Category Archives: Technology

Skull Discovery In South Africa Indicates Human Family Tree More Diverse for Longer Than Previously Thought

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A species belonging to the human family tree whose remnants were first discovered in a South African cave in 2013 lived several hundred thousand years ago, indicating that the creature was alive at the same time as early humans in Africa, scientists said Tuesday.

A meticulous dating process showed that Homo naledi (nah-LEH-dee), which had a mix of human-like and more primitive characteristics such as a small brain, existed in a surprisingly recent period in paleontological terms, said Prof. Lee Berger of The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Berger led the team of researchers, which also announced that it had found a second cave with more fossils of the Homo naledi species, including a relatively well-preserved skull of an adult male.

The conclusion that Homo naledi was living between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago — and had not become extinct much earlier — shows that the human “Homo” family tree was more diverse than previously thought at that point in the evolution of our species, Homo sapiens, said John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wits University.

The next step in research is to “sort the relationship of these different species to each other and also their role in our process of becoming human,” Hawks said during an announcement of the discoveries at the Cradle of Humankind, a site near the South African town of Magaliesburg where the fossils were found. The research was also published in the journal eLife.

The name of Homo naledi refers to the “Homo” evolutionary group, which includes modern people and our closest extinct relatives, and the word for “star” in the local Sotho language. The fossils were found in the Rising Star cave system, which includes more than 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of underground, mapped passageways. The second chamber containing the more recent fossil discoveries is more than 100 meters (330 feet) from the cave where the original discoveries were made, and publicly announced in 2015.

Some experts who were not involved in the research also marveled at the age of the fossils, determined by dating Homo naledi teeth and cave sediments.

“This is astonishingly young for a species that still displays primitive characteristics found in fossils about two million years old, such as the small brain size, curved fingers, and form of the shoulder, trunk and hip joint. Yet, the wrist, hands, legs and feet look more like those of Neanderthals and modern humans, and the teeth are relatively small and simple and set in lightly built jawbones,” Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Stringer said there were parallels with the late survival of the species Homo floresiensis — also known as the “hobbit” — in apparent isolation on an island in what is today Indonesia and raised a key question: “How did a comparably strange and small-brained species linger on in southern Africa, seemingly alongside more ‘advanced’ humans?”

Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington said it was likely that Homo naledi evolved and persisted in isolation from other species of Homo.

‘”Island habitats’” can occur on continents, too, in small environmental refuges that are sustained long term,” Potts said. “Yes, on continents it’s typically lizards, butterflies, fish, and small mammals that are susceptible to separation and isolated evolution, and the effects of that isolation can arise rapidly. To me, naledi and floresiensis are nature’s experiments of isolated evolution in two of our evolutionary cousins.”

Berger, the research team leader, said the discovery of a second chamber with Homo naledi remains gives more credence to the idea that the species deliberately disposed of its dead in pitch-black caves that are extremely difficult to reach. However, some experts who were not on the research team questioned whether the small-brained species was capable of such behavior and speculated that other ways to access the chambers may have existed in the past.

So far, there is no evidence that Homo naledi used stone tools or harnessed fire for its own uses.

The new discoveries offer a unifying message that counters populism, intolerance and ethnic prejudice sweeping many parts of the world, said Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand.

“This research shows that we come from common roots, that we represent a common humanity,” Habib said. “If we’re going to survive as a species, that’s what we need to remember.”

By Associated Press

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ne-Yo Invests $2.3 Million in Holberton School, a Free Coding Academy, to help Diversify Tech

Ne-Yo with the Holberton founders Sylvain Kalache and Julien Barbier and Trinity Partner Dan Scholnick (photo via Holberton School)

by Biz Carson via businessinsider.com

The idea of a coding school that charges no upfront tuition was intriguing to Ne-Yo. The Grammy Award-winning artist is certainly not the first musician to invest in Silicon Valley, but he’s one that wants to put his talents and money into helping to solve the diversity challenges facing the tech industry.

On Thursday, Holberton School plans to announce that Ne-Yo invested in the coding academy’s most-recent $2.3 million funding round and is joining its Board of Trustees as a result. “This is not a realistic career for people who came up like me. It’s more realistic to do what I do, be a singer or an NBA star,” Ne-Yo said during a party celebrating his new role at Holberton hosted by Trinity Ventures in San Francisco. “Thanks to these guys it now is,” Ne-Yo said. “I have a platform, and I’m going to use this platform to spread the word.”

While there are plenty of coding schools and bootcamps abound, the Holberton School is taking a different approach by charging no upfront tuition for students to enroll. Instead, graduates have to contribute about 17% of their salaries or internship pay to the school for three years after graduation. Already, Holberton’s free (at least upfront) approach has helped the coding school attract a wide-range of people wanting to break into the tech industry.

Women constitute 40% of its students, and 53% of the student body is people of color.Specifically, Ne-Yo wants to attract more Hispanics and blacks to the coding school based in San Francisco. The school is able to keep its costs low by not hiring formal teachers or giving lectures. Instead much of the curriculum is based around students working on specific projects and helping teach each other. They also work with mentors from companies like Uber and LinkedIn to finish the two-year program.

