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Last updated 10 Dec, 04:31 AM

BBC News - Home

England v France: Historic match with World Cup semi-final spot at stake - England and France are ready for their historic first knockout match in a men's tournament as they meet in the quarter-finals on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Rail strikes: RMT boss calls for meeting with Sunak - The RMT's general secretary says a meeting between the two was the best hope of making progress.

UK weather: How long will the cold snap last? - A visual guide to what is causing the cold weather across the UK and how unusual it is for temperatures to fall so low in December.

Sam Ryder: A surfing accident changed my life - After he almost drowned, the star refocused on his music career and ended up singing at Eurovision.

The self-proclaimed kingdom that doesn't recognise Germany - Money, ID cards, flags, and even their own king: meet the Germans who refuse to recognise the state.

The Register

GitHub adds admin controls to Copilot, paints 'Business' on the side, doubles price - Ah, the enterprise way GitHub has launched a business version of its assistive programming service Copilot that provides administrators with a way to prevent suggestions using public source code.…

This ransomware gang is a right Royal pain in the AES for healthcare orgs - Nothing like your medical files being taken hostage for millions of dollars Newish ransomware gang Royal has been spotted targeting the healthcare sector, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said.…

Legit Android apps poisoned by sticky 'Zombinder' malware - Sure, go ahead and load APKs instead of using an app store. You won't enjoy the results Threat researchers have discovered an obfuscation platform that attaches malware to legitimate Android applications to lure users to install the malicious payload and make it difficult for security tools to detect.…

San Francisco investigates Hotel Twitter, Musk might pack up and leave - In a $3,000/month for a bedsit city, how many seconds do you think it took locals to call building inspector? Elon Musk's plans to allow some Twitter HQ employees to sleep on-site is running afoul of San Francisco building inspectors. Given Musk's responses to previous challenges to his authority, Twitter might be Texas-bound just like SpaceX and Tesla before it.…

Cassandra 4.1 promises dev guardrails and pluggable storage - Apache project focused on stability following previous major upgrade More than a year after its 4.0 major upgrade, Apache Cassandra is set to release its 4.1 iteration next week, promising pluggable schema management and new guardrails to help ops professionals keep those devs in line.…

New Scientist - News

JWST has broken the record for most distant galaxy ever confirmed - The James Webb Space Telescope has spotted the most distant galaxy ever definitively confirmed, which formed within about 325 million years of the big bang

LIGO may be able to detect alien warp drives using gravitational waves - If aliens were to make spacecraft as massive as Jupiter or ones that use warp drives, we might be able to detect them using the ripples they produce in space-time

Robot guides needle into lungs more accurately than human doctors - A robot guided a flexible needle into the lungs of pigs, outperforming humans using straight needles

Stimulating the vagus nerve may reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis - An implanted device that stimulates the vagus nerve reduced symptoms of multiple sclerosis in rats as effectively as standard medications

Light-based computer could outpace traditional electrical chip designs - A computer that uses light rather than electricity to transmit and manipulate data could carry out the same tasks faster and using less power

Hacker News

End-to-end encrypted messages need more than libsignal - Comments

A 100MW solar farm in Texas will mount panels directly on the ground - Comments

Ten Minute Physics - Comments

Pausing Manifest V2 phase-out changes - Comments

Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation, 3rd Ed - Comments

Slashdot

Swiss Data Protection Commissioner Orders Government To Publicly Release Surveillance Tech Export Licenses - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: "In an enormous breakthrough for those seeking transparency and accountability to the shadowy surveillance industry, the Swiss Government has been forced to publish the list of export licenses for surveillance technologies and other equipment, including details of their cost and destination," [reports The Unwanted Witness.] "The decision by the Federal Information and Data Protection Commissioner comes on the heels of consistent pressure from Privacy International, Swiss journalists, and several Members of Parliament on policymakers, government officials, and companies in Switzerland over the past year and a half. The commissioner's decision was the result of a FOI challenge filed against the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) for its refusal to reveal information regarding the destination of the pending exports for surveillance technologies." The beneficiary of this release by SECO is, of course, everyone who's interested in government accountability and transparency, especially when it involves an area of government work that tends to shrouded in often impenetrable secrecy. The most direct beneficiary -- Swiss news agency Tagblatt -- has plenty to say about the release of this information, including how much SECO simply did not want to reveal the countries Swiss surveillance tech providers sell to. (The following was translated by Google Translate, so apologies for the clunky English.) The Seco does not act entirely voluntarily: Our newspaper only received the list after it requested access to the administration in 2013 based on the principle of transparency. At the end of 2014, the federal data protection officer recommended granting access, although Seco wanted to refuse this. [The Data Protection Commissioner] picks [Seco's] arguments to pieces. It didn't even provide a minimal justification. But that's not all: Seco was unable to prove why the announcement of the recipients was affecting Switzerland's foreign policy relations. The technology these countries acquired from Swiss tech purveyors are IMSI catchers -- cell tower spoofers capable of forcing all phones in the area to connect to it so investigators can locate sought devices or (if enabled) intercept communications. Twenty-one export licenses were issued in 2014, with the list encompassing a long list of human rights abusers. [...] The approved list for full licenses doesn't exactly suggest a whole lot of discretion from Swiss IMSI manufacturers. Nor does it say much about SECO, which allowed these sales (and demonstrations) to happen. The list of denied license applications (which includes Russia, Yemen, and Turkmenistan) suggests some restraint by SECO. But the fact that Swiss spy tech makers requested the licenses shows they are just as willing to sell to terrible governments as other surveillance tech purveyors who've made international headlines repeatedly. (Yes, we're talking about Israel's NSO Group. And, to a lesser extent, Italy's Hacking Team.) "And it's not just IMSI catchers," says Techdirt's Tim Cushing. "Plenty of human rights violators were on the list of potential customers for internet surveillance tech sold by Swiss companies. That those violators were unable to access this tech is largely due to the Snowden leaks, which forced a lot of countries to look more closely at their own spying efforts and surveillance contractors." "That's a pretty nasty group of customers to want to sell to. And that the companies appear to have been deterred by a series of leaks suggests they were more motivated by potential backlash from the Snowden revelations, rather than any sense of responsibility or propriety." In closing, Cushing writes: "You don't have to sell to the worst governments in the world. But, like far too many other surveillance tech purveyors, Swiss companies seemed more than willing to sell powerful spy tech to governments they knew with certainty would abuse it." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Saudi Arabia's Sci-Fi Megacity Is Well Underway - Mark Harris writes via MIT Technology Review: In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a "civilizational revolution" that would house up to 9 million people in a zero-carbon megacity, 170 kilometers long and half a kilometer high but just 200 meters wide. Within its mirrored, car-free walls, residents would be whisked around in underground trains and electric air taxis. Satellite images of the $500 billion project obtained exclusively by MIT Technology Review show that the Line's vast linear building site is already taking shape, running as straight as an arrow across the deserts and through the mountains of northern Saudi Arabia. The site, tens of meters deep in places, is teeming with many hundreds of construction vehicles and likely thousands of workers, themselves housed in sprawling bases nearby. Analysis of the satellite images by Soar Earth, an Australian startup that aggregates satellite imagery and crowdsourced maps into an online digital atlas, suggests that the workers have already excavated around 26 million cubic meters of earth and rock -- 78 times the volume of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Official drone footage of The Line's construction site, released in October, indeed showed fleets of bulldozers, trucks, and diggers excavating its foundations. Visit The Line's location on Google Maps and Google Earth, however, and you will see little more than bare rock and sand. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

DeepMind Created An AI Tool That Can Help Generate Rough Film and Stage Scripts - Alphabet's DeepMind has built an AI tool that can help generate rough film and stage scripts Engadget's Kris Holt reports: Dramatron is a so-called "co-writing" tool that can generate character descriptions, plot points, location descriptions and dialogue. The idea is that human writers will be able to compile, edit and rewrite what Dramatron comes up with into a proper script. Think of it like ChatGPT, but with output that you can edit into a blockbuster movie script. To get started, you'll need an OpenAI API key and, if you want to reduce the risk of Dramatron outputting "offensive text," a Perspective API key. To test out Dramatron, I fed in the log line for a movie idea I had when I was around 15 that definitely would have been a hit if Kick-Ass didn't beat me to the punch. Dramatron quickly whipped up a title that made sense, and character, scene and setting descriptions. The dialogue that the AI generated was logical but trite and on the nose. Otherwise, it was almost as if Dramatron pulled the descriptions straight out of my head, including one for a scene that I didn't touch on in the log line. Playwrights seemed to agree, according to a paper (PDF) that the team behind Dramatron presented today. To test the tool, the researchers brought in 15 playwrights and screenwriters to co-write scripts. According to the paper, playwrights said they wouldn't use the tool to craft a complete play and found that the AI's output can be formulaic. However, they suggested Dramatron would be useful for world building or to help them explore other approaches in terms of changing plot elements or characters. They noted that the AI could be handy for "creative idea generation" too. That said, a playwright staged four plays that used "heavily edited and rewritten scripts" they wrote with the help of Dramatron. DeepMind said that in the performance, experienced actors with improv skills "gave meaning to Dramatron scripts through acting and interpretation." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple Sued By Stalking Victims Over Alleged AirTag Tracking - schwit1 shares a report from Popular Science: [T]wo women filed a potential class action lawsuit against Apple, alleging the company has ignored critics' and security experts' repeated warnings that the company's AirTag devices are being repeatedly used to stalk and harass people. Both individuals were targets of past abuse from ex-partners and argued in the filing that Apple's subsequent safeguard solutions remain wholly inadequate for consumers. "With a price point of just $29, it has become the weapon of choice of stalkers and abusers," reads a portion of the lawsuit, as The New York Times reported [...]. Apple first debuted AirTags in April 2021. Within the ensuing eight months, at least 150 police reports from just eight precincts reviewed by Motherboard explicitly mentioned abusers utilizing the tracking devices to stalk and harass women. In the new lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that one woman's abuser hid the location devices within her car's wheel well. At the same time, the other woman's abuser placed one in their child's backpack following a contentious divorce, according to the suit. Security experts have since cautioned that hundreds more similar situations likely remain unreported or even undetected. The lawsuit (PDF), published by Ars Technica, cites them as "one of the products that has revolutionized the scope, breadth, and ease of location-based stalking," arguing that "what separates the AirTag from any competitor product is its unparalleled accuracy, ease of use (it fits seamlessly into Apple's existing suite of products), and affordability." The proposed class action lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for owners of iOS or Android devices which have been tracked with an AirTag or are at risk of being stalked. Since AirTags' introduction last year, at least two murders have occurred directly involving using Apple's surveillance gadget, according to the lawsuit. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Passkey Support Rolls Out To Chrome Stable - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Following Google's beta rollout of the feature in October, passkeys are now hitting Chrome stable M108. "Passkey" is built on industry standards and backed by all the big platform vendors -- Google, Apple, Microsoft -- along with the FIDO Alliance. Google's latest blog says: "With the latest version of Chrome, we're enabling passkeys on Windows 11, macOS, and Android." The Google Password Manager on Android is ready to sync all your passkeys to the cloud, and if you can meet all the hardware requirements and find a supporting service, you can now sign-in to something with a passkey. [...] Now that this is actually up and running on Chrome 108 and a supported OS, you should be able to see the passkey screen under the "autofill" section of the Chrome settings (or try pasting chrome://settings/passkeys into the address bar). Next up we'll need more websites and services to actually support using a passkey instead of a password to sign in. Google Account support would be a good first step -- right now you can use a passkey for two-factor authentication with Google, but you can't replace your password yet. Everyone's go-to example of passkeys is the passkeys.io demo site, which we have a walkthrough of here. Read more of this story at Slashdot.