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After a late Senate vote after midnight on Friday, the NSA is starting to take moves to shut down its bulk surveillance programs. With the legal foundation of those programs, the Patriot Act, set to expire at the end of the month, lawmakers have been working to agree on which parts of the mass surveillance systems should stay and which should go. The Senate failed to pass a replacement bill, the USA Freedom Act, and another measure proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to extend the program as-is also did not pass.

"That process has begun."

In response to the news, officials said that the NSA would have to start taking action to prepare to shut down its bulk surveillance programs, like those that controversially collect "metadata" on millions of phone calls. According to The Los Angeles Times, an official now says that "that process has begun." If Congress can't agree to either limit or renew the Patriot Act, the NSA will have to end its programs that rely on the broad language of that bill, which was originally passed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

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Unprecedented rainfall has led to deadly flooding in Texas and Oklahoma over the weekend, prompting numerous evacuations and rescues and killing one firefighter.

Heavy rains were pushing into eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Sunday morning, after dumping between five and 10 inches across parts of central Texas and Oklahoma on Saturday and Saturday night. The latest downpours pushed Oklahoma City into record territory, with 18.19 inches of rain so far in the month of May.

This not only makes May 2015 the wettest May on record, but also vaults the month to the top of the list of wettest months of all-time. This May handily beat the previous record-holder, which was June of 1989, when 14.66 inches fell — and the month is not over yet.

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Posted by on in RE/Code
Steve Case helps Walt Mossberg out for an Innovation Nation video.

Re/code

Steve Case helps Walt Mossberg out for an Innovation Nation video.

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Posted by on in Wired

Video Credit: iRobot

The Internet of Things is plagued by communication breakdowns. While connected thermostats, egg trays, and even forks can beam data to apps and offer phone-based controls, this isn’t exactly what we were promised from this technology.

In order for the Internet of Everything to achieve its real promise of context-aware automation without much user input, disparate pieces of hardware must communicate with one another, understand what’s going on, and control themselves accordingly. Like a sentient being, your home should “know” when to preheat the oven, turn on a bedside lamp, or brew a fresh pot of coffee. If you’re using an app, you’re essentially using a remote control. There’s nothing particularly “smart” about that.

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Editor’s note: Leyla Seka is the SVP and GM of Salesforce Desk.

Over the past few months there’s been a lot of discussion about whether women are positioned for success in Silicon Valley. The debate on empowering women in tech ranges from pay equality to increasing the number of women in the boardroom. Still, it’s encouraging to see many women who are driving their own success and supporting each other. There are a lot of positive things that we can start doing now to help ourselves, our children and each other.

Change your thinking

The chasm between men and women starts in childhood, with the messages that are given to girls. A lot of girls don’t think it’s cool to be smart, and especially not to be good at math. Most teenagers are desperate to fit in. Why else would I have curled my hair and opted for neon tops with Guess jeans?  When I got to college and had to make the choice between learning to code and taking an econ class, I practically ran to econ. Coding was for guys.

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At any given moment there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the Web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find there’s no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there – alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Sprite — Ultraportable canister drone

Sprite

Generally speaking, existing drones just aren’t that portable. You can’t put them in a backpack, and you can’t fold them up.  Sprite wants to change all that. It’s durable, water-resistant, and uses a coaxial rotor design (that’s two rotors stacked one atop the other), making it more compact than competitors. The entire cylindrical aircraft is just 3.8 inches in diameter, 13.2 inches long, and weighs 2.6 pounds.

The basic model Sprite will contain an onboard GPS, programmable autopilot controls, and a gimbal-stabilized HD camera capable of capturing 1080p video and still images (2,304 x 1,536 resolution). For those of you who already own action cams, the drone’s onboard camera can be interchanged for a GoPro or any compatible small camera purchased separately. The basic model doesn’t offer a video-audio transmitter for streaming live first-person video, but the platform is designed so that pilots can integrate their own transmitters if desired.

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$107.80
End Date: Wednesday May-27-2015 2:02:58 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $107.80
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Ever tried looking at the sun with your bare eyes? Too bright, right? Now imagine looking at something with the brightness of 300 trillion suns. That's how intense "the most luminous galaxy found to date" is, so much so that NASA has created a new classification for it and the 19 other similar galaxies it has discovered: extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs. Scientists have recently spotted the ELIRGs in infrared images of the sky taken by the agency's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope in 2010. This particular one is located 12.5 billion light years away, which means it started forming soon after the universe was born 13.8 billion years ago. As for why it's so incredibly brilliant, NASA JPL scientist Chao-Wei Tsai says it "may be from the main growth spurt of the galaxy's black hole."

See, some galaxies have supermassive black holes in the center that actively absorb gas, dust and other matter that form a disc around them. These discs radiate a ton of energy and make the black holes look brighter than stars. Some black holes are a lot more ravenous than others, though, attracting more matter than their less voracious counterparts and, as such, are several degrees more luminous and massive. To wit: the bigger the black hole, the larger the disc and the brighter the whole galaxy.

There are several possible reasons why the black hole in this record breaker is so huge. According to the scientists' paper, it could have just been born big, so it's only natural for it to consume more food than usual. We might also just be seeing a period in its life -- remember, the light WISE spotted was from 12.5 billion light years ago! -- when it was bending the limit of black hole feeding. Finally, it might not be spinning as fast as other black holes, which allows it to go on a sustained binge eating, so to speak. One of the paper's co-authors, Andrew Blain, describes it as "winning a hot-dog-eating contest lasting hundreds of millions of years." You'd have a tough time eating hot dogs while whirling very, very fast, after all.

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An anonymous reader writes: Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have successfully uploaded and applied a software patch to NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars. The patch fixes a focusing problem that cropped up in November when the laser that helps to focus one of its cameras failed. "Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind," said Roger Wiens, ChemCam principal investigator at Los Alamos. "The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet [7.6 meters] from the rover was not affected, but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus." Before the fix, scientists had to shoot images at nine different focus settings to distill a decent set of data. Now, they say the new software results in better images in a single shot than even before the laser broke down. The program that runs the instrument is only 40 kilobytes in size.
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After Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, Australian politicians and the public took to social media to express their opinion on the topic — with an overwhelming number calling for a similar change Down Under.

On Twitter, past and present Australian politicians from the traditionally left-leaning parties, including independents, the Australian Greens and the Labor Party, expressed admiration for Ireland and support for marriage equality in Australia.

Outstanding result for marriage equality in Ireland. If we can't break impasse in Oz parliament, perhaps time for referendum of our own. KR

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Posted by on in RE/Code

BlackBerry confirmed on Saturday that it plans to cut jobs in the unit responsible for its smartphones as it seeks to make that shrinking business profitable.

The company said it has “made the decision to consolidate (the) device software, hardware and applications business, impacting a number of employees around the world.”

BlackBerry did not quantify the number of workers that would be affected.

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Yesterday, SpaceX released footage of a May 6th pad abort test for its Crew Dragon spacecraft. The video is filmed from the point-of-view of an astronaut inside the rocket — the rocket that accelerates from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds, that is. SpaceX was testing the process of ejecting crew members from the spacecraft if anything were to go wrong during takeoff.

Unsurprisingly, it's quite a ride. The Dragon launches, zooms into the air, and then releases parachutes. It's kind of like a low-stakes flight simulator, but it might make you very dizzy. Following the launch, SpaceX said the test was a success.

According to SpaceX, Dragon currently carries only cargo to space, but its first manned flight is expected to take place in two to three years.

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Editor’s note: Len Shneyder is the director of Industry Relations at Message Systems; he has more than a decade of experience in the email marketing, deliverability and digital marketing space.

Funding events over the last five quarters have shown investors to be bullish on companies engaged in email. From analytics to infrastructure, advertising to services, and everything in between, the email ecosphere has been infused with $364.5 million in funding. The recent growth of these freshly funded companies underscores how important solid, reliable and measurable email is to startups and enterprises.

Starting from the top and working our way down, we can see that from the successful exits of stalwarts such asResponsys and Exact Target, to giant rounds of funding for Campaign Monitor, email is a priority that comes with a rather large price tag.

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pratt.jpgHow thoughtful to apologize in advance. CBRTrailers/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

So tell me, what was your character's motivation in running away from that vast dinosaur?

It's questions such as that which drive actors demented. Well, more demented than they already are.

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A satellite view of arctic ice

For most of the past two decades, a handful of climate change scientists have had the CIA's MEDEA (Measurement of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis) program as an ace in the hole: they could draw on classified info from spy satellites and subs to study global warming in extreme detail. However, they'll now have to make do with alternatives. The agency has shut down MEDEA, saying that its projects to study the security implications of climate change "have been completed." While the CIA says it'll still "engage external experts" on the subject, it won't be providing consistent access to its extremely accurate and rare data.

Whether or not the closure is a major problem depends on who you ask. There are doubts that the CIA is really a good leader in climate research, and it's safe to say that the organization typically has its hands full with the espionage business. However, there are also concerns that officials are cutting off access to accurate info at the very moment when things are getting complicated -- researchers need more data, not less. That may not be as much of an issue in the long run as non-classified satellites provide increasingly valuable findings, but the loss is still bound to hurt for at least a while.

[Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr]

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Posted by on in Lifehacker

This Week's Top Downloads

Every week, we share a number of downloads for all platforms to help you get things done. Here were the top downloads from this week.

This Week's Top Downloads

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$900.00
End Date: Thursday May-28-2015 15:12:55 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $900.00
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A Public Service Warning From Pizza Hut on the Dangers of Selfie Sticks

Pizza Hut stopped tasting good a long time ago. The company’s recent parody of selfie sticks, however, is spot on.

According to the video’s earnest narrator, our selfies face an existential threat. What, you ask, could endanger the sacred selfie? None other than the absurd stick invented to turn every life experience into a desperately angled plea for social media likes.

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Edward Snowden depicted on a German parade float. The US Senate is set to reconvene for a last-minute session regarding an NSA spy program revealed by Snowden in 2013.Edward Snowden depicted on a German parade float. The US Senate is set to reconvene for a last-minute session regarding an NSA spy program revealed by Snowden in 2013. Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The National Security Agency's access to phone-call data may well be cut off -- at least temporarily -- after the US Senate failed to reach a compromise about a controversial NSA surveillance program prior to a crucial deadline.

The Senate failed Saturday to pass an extension of provisions of the USA Patriot Act that expire June 1 and have served as the legal justification for the NSA's current, wholesale collection of telephone data. The spy agency has said such collection is crucial in fighting terrorism.

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Noisli for Chrome Generates Background Sound to Keep You Productive

Chrome: We’re big fans of the Noisli web app, which allows you to create background noise so you can focus on your work. The new Chrome extension works the same way, but you don’t need to keep that extra tab open to use it.

The Chrome extension connects to the web app, so all the noise generation combos you’ve saved there are accessible from the extension. You can also set up a timer if you like to use Noisli as a motivator for work. If you’re a user of the web app or the iOS app, the extension works between them all.

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