restaurants, bars and even in some public housing. On Monday, federal and state health officials, tobacco-prevention advocates and deans from universities and colleges turned an eye toward making Rhode Island’s college campuses tobacco-free. The Rhode Island Tobacco Control Program, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, hosted “Becoming Tobacco Free: A Symposium for Rhode Island Colleges and Universities,” to discuss benefits and the process of making college campuses tobacco-free.

  • Monday April 28
    Casualties, massive damage as multiple tornadoes rip through US
    A powerful tornado storm system has ripped through several US states, killing one in Oklahoma and another victim in central Kansas while causing major damage in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southern states.

    Active 0day attack hijacking IE users threatens a quarter of browser market

    Attackers are actively exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability in all supported versions of Internet Explorer that allows them to surreptitiously hijack vulnerable computers, Microsoft warned Sunday. The zero-day code-execution hole in IE versions 6 through 11 represents a significant threat to the Internet security because there is currently no fix for the underlying bug, which affects an estimated 26 percent of the total browser market. It's also the first significant vulnerability to target Windows XP users since Microsoft withdrew support for that aging OS earlier this month. Users who have the option of using an alternate browser should avoid all use of IE for the time being. Those who remain dependent on the Microsoft browser should immediately install EMET, Microsoft's freely available toolkit that greatly extends the security of Windows systems.

  • Wednesday April 23
    NYPD Twitter campaign implodes, flooded with photos of police abuse
    Just before 2pm EDT, the New York City Police Department called via Twitter for photos of citizens with its officers. Almost immediately the campaign #myNYPD seemed to backfire, as users flooded the hashtag with photos decrying alleged police brutality. The hashtag gave users an opportunity to recall several individuals involved in major cases of NYPD brutality, false accusations, or extrajudicial execution, including Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Abner Louima, Kimani Gray, the Central Park Five, and a peaceful Occupy Wall Street demonstrator - Cecily McMillan - who is currently on trial and may face years in prison despite being beaten into a seizure by officers back in 2012. The department responded with a statement at about 6:30pm EDT. “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”

    URI students from Rhode Island are bearing the brunt of increases in tuition, fees
    The University of Rhode Island has raised tuition and fees for Rhode Island residents during the past five years at more than triple the rate of increase for out-of-state students, according to an analysis of data from the New England Board of Higher Education. In 2013-14, tuition and fees for in-state students at URI came to about $12,450, the NEBHE data shows. That’s 43 percent more than the $8,678 URI charged them in 2008-09. By contrast, the university raised prices for out-of-state students during the same five-year period by 13 percent, to just over $28,000. After years of boasting the lowest in-state tuition and fees of any of New England’s public universities, URI — which froze tuition for all students through 2014-15 — now falls smack in the middle of the pack.

    iPhones and Macs get fix for extremely critical “triple handshake” crypto bug
    Apple has patched versions of its iOS and OS X operating systems to fix yet another extremely critical cryptography vulnerability that leaves some users open to surreptitious eavesdropping. Listeners are urged to install the updates immediately. The bug makes it possible to bypass HTTPS encryption protections that are designed to prevent eavesdropping and data tampering by attackers with the capability to monitor traffic sent by and received from vulnerable devices. Such "man-in-the-middle" attackers could exploit the bug by abusing the "triple handshake" carried out when secure connections are established by applications that use client certificates to authenticate end users.

  • Tuesday April 22
    High Court Says States Can End Affirmative Action
    The Supreme Court dealt another blow to affirmative action programs Tuesday, upholding the right of states to ban racial preferences in university admissions. The 6-2 decision came in a case brought by Michigan, where a voter-approved initiative banning affirmative action had been tied up in court for a decade. Seven other states -- California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire – have similar bans. Now, others may follow suit.But the ruling, which was expected after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Michigan law, did not jeopardize the wide use of racial preferences in many of the 42 states without bans.

    South Korea ferry death toll reaches 121

    The total known death toll from the South Korean capsized ferry has now reached 121, as more bodies were brought back to Paengmok Port on Tuesday night. Of the 479 passengers and crew on board, only 174 people have been rescued and 181 remain missing, presumed drowned. Of those aboard, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing.

  • Monday April 21
    Plan to Dispose of Syrian Chemical Weapons in the Mediterranean
    Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Crete Sunday to protest a United Nations program designed to destroy Syrian chemical weapons in the Mediterranean, turning one of the most popular holiday hot spots in Europe into a potential graveyard of drifting, highly toxic agents. Staged in Arkadi, a small village tucked in the highlands of Crete and reknown for a bloody local revolt against Ottoman occupiers 150 years ago, the protest marks the latest show of local resistance to the international operation, which demonstrators deem the deadliest threat yet to the environment and their livelihood. Crete police and organizers contacted by phone, put the number of demonstrators at over 10,000, making the protest the biggest yet in Europe against the United States-led decommission plan. “We will not let this happen,” said Yannis Haronitis, an activist and protest organizer. “They want to destroy these weapons — well, let them turn Syria’s back yard into a toxic waste dump, not ours.” Under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia, all of Syria’s chemical arsenal must be decommissioned and destroyed by June 30 — a goal that is becoming increasingly unlikely amid missed deadlines and foot-dragging by Damascus.

    Earth-like Planet found 500 Light Years from Earth
    Less than two months ago, NASA’s Kepler mission announced the confirmation of 700 new exoplanets, but its latest news of a single exosolar system may be a bit more exciting. Kepler has now found an Earth-like planet that may have liquid water on its surface, and the new discovery is located less than 500 light years away. Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has been finding exoplanets with a deceptively simple technique. At any given time, it stares at thousands of stars, looking for a dip in the amount of light received from them. That dip can be caused by a planet passing in front of whatever star it is orbiting (from the perspective of Earth). By observing the time interval between these dips and the size of the dip, Kepler can calculate the planet’s orbit and radius. When this data is combined with other data from the star, astronomers can build a rough picture of what the planetary system looks like. The new planet has been named Kepler 186f, and it is part of a five-planet system that is orbiting a red dwarf star (smaller and cooler than the Sun). What makes 186f so interesting is that its radius is only 1.1 times that of the Earth and it is orbiting its star in the habitable zone. This is the distance where, if the planet has water, then it is likely to remain in the liquid form. Liquid water is essential to life as we know it, and planets in this zone remain the top candidates to harbor some form of life.

  • Wednesday April 16
    Boston police evacuate marathon finish line and detonate suspicious bags
    The Boston Police Department investigated two unattended backpacks near the finish line area of the city’s marathon. A man thought to have left one of the bags was taken into custody, though it appears to have been a hoax. The Boston Police Department's bomb squad was sent to check the bags, and officers cleared the area around the marathon's finish line - at Boylston and Dartmouth Streets - at around 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday, according to local news outlets. Police "disrupted" two of the bags for "precautionary reasons," yet the bags' contents have not been verified. At around 9 p.m., the bomb squad conducted a controlled detonation of a bag, a routine measure. WBZ-TV reported that Edson told police he was carrying a rice cooker in his backpack, prompting the bomb squad. Another source told WBZ-TV that the rice cooker in the bag was full of confetti.

    Ferry sinking off South Korean coast, over 470 people on board

    A sinking passenger ferry with 472 people on board sent out a distress signal off the coast of South Korea, according to local media reports. The vessel was reportedly carrying 338 students and teachers, all of whom have been rescued. One person was found dead inside the sinking vessel, Reuters quoted a South Korean coast guard official as saying. There are conflicting reports about the total number of students and teachers on board. According to Reuters, a school official stated that 338 students and teachers were on board, all of whom have been rescued. The high school students were on their way to Jeju Island as part of a school trip, according to Yonhap news agency.

  • Tuesday April 15
    Fire in triple-decker injures 3 Providence firefighters, resident
    Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of a blaze Monday night at a three-story apartment house at 55 Plymouth St., in the city’s West End, that injured three firefighters and a resident. The fire, reported at around 9:15 p.m., started at the rear of the building and quickly engulfed all three floors, Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Joseph R. Desmarais said. The building’s 15 residents, including about seven children, all had evacuated before firefighters arrived, Desmarais said. Firefighters were ordered to evacuate the structure for fear that it might collapse. The three injured firefighters — two of whom had burns and a third who injured his eye — along with an injured resident were transported to Rhode Island Hospital, where they were treated and later released, Desmarais said.

    TurboTax maker spending millions to kill simplified IRS tax filing

    A software company that promises to help Americans avoid the annual misery of filing their IRS returns has, in fact, spent years trying to convince lawmakers to make sure filing taxes remains difficult, thus protecting its business, a new report found. Every year Americans spend an estimated $2 billion and 225 million hours preparing their tax returns by April 15. The process can include obtaining information from a bank or employer, intensive financial disclosures, and, for many Americans, an appointment with a professional accountant who is qualified to evaluate how much money the state and federal government is due.

  • Monday April 14
    71 People Killed, 124 Wounded in Nigeria Bus Station Blasts
    Seventy-one people have been killed and a further 124 injured in two blasts that tore through a bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, police officials said. The explosions took place as several hundred commuters were boarding buses to Abuja. Police spokesman Frank Mba told AP that 16 luxury coaches and 24 minibuses were destroyed. Police say they believe that secondary explosions were triggered by the first one

    URI to Arm Campus Police Officers

    The University of Rhode Island will arm its campus police officers with handguns under a new policy announced Monday morning. The decision to arm the police force on the Kingston campus was the product of a process that drew input from law enforcement agencies and also from students, professors and others who participated in a campus-wide “conversation,” according to the university’s president, David M. Dooley.

    Space Monday
    Mars passes within just 57 million miles (92 million kilometers) of Earth Monday — its closest approach since January 2008. After sunset, Mars will be an orange beacon overhead, blazing as brightly as Sirius, the most luminous star in the sky other than the sun, experts say.

    The main event for the night will be the first total lunar eclipse of 2014, which will be visible from all of North and South America, as well as Hawaii and part of Alaska. It is perhaps the most exciting of the night's events (though it technically begins early Tuesday morning Eastern time). The lunar eclipse will begin at 12:53 a.m. EDT (0453 GMT) Tuesday (April 15), when the moon plunges into Earth's outer shadow. The "totality" phase, in which the moon is completely veiled by Earth's shadow, starts at 3:06 a.m. EDT and lasts for more than an hour, ending at 4:24 a.m. EDT. The moon should be quite a dramatic sight during the totality phase, experts say. "Sunlight bent by our atmosphere around the curvature of the Earth should produce a coppery glow on the moon," Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao wrote in an April 8 guide. "At this time, the moon, if viewed with binoculars or a small telescope, will present the illusion of seemingly glowing from within by its own light."

  • Sunday April 13
    CIA deceived government on torture program according to Senate report
    The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program – active from September 11, 2001 to 2006 – found that the CIA used interrogation methods not approved by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Ultimately, the Committee found that the “Justice Department’s legal analyses were based on flawed information provided by the CIA,” McClatchy news service reported Friday. “The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” the report found, according to McClatchy. The Senate’s probe, which yielded a yet-unreleased 6,300-page report, also found that the CIA distorted how many detainees it held in “black site” prisons throughout the world and how many were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” many amount to torture. The CIA has claimed only about 30 detainees fell under the mercy of such methods.