NASA considers selling trips to space tourists


Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

The Jim Bridenstine-era NASA’s efforts to privatize spaceflight could involve borrowing a page from Russia. The Washington Post notes the agency is mulling the possibility of offering seats to private tourists on the ships that take astronauts to the International Space Station, similar to how Russia has accepted space tourists in the past. It’s just a proposal and would have to clear NASA’s advisory council, but it already has the support of an advisory subcommittee.

The idea comes as part of a wider set of proposals that would expand the reach of private companies in NASA’s operations. These include allowing astronauts to support private ISS activities, opening astronauts to endorsements and even letting companies name vessels. Like it or not, there’s a real chance NASA could use its flights as opportunities to compete with the likes of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

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India's BJP Is Reportedly Using Data From a State-Funded Free Phone Program to Hit Up Voters

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India’s right-wing, arch-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using government-subsidized cell phones that have been handed out to millions of people as a campaign tool, the New York Times reported on Sunday, with the BJP using a $79 million free-phone program in the state of Chhattisgarh to appeal directly to…

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Donald Trump dropped a big 'Schitt' after dismissing a U.S. hero's military service

The name is Schiff. SCHIFF. With two Fs.
The name is Schiff. SCHIFF. With two Fs.
Image: Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

It’s the afternoon of a day ending with “y,” so you know Donald Trump has offended someone already.

Look no further than Trump’s Fox News interview with Chris Wallace. A clip from that interview went viral earlier on Sunday when Wallace asked the president to respond to comments by Bill McRaven, the former Navy SEAL who oversaw the operation the ended in the death of Osama Bin Laden.

McRaven had previously criticized Trump’s frequent attacks against the media — specifically, his characterization of the press as “the enemy of the people” — as “the greatest threat to democracy” he’s ever witnessed. The former SEAL spoke up again in August after Trump’s apparently punitive revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance.

Before Wallace could even get his McRaven question out — he only got as far as detailing the man’s record of service — Trump interrupted: “Hillary Clinton fan.”

Wallace tried to continue, but Trump interrupted him again, an angry edge in his voice: “Excuse me. Hillary Clinton fan.”

Wallace continued again and finished his question. Trump responded, first by describing McRaven as a “backer” of Clinton and Barack Obama and then by hinting that McRaven is incompetent, saying “wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

(It went even further than that. And this was after he boasted about how much he’s supposedly done for the military.)

Trump summarily dismissed a literal U.S. hero’s service to the country because he couldn’t take a little criticism. He also seemingly made up McRaven’s political leanings. The ill-advised comments prompted some outcry, as you might imagine.

You get the idea.

A few hours later, as the noise around Trump’s comments to Wallace turned into a thunderous roar, the beleaguered president took to Twitter and dropped this turd of a tweet. (Pun definitely intended.)

He’s talking about Adam Schiff, the U.S. Representative for California who is currently the Ranking Member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. As the top Democrat in the House of Representatives charged with investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, Schiff has been a thorn in Trump’s side and a semi-frequent target of the president’s rage.

And yes, his name is Schiff. Two Fs. Not what Trump wrote.

Now, it could be a typo. The letters T and F are fairly close to one another on the standard QWERTY keyboard that most smartphones employ. Trump farts out so many tweets on a daily basis, he could have easily punched in the wrong letters. 

Or maybe it’s an autocorrect issue. Is the president secretly a fan of the Canadian comedy series, Schitt’s Creek? It could be that he’s texted about it enough that “Schitt” comes up as an autocorrect suggestion.

Of course, given Trump’s rep, both as president and as a human being, the most likely explanation is he committed an intentional typo in the name of juvenile humor. Which, hey, nothing against juvenile humor. But it’s maybe not the right tone to employ publicly when you’re the U.S. president, especially when you’re using it in the context of a comment that some might construe as an obstruction of justice.

Of course, that kind of ridiculous behavior from a grown-ass adult would get people talking about something other than Trump’s egregious put-down of a largely apolitical military veteran’s service.

But what do I know? Maybe it was a typo, or an unwanted autocorrect. As Mashable’s Matt Binder quipped in Slack when we talked about this whole episode, “hard to tell with our very smart 150-dimensional chess playing president.”

Indeed.

Still, social media did its thing and assumed Trump was acting with the worst intentions. In fairness to social media, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that’s the safe assumption. Brace yourself for Trump burns and poop puns. Even Schiff joined in to take his shot.

Politics in 2018 is one hell of a ride.

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Italian law requires domestic movies hit theaters before they stream


Matteo Lavazza Seranto via Getty Images

France isn’t the only country particularly wary of streaming services. Italian Culture and Tourism Minister Alberto Bonisoli recently unveiled a law that would require all Italian-made movies to show in theaters before they reach Netflix, Prime Video and other streaming providers. It also formalizes a 105-day delay between the theatrical and streaming releases, although that can be shortened to ‘just’ 60 days if a picture either shows in fewer than 80 theaters or has fewer than 50,000 viewers in its first three weeks.

Bonisoli wasn’t shy about the reasoning: it’s meant to “protect theaters,” which he contended “need films that can guarantee an income.” Italian media industry figures, such as Agis’ Carlo Fontana, have claimed that streaming services represent “unfair competition.”

This isn’t necessarily as harsh as the French law, which requires a three-year wait between a theatrical premiere and availability on streaming services (although it doesn’t require a theater debut like Italy does). However, the goal is ultimately the same: it’s an attempt to guard a traditional approach to movie-going (and the businesses that depend on this) against disruption. Whether or not it works is another matter. Italy’s mandatory buffer may prevent domestically-made movies from going directly to Amazon or Netflix, but it won’t necessarily persuade audiences to visit the theater — they might just wait until they can watch a production at home for no extra cost.

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Watch Barack Obama surprise Michelle with flowers and tell his version of their love story

Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour has been quite the hit so far, but at Saturday night’s Washington, D.C. stop a special guest brought the event to a whole other level.

Michelle’s husband, former president Barack Obama, strolled onstage with flowers in-hand to surprise his wife and the entire Capital One Arena audience.

And since his former White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was moderating the conversation, he decided to stay and chat for a bit about the book and his love for his wife.

Michelle shared a video of Barack casually sauntering onstage on her Instagram Story, which looked a little something like the one below.

As was to be expected, members of the audience got their powerful scream on the moment Barack’s feet touched the stage.

Kelyn Soong, a writer and editor for the Washington City Paper, managed to capture the former president’s entire entrance and discussion on camera, and shared it to YouTube for all to enjoy.

At around 4:14, after Michelle discusses why it’s so important to take the high road, Barack appears, comparing his entrance to “when Jay-Z comes out”  at a Beyoncé concert. LOL. He then gives the audience a little taste of “Crazy in Love” to keep the energy going.

After things settled down a bit, Barack offered a bit of sass, which Michelle was rightfully not having, along with his version of Chapter 8 in Michelle’s book.

In Chapter 8 of Becoming, Michelle recalls how she remembers the two first meeting and falling in love.

“It’s true, I just kept on asking her out,” Barack explained, admitting he even offered to quit his job so there wouldn’t be any conflict of interest.

“The thing that I remember during that summer as we became friends, was she was one of a kind.”

“Here’s the main point I want to make: During that summer, even while she was pushing off and trying to set me up with some of her friends who I was not interested in at all…” Barack said. “The thing that I remember during that summer as we became friends, was she was one of a kind.”

“I had that somebody who was that strong and that honest — somebody who I just felt was a rock, somebody who I knew at that point I would always be able to count on, and someone who that if she were the mother of my children I knew my children would turn out extraordinary,” he went on.

And though, like all relationships, Barack and Michelle have had obstacles, he emphasized, “There’s never been a point in which that core thing I saw ever wavered, where i was ever disappointed, or where I wasn’t completely in awe of her talent and gifts.”

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Watch Barack Obama surprise Michelle with flowers and tell his version of their love story

Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour has been quite the hit so far, but at Saturday night’s Washington, D.C. stop a special guest brought the event to a whole other level.

Michelle’s husband, former president Barack Obama, strolled onstage with flowers in-hand to surprise his wife and the entire Capital One Arena audience.

And since his former White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was moderating the conversation, he decided to stay and chat for a bit about the book and his love for his wife.

Michelle shared a video of Barack casually sauntering onstage on her Instagram Story, which looked a little something like the one below.

As was to be expected, members of the audience got their powerful scream on the moment Barack’s feet touched the stage.

Kelyn Soong, a writer and editor for the Washington City Paper, managed to capture the former president’s entire entrance and discussion on camera, and shared it to YouTube for all to enjoy.

At around 4:14, after Michelle discusses why it’s so important to take the high road, Barack appears, comparing his entrance to “when Jay-Z comes out”  at a Beyoncé concert. LOL. He then gives the audience a little taste of “Crazy in Love” to keep the energy going.

After things settled down a bit, Barack offered a bit of sass, which Michelle was rightfully not having, along with his version of Chapter 8 in Michelle’s book.

In Chapter 8 of Becoming, Michelle recalls how she remembers the two first meeting and falling in love.

“It’s true, I just kept on asking her out,” Barack explained, admitting he even offered to quit his job so there wouldn’t be any conflict of interest.

“The thing that I remember during that summer as we became friends, was she was one of a kind.”

“Here’s the main point I want to make: During that summer, even while she was pushing off and trying to set me up with some of her friends who I was not interested in at all…” Barack said. “The thing that I remember during that summer as we became friends, was she was one of a kind.”

“I had that somebody who was that strong and that honest — somebody who I just felt was a rock, somebody who I knew at that point I would always be able to count on, and someone who that if she were the mother of my children I knew my children would turn out extraordinary,” he went on.

And though, like all relationships, Barack and Michelle have had obstacles, he emphasized, “There’s never been a point in which that core thing I saw ever wavered, where i was ever disappointed, or where I wasn’t completely in awe of her talent and gifts.”

Https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable.com%2fcms%2f2018%2f2%2f031e1a07 07ee 901f%2fthumb%2f00001

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Senate bill takes aim at illegal robocalls


Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Three senators have proposed new legislation aimed at deterring robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Protection, or TRACED, Act would give the FCC broader authority to penalize those that violate telemarketing restrictions, give the commission a longer window in which to act and establish an interagency working group that would explore additional actions that might deter robocall scams going forward.

“As the scourge of spoofed calls and robocalls reaches epidemic levels, the bipartisan TRACED Act will provide every person with a phone much needed relief,” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a cosponsor of the proposed legislation, said in a statement. “It’s a simple formula: call authentication, blocking and enforcement, and this bill achieves all three.”

With this legislation, the statute of limitations on penalties for robocall violations would be extended from two years to three, and the FCC would be instructed to propose new rules aimed at protecting individuals from receiving calls or messages from those using unauthenticated numbers. Further, an interagency working group — which would be made up of both federal agencies and state entities such as the Departments of Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security, the FCC, the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general — would be tasked with providing Congress with recommendations regarding both prevention and prosecution of robocall violations as well as strategies for how federal agencies might implement those recommendations.

Additionally, the TRACED Act would require the FCC to ensure voice service providers implement call authentication frameworks that can verify incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers.

“The TRACED Act targets robocall scams and other intentional violations of telemarketing laws so that when authorities do catch violators, they can be held accountable,” said Senator John Thune (R-SD), who introduced the bill. “Existing civil penalty rules were designed to impose penalties on lawful telemarketers who make mistakes. This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors.” Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the bill.

In the last year, the FCC has approved new rules targeting robocalls that spoof caller ID information and urged voice providers to begin validating calls before they reach recipients. “Combating illegal robocalls is our top consumer priority at the FCC,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement earlier this month. “That’s why we need call authentication to become a reality — it’s the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence. By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones.” In May, the FCC issued a robocall operator responsible for 96 million automated calls a $120 million fine.

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Filing reveals sealed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017.

Peter Nicholls / Reuters

This evening, it became clear that the Justice Department either had already filed charges against Julian Assange under seal, or was preparing them. First the Wall Street Journal reported that preparations were under way, and then Seamus Hughes pointed out a court filing that mentions the WikiLeaks cofounder.

PACER court filing

While the filing is for another case, as journalist Mike Levine suggests, it’s possible that prosecutors used a filing against Assange as a template and forgot to correct the name in this section. That’s more than just a thought, however, because the Washington Post reports, based on anonymous sources, that the details released in the filing were true but unintentionally included.

A Swedish investigation into rape allegations spurred Assange’s years-long stay inside Ecuador’s UK embassy, and while prosecutors have reportedly considered filing charges against him for quite some time, it’s unknown exactly what these might include. The possibility that he could be charged for having or publishing classified material could have wider implications for journalism, and will keep eyes on the situation if these are made public or the US tries to extradite him. For now, Assange remains in the same place he’s been since 2012.

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Facebook's top lawyer delays departure as crisis continues


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Despite announcing that he would leave the company earlier this year, Facebook’s top lawyer Colin Stretch will stay on as general counsel into 2019, according to Recode. The change of heart comes as Facebook is embroiled in yet another controversy following a bombshell report from the New York Times that documents the company’s mishandling of a number of situations it has been faced with in the last two years.

The lawyer’s extended stay at the company is sure to come with its fair share of challenges. Facebook is currently dealing with several federal investigations into its data privacy practices stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year.

Those battles will likely only be complicated by the recent New York Times report. The story, which Facebook claims contains some inaccuracies, shows the company responding slowly and insufficiently to scandals like Russian interference surrounding the 2016 election and using political campaign tactics to attack its critics. Stretch was named in the report as one of several executives who was aware of Russian activity on Facebook before the company announced it publicly.

Stretch reportedly informed his team of his decision to stay on at Facebook several weeks ago. He is expected to remain with the company into the summer of 2019, though he end up could staying longer.

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Senators want answers from mobile carriers on video app throttling


NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you have ever had a suspicion that your carrier might be slowing down your internet speeds while streaming videos, you aren’t alone. Three US Senators — Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — are pressing the four major carriers about alleged throttling practices documented on the Wehe testing platform.

In a letter addressed to the heads of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, the senators claim that carriers may be “inappropriately throttling and prioritizing” internet traffic from popular streaming video apps including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, NBC Sports and Skype. The line of inquiry cites research from Wehe, a mobile app developed by researchers at Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst that monitors potential throttling taking place on mobile networks. The researchers found that nearly every carrier throttles at least one app, with YouTube being the primary target.

Some of the alleged throttling can likely be chalked up to the carriers’ own policies of limiting video quality. The practice wouldn’t necessarily be a violation of the repealed net neutrality rules established by the Federal Communications Commission assuming the carriers limit all video services in the same way. However, carriers are required to disclose network management practices under current FCC law. The companies may be violating that if they are targeting certain apps with throttling without telling customers.

The senators are asking the carriers to explain if they throttle or prioritize traffic on their networks, how they determine when to throttle traffic and if consumers have the ability to opt out of the practice. The senators are seeking a response by December 6th.

Verizon owns Engadget’s parent company, Oath (formerly AOL). Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.

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