Already, some of Holberton’s students have interned or been hired at companies like Apple, NASA, and Dropbox. While the coding school is still only about 18 months old, it’s early success is already attracting heavy-hitters like Ne-Yo, along with existing investors including Trinity Ventures, Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang, and Jerry Murdock, co-founder of Insight Venture Partners. “I’m very, very excited about this,” Ne-Yo said at the celebration. “Let’s make Holberton one of the biggest schools on the face of the planet.”

To read full article, go to: Ne-Yo invests in Holberton School, a free coding school – Business Insider

by Biz Carson/businessinsider

Posted by The NON-Conformist

‘Wholesale disregard for customers’ privacy’: Bose Corp sued over spying headphone app

‘Wholesale disregard for customers’ privacy’: Bose Corp sued over spying headphone app

Getty Images

Massachusetts-based headphones and speakers producer, Bose Corp, is facing a lawsuit after being accused of covertly collecting data about its customers through a headphones app and then selling those private details to some data mining companies.

The lawsuit accuses the company of violating a number of privacy protection laws by “secretly collecting, transmitting and disclosing its customers’ private music and audio selections to third parties.” The complaint against the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company was filed by an Illinois resident, Kyle Zak, in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday.

Zak said he downloaded the free Bose Connect app available on Apple Inc or Google Play stores to his smartphone to “get the most out of your headphones.” He also said that he provided the company with his name, email address and headphone serial number to download the app.

However, he was surprised when he found out that Bose sent “all available media information” from his smartphone to some third-party companies. The complainant particularly said that the app sent the customers’ data to the Segment.io data mining company that said on its website it collects personal data and could send it “anywhere.”

The complaint filed to the court says that audio choices, including both music and audio podcasts could offer “an incredible amount of insight” into customers’ personalities, including their religious views, sexual orientation and even their state of health.

“For example, a person that listens to Muslim prayer services through his headphones or speakers is very likely a Muslim, a person that listens to the Ashamed, Confused, And In the Closet Podcast is very likely a homosexual in need of a support system, and a person that listens to The Body’s HIV/AIDS Podcast is very likely an individual that has been diagnosed and is living with HIV or AIDS. None of the defendant’s customers could have ever anticipated that these types of music and audio selections would be recorded and sent to, of all people, a third party data miner for analysis,” the complaint says, as cited by the International Business Times.

“People should be uncomfortable with it,” Christopher Dore, an attorney representing Zak, told Reuters, adding that “people put headphones on their head because they think it’s private, but they can be giving out information they don’t want to share.”

He also stressed that the app’s user service and privacy agreements do not mention anything about data collection. Zak now wants to stop the data collection by Bose Corp, which he says violates the US federal Wiretap Act and Illinois laws against eavesdropping and consumer fraud.

“Defendants’ conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights,” the complaint said, as cited by Reuters.

Zak is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in damages not only for himself but also for other buyers of headphones and speakers of various Bose models, including QuietComfort 35, QuietControl 30, SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II, SoundLink Color II, SoundSport Wireless and SoundSport Pulse Wireless.

The company, which earlier said its annual sales exceed $3.5 billion, has not commented on the issue so far.

READ MORE: California bill seeks to crack down on ‘smart’ toys & potential spy gadgets

The lawsuit against Bose Corp is just the latest in a series of complaints against the companies seeking to boost profit by secretly collecting their customers’ data to press more goods on them or just to sell it to some third parties.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Russia to build 2 nuclear power plants in Iran

Russian experts will help the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) construct two new nuclear power plants in the country’s southern city of Bushehr, according to Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian.

“The contract has been signed between the AEOI and Russia, and includes building two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants, the construction of which is about to start,” said Chitchian.

can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ confirms https://www.rt.com/news/382523-russia-iran-bases-use/?utm_source=browser&utm_medium=aplication_chrome&utm_campaign=chrome#.WNoi8dXwm_U.twitter 

Photo published for Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases ‘on case by case basis,’ Tehran confirms — RT News

Russia can use Iranian military bases for airstrikes targeting terrorists in Syria on a “case by case basis,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters.

rt.com

Russian energy major Gazprom has sealed a cooperation agreement with its Iranian counterpart for the development of local gas deposits.

During his visit to Moscow last month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani highlighted the importance of the energy sector in bilateral relations and the possible creation of a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union that includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Manhunt underway for CIA ‘traitor’ who leaked ‘Vault 7’ to WikiLeaks – report

The FBI and CIA are investigating hundreds of possible suspects in one of the biggest security breaches in CIA history, CBS News reports. The WikiLeaks “Vault 7” release, which contained thousands of top-secret documents, revealed the agency’s hacking tools.

A joint investigation and manhunt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency into the source of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” dump last month has begun, CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reported Wednesday evening.

The release last month brought to light the CIA’s digital arsenal for hacking into computer systems and smart devices such as phones and televisions. Thousands of top-secret classified files that had previously been guarded within a “highly secure section of the intelligence agency,” as CBS News sources described it, were made available to the world for free by WikiLeaks.

The source of the leak, the FBI and CIA reportedly believe, was one of the hundreds of agents or contractors who had physical access to the material, not an outside hacker. That suspicion seems to align with what WikiLeaks said in their press release announcing the Vault 7 release on March 7.

“The archive appears to have been circulated among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive,” the pro-transparency group said.

Unnamed US intelligence sources told Reuters within a day of the release that the CIA had been anticipating it since near the end of 2016.

The FBI and CIA coordinated reviews of the incident and a criminal investigation was opened within a day of the release, the Washington Post reported at the time, based on an unnamed former intelligence official who said to expect “another major mole hunt.”

Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell told CBS News less than a week after the release that the leak “has to be an inside job,” as the data was on a CIA top secret network “not connected to any other network.”

Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Ed Snowden tweeted hours after the release that “only a cleared insider” could be responsible for the leak.

Last week, in his first public comments in his new position, CIA director Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” and called founder Julian Assange a “demon.”

Assange on Wednesday hit back at Pompeo on ‘The Intercepted’ podcast with Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, accusing him of attacking WikiLeaks “to get ahead of the publicity curve.”

“In fact, the reason Pompeo is launching this attack is because he understands we are exposing in this series all sorts of illegal actions by the CIA, so he’s trying to get ahead of the publicity curve and create a preemptive defense,” Assange said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Internet privacy rules removed by Congress

Internet providers will not be required to ask permission to sell customers’ browsing habits, including medical information, shopping habits and even pornography preferences after Congress voted to roll back Obama-era regulations.

The House of Representatives voted 215 to 205 in favor of eliminating restrictions of internet service providers (ISP) and their ability to sell their customer’s information on Tuesday. The protections were planned to be enacted by the end of 2017 and would have forced ISPs to get permission from their customers before selling their internet browsing and app habits to advertisers.

The vote was largely bipartisan, with those in favor being exclusively Republican. However, several Republican lawmakers crossed over to vote against eliminating the privacy measures. Last Thursday, a Senate vote set the stage for the House of Representatives to send the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk after they voted exclusively on party lines against the measures.

The planned protections were proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and would have prevented ISPs and broadband providers from selling information, including where customers bank, shop, browse, their political views and even sexual orientation.

Those in favor of eliminating the protection measures have claimed that preventing ISPs from requiring consumer consent for customer information will eliminate competition among providers.

In a press release, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) defended rolling back the protections, saying the FCC’s privacy policy “has the potential to limit consumer choice, stifle innovation, and jeopardize data security by destabilizing the internet ecosystem.

Supporters of the FCC regulations believe the repeal will only benefit broadband providers.

Instead of making the industry more competitive, what this bill wants to do is give these four or five ISPs even more power,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-California) told The Guardian.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting privacy on the internet, released a statement saying “should President Donald Trump sign S.J. Res. 34 into law, big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways.

For internet users who want to protect their privacy from ISPs, the options are slim going forward. Some may choose to utilize a virtual private network (VPN), a frequently paid service that routes all internet traffic through one server not directly connected to the user. However, many sites like Netflix try to ban VPN users from utilizing their services.

Others may move over to using Tor, a more complex server that could leave users open to malicious servers.

Repealing the FCC’s regulations is not a done deal, yet. President Trump has yet to sign off on SJ Res 34, leaving opponents room for a Hail Mary. The EFF’s Jeremy Gillula told the Guardian, “I think we’d try to convince President Trump that signing a bill that helps big corporate interests by eliminating Americans’ privacy and weakening their cybersecurity isn’t exactly ‘draining the swamp.’

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Watch This Trained Eagle Take Down A Flying Drone

As more and more civilians start flying drones, there will probably be an exponential rise in situations where authorities need to quickly take down a poorly-navigated drone hovering above a stadium or government building.

But, since drone companies have yet to provide any sort of backdoor to manually takeover the device’s controls, authorities are on their own in figuring out how to safely take down drones mid-flight.

One Dutch company, Guard From Above, has taken the innovative approach of training birds of prey to physically takedown the UAVs.

The company, which works “mainly for national and international governmental security agencies”, is currently partnering with the Dutch National Police on a trial basis to determine if using birds of prey are a realistic method for taking down drones.

Luckily, the Dutch National Police realize that while using an eagle is definitely the coolest way to take down a drone, it’s not always going to be a realistic method. So, the force is also looking into using “nets and electronic means” to complement their arsenal of falcons and eagles.

As you’d expect, the Dutch aren’t the only law enforcement agency trying to figure out the best way to take down a drone. Last month, Tokyo Police released a clip of officers flying drones with large nets to “catch” and take down smaller drones mid-flight.

And, lest we forget that these are live animals, the Dutch National Science Institute assures readers that they are looking into making sure that no birds are harmed in the line of duty.

By Fitz Tepper/TechCrunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist