WIRED Awake: 10 must-read articles for May 17
How Chelsea Manning sees herself. Commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, 23 April 2014.
Chelsea Manning Support Network / Alicia Neal
Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, Chelsea Manning goes free, Labour’s manifesto reveals science and technology plans, DeepMind got access to NHS data on an ‘inappropriate legal basis’ and more.
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Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who leaked secret US military content including video footage of US helicopters firing on unarmed journalists and civilians, is scheduled to be released from military prison today, following the commutation of her sentence by outgoing US president Barack Obama (The New York Times). She will have served seven years of what was to have been a 35-year sentence. Both the authorities and Manning’s support network, which has raised funds to cover her initial living expenses, are keeping details of her planned release and future confidential. However, she reportedly intends to settle in Maryland, near family. Chase Strangio, her lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union told The New York Times: “The traumas of the past few years will not simply evaporate when she walks out of prison.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his party’s manifesto at an event in Bradford on Tuesday, May 16 (WIRED). The manifesto pledges “universal superfast broadband” by 2022, improved 4G coverage, and to commission a report “on how to roll out ‘ultrafast’ (300Mbps) across the UK within the next decade”. Other science and technology highlights include a promise to create a new Clean Air Act, ban fracking and fund renewable energy. “Investigatory powers must always be both proportionate and necessary,” Labour says. If it wins the general election, it will “reintroduce effective judicial oversight” of surveillance powers.
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of the Royal Free Hospital in London, has been informed by that he and his hospital gave Google AI division DeepMind access to 1.6 million NHS patient records on an “inappropriate legal basis” (Ars Technica). The letter, obtained by Sky News, was written by National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott, who scrutinises the legal status of deals that see patient data handed over to private companies. While the hospital’s original position was that the patient records – belonging to sufferers of acute kidney damage – processed by DeepMind fell under the common law understanding of “implied consent for direct care”, Caldicott concluded that: “My view is that when work is taking place to develop new technology this cannot be regarded as direct care, even if the intended end result when the technology is deployed is to provide direct care”.
Microsoft has announced that it’s partnering with the UN Human Rights Office to develop technology to “predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations” (VentureBeat). Microsoft has committed $5 million to the scheme, which includes projects such as Rights View, an information “dashboard” that will allow UN staff to gather and monitor data about rