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FCC will also order states to scrap plans for their own net neutrality laws

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Enlarge / Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for his confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service.

This detail was revealed by senior FCC officials in a phone briefing with reporters today, and it is a victory for broadband providers that asked for widespread preemption of state laws. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposed order finds that state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the US government's policy of deregulating broadband Internet service, FCC officials said. The FCC will vote on the order at its December 14 meeting.

It isn't clear yet exactly how extensive the preemption will be. Preemption would clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections. Pai's staff said that states and other localities do not have jurisdiction over broadband because it is an interstate service and that it would subvert federal policy for states and localities to impose their own rules.

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British water utilities admit they use divining rods to find leaks

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Enlarge / A woman—but probably not a British water professional—uses a divining rod. (credit: VeloBusDriver)

Ten out of 12 water utilities in the United Kingdom admitted that their technicians use divining rods to find underground leaks or water pipes, according to an investigation by science blogger Sally Le Page.

Dowsing is a centuries-old technique for locating underground water. Someone searching for water holds two parallel sticks—or sometimes a single Y-shaped stick—called divining rods while walking in an area where there might be water under the surface. The branches supposedly twitch when they're over a water source.

Needless to say, there's zero scientific evidence that this technique actually works better than random chance. But Le Page got a bunch of UK water companies to admit that their technicians still employ the superstitious practice.

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Report: Uber paid hackers $100,000 to keep 2016 data breach quiet

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Enlarge (credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In a public statement, Uber has announced that it sustained a massive data breach in 2016: 57 million customers’ and drivers’ names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers were compromised.

According to Bloomberg, no trip location info, credit card information, or Social Security numbers was taken.

Uber did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

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An Ethereum Startup Just Vanished After People Invested $374K

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A startup on the Ethereum platform vanished from the internet on Sunday after raising $374,000 USD from investors in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraiser.

Confido is a startup that pitched itself as a blockchain-based app for making payments and tracking shipments. It sold digital tokens to investors over the Ethereum blockchain in an ICO that ran from November 6 to 8. During the token sale, Confido sold people bespoke digital tokens that represent their investment in exchange for ether, Ethereum’s digital currency.

But on Sunday, the company unceremoniously deleted its Twitter account and took down its website. A company representative posted a brief comment to the company’s now-private subforum on Reddit, citing legal problems that prevent the Confido team from continuing their work. The same message was also posted to Medium but quickly deleted.

“Right now, we are in a tight spot, as we are having legal trouble caused by a contract we signed,” the message stated (a cached version of the Medium post is viewable). “It is likely that we will be able to find a solution to rectify the situation. However, we cannot assure you with 100% certainty that we will get through this.” The message was apparently written by Confido’s founder, one Joost van Doorn, who seems to have no internet presence besides a now-removed LinkedIn profile.

Read More: Ethereum's Biggest Hacking Problem Is Human Greed

Even the Confido representative on Reddit doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, though, posting hours after the initial message, “Look I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. The removal of all of our social media platforms and website has come as a complete surprise to me.” Motherboard reached out to this representative over Reddit, but hasn’t received a response.

Confido tokens had a market cap of $10 million last week, before the company disappeared, but now the tokens are worthless. And investors are crying foul.

“I got scammed big time,” user cioloxl wrote in the Confido thread on popular cryptocurrency forum Bitcointalk. “This was a very valuable lesson for me, in both senses of the word.” Another user, masternode, was more measured, but no less angry. “This is a punch in every single investor's face,” they wrote.

At this point it’s unclear what will happen to the $374,000 that investors put into the Confido project. At the very least, TokenLot, the website that ran the ICO on behalf of Confido (TokenLot does this for many startups), sounds like it’s having a busy day. “We’re the only remnant online right now in terms of people contacting us asking for answers,” said Eli Lewitt, co-founder of TokenLot, over the phone. “These were very good scammers.”

While many cryptocurrencies are still trying to find a useful application in the real world, Ethereum has become a darling among financial types because ICOs allow startups to raise huge investments in lightning-fast funding rounds. But a dark spectre has loomed over the frenzy since the digital gold rush began: What happens if a bad actor is hiding out among the bunch, and simply disappears?

Well, we might be about to find out.

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Meg Whitman to Step Down as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise C.E.O.

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Meg Whitman is stepping down as chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise six years after joining its corporate predecessor and leading a turnaround effort that split the Silicon Valley corporate icon in two.

Ms. Whitman, 61, will retire in February, the company said on Tuesday. She will be succeeded by Antonio Neri, 50, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s president.

Ms. Whitman took the helm at Hewlett-Packard in 2011, nine months after joining the company’s board, following her failed bid in 2010 to become the governor of California. She had spent more than $100 million of her own money on her Republican campaign, losing to Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

At Hewlett-Packard, Ms. Whitman inherited an aging, troubled company and delivered mixed results. She oversaw rounds of cost-cutting and then decided to break up the company. Ms. Whitman went with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which took the business software and hardware operations of the parent company. The other half of the company, HP Inc., houses the printer and personal computer business.

The job at Hewlett-Packard presented a very different challenge from her first stint in the tech world. In 1998, she joined a fledgling start-up, eBay, steering it as it rode the early growth of the internet and making Ms. Whitman a billionaire.

“At HP, she was handed a tough hand in a legacy business — the opposite of eBay,” said A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst Bernstein Research. “She was a complete realist about the business, and generally did a good job.”

Ms. Whitman is one of the nation’s most prominent female executives. Before joining eBay, she already had an impressive resume — a Harvard M.B.A. with management jobs at some of the nation’s top companies, including Procter & Gamble, Bain & Company, Walt Disney and Hasbro.

Ms. Whitman was one of the three finalists to succeed Travis Kalanick as chief executive at Uber this year after he left the company, which he co-founded, over concerns that his leadership had helped it become a toxic workplace.

At Hewlett-Packard, Ms. Whitman tried to revive growth, but it was an uphill struggle, so she split the company in 2014. She cut costs at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which sells computer servers and data storage, networking, software and technology services to corporate customers, and pursued partnerships and deals to compete with larger rivals like IBM, Oracle, Cisco and Dell. The payroll shrank to about 60,000 employees from about 210,000.

In a $13.5 billion transaction completed this year, for example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise combined its services business with Computer Sciences Corporation to create a separate company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, called DXC Technology.

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise that has emerged, Ms. Whitman said this year, will be a streamlined company with “a crystal-clear mission” to help its business customers achieve the payoff from new technologies, including cloud computing, data analytics and the internet of things.

The company has also sought to strengthen its remaining businesses with a handful of acquisitions, including the $1.1 billion purchase this year of Nimble Storage, a start-up and a leader in the fast-growing market for so-called flash storage.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s share price is about where it was when it became a stand-alone company. But including share buybacks and dividend payments totaling nearly $18 billion, the total shareholder return is 89 percent, the company said.

In after-hours trading on Tuesday, Hewlett Packard Enterprise shares fell nearly 7 percent.

In a brief interview on Tuesday, Ms. Whitman said it had been a “privilege” to lead Hewlett-Packard through the challenges of recent years. The two companies that emerged, she said, are leaner, more innovative and healthy competitors in the modern technology industry. “I’m really proud of that,” Ms. Whitman said.

Her plans, she said, are not yet set. Ms. Whitman said she would take time off and go skiing, and she is the incoming chairwoman of Teach for America. Other than that, Ms. Whitman said, “I don’t know.”

She added: “I’ve been working straight for 35 years. I’m going to enjoy some downtime.”


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This Flat Earther Is Taking Off in a Homemade Rocket This Weekend

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Earth is round. This is not a highly disputed fact, unless you're a member of the 16th-century Roman Inquisition or the rapper B.o.B. And yet, thanks to an immeasurably flawed conspiracy theory, a small but dedicated group of people is still convinced that Earth is flat. One of these so-called Flat Earthers is a guy named "Mad" Mike Hughes, and Hughes—a 61-year-old limo driver—has spent the past few years building a homemade, steam-powered rocket in his garage to prove he's right.

This Saturday, Hughes will climb aboard and launch himself and the rocket up into the air, hoping to move one step closer to demonstrating, once and for all, that the world as we know it is actually a flat disk with a giant wall of ice around it, the Associated Press reports.

"I don’t believe in science," Hughes told the AP. "I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction."

Hughes will launch his rocket—which cost him about $20,000 to build and is sponsored by the group Research Flat Earth—Saturday afternoon over Amboy, a ghost town in California. He expects to hit speeds of up to 500 MPH.

"If you’re not scared to death, you’re an idiot," Hughes said. "It’s scary as hell, but none of us are getting out of this world alive. I like to do extraordinary things that no one else can do, and no one in the history of mankind has designed, built, and launched himself in his own rocket."

Hughes already took to the skies back in 2014, when he launched himself 1,374 feet into the air in an earlier rocket. He survived, but reportedly needed three days to recover from the effects of the G-forces.

Saturday's launch will be available to watch live on "Internet PPV," according to Hughes's personal website. If he pulls off the mission, Hughes told the AP, he plans to start work on a rocket that will take him even higher, hoping to eventually make it to space and see the big, flat Necco wafer that is our planet with his own eyes.

"Nothing is out of reach," Hughes said. "Anything can be done. You just have to put enough money, time, and thought into it."

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