Democrat asks FCC chair if anything can stop net neutrality rollback

US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.) yesterday accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of pursuing an agenda that harms both consumers and small businesses.

“Chairman Pai, in the time that you have been head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” Doyle said during an FCC oversight hearing held by the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Doyle pointed to several of Pai’s decisions, including ending a net neutrality investigation into what Doyle called “anti-competitive zero-rating practices” by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Doyle criticized Pai moves that made it more difficult for poor people to get broadband subsidies and made it easier for large TV broadcasters to merge. The latter decision would “enable an unprecedented merger between Sinclair and Tribune that would give the combined entity a foothold in nearly 80 percent of American households,” Doyle said. (The exact figure is 72 percent of US households with TVs.)

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Olive Garden apologizes to AllOfGarden blog, offers $50 gift card

The man behind the AllOfGarden.com blog wrote Tuesday that he has been granted a “total pardon”—as he described it in a four-stanza limerick.

Said blogger, Vincent “Vino” Malone, is the proprietor of AllOfGarden.com, a website that chronicles a quest to eat as much Olive Garden pasta as possible (via the Never Ending Pasta Pass).

Last week, Malone announced that he had received what appeared to be a legal demand e-mail from Darden, Olive Garden’s parent company, claiming alleged trademark infringement, because he used the phrase “Olive Garden” on his website. Malone ridiculed the demand in a response that he posted publicly, in which he accurately described the concept of “nominative fair use”—the trademark equivalent of fair use in copyright law.

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Officials arrest suspect in $4 billion Bitcoin money laundering scheme

Police in Greece have arrested a man wanted in the United States for allegedly running a massive Bitcoin-based money laundering operation, according to the Associated Press. Authorities say the 38-year-old Russian man was responsible for converting $4 billion in illicit, conventional cash into virtual currency.

The suspect hasn’t been publicly named, but Reuters got a picture of him being arrested. According to Reuters, he was arrested in the “Greek region of Chalkidiki on Monday on a US warrant.”

The news is a reminder that—like ordinary cash—Bitcoin has a wide variety of uses, both legitimate and illicit. Bitcoin boosters like to focus on potential applications like international remittances, micropayments, and conventional retail sales. But Bitcoin has become the payment network of choice for “dark web” markets for drugs and other illicit merchandise, from the original Silk Road—shut down in 2014—to the recently-busted Alphabay.

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Who owns Snopes? Fracas over fact-checking site now front and center

As of Tuesday evening, Snopes.com, one of the Internet’s most longstanding fact-checking websites, successfully raised over $600,000 in less than 48 hours—an effort to stay afloat while an ugly legal battle is underway.

Snopes’ founder, David Mikkelson, told Ars in a lengthy phone interview that a Web development company, Proper Media, and two of its founders have essentially held the website “hostage” for months, keeping both data and money that should have gone to Snopes’ parent company, Bardav.

Bardav and Proper Media, which also runs other websites including TVTropes.org, made a business deal together that Bardav then cancelled in March 2017. Proper Media sued in May, alleging breach of contract, among other allegations. Mikkelson and Bardav countersued in June 2017.

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UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040

All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from UK roads from 2040, the government will announce on Wednesday in a revised “controversial bomb” air pollution plan.

The Tory government published a draft air pollution plan in May, but it faced criticism from environment lawyers and clean air campaigners for being too floppy at curbing the nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths in the UK each year. The High Court demanded that a final version of the plan be published by the end of July—and so here we are.

In addition to following in France’s footsteps with an internal combustion engine ban by 2040, the plan mostly focuses on empowering local councils to make major changes to their road systems. Reprogramming traffic lights, removing or redesigning speed bumps (!) and roundabouts, and retrofitting buses are all being mooted as possible ways of reducing air pollution.

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Whistleblower calls out problems with military drone accuracy and ethics

Ars Technica Live #15, produced by Jennifer Hahn and filmed by Chris Schodt.
(video link)

Lisa Ling served almost two decades in the Air National Guard, working on communications technology and drones. After an honorable discharge, she discovered her work had led to the deaths of hundreds of people. On our latest episode of Ars Technica Live, she tells Ars editors Annalee Newitz and Cyrus Farivar how that experience turned her into a whistleblower.

Civilians know almost nothing about military drone programs, and Lisa told us that it wasn’t much better on the inside. She joined the National Guard to be a nurse, but her technical skills quickly got her moved into a role working with computers and comms equipment. After a few years of that, she was reassigned to work on drones. But she didn’t realize, at first, what she was building.

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US Energy Secretary takes 22-minute prank call from “Ukrainian Prime Minister”

Last week, US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a phone call from two men he thought were the Ukrainian Prime Minister and his translator. But the 22-minute-long phone call was actually two Russian pranksters, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, otherwise known as the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” in the style of an American prank call duo from the 1990s, according to Bloomberg.

The Washington Post confirmed the conversation with the Department of Energy. In audio originally posted on a Russian website and reposted elsewhere, the dialogue touched on a Baltic Sea pipeline that would pump Russian gas, as well as an expansion of coal and oil and gas interests in Ukraine. Early in the conversation, Secretary Perry tells the pranksters that “the [Trump] administration is broadly supportive of sanctions against Russia at this particular point in time,” and later he offers that “negotiation is always possible” on coal exports to Ukraine.

The Secretary also advised the “Prime Minister” that, without transparency about regulations and geological data about where wells have been or could be drilled, it would be hard for the US to help oil and gas companies expand exploration in Ukraine.

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Patent-holder that sued EFF for defamation won’t show up in court

An Australian patent-holding company that’s filed dozens of federal lawsuits can’t seem to find its way into court, now that it’s facing off with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Global Equity Management SA, or GEMSA, spent much of 2016 filing lawsuits against big companies in the Eastern District of Texas. It claimed various major websites—including Expedia, Zillow, and Airbnb—infringe its patents on “virtual cabinets.”

The company’s intensive campaign of lawsuits won it a special place in the pantheon of patent-holders, when GEMSA became the subject of EFF’s long-running series, “Stupid Patent of the Month.”

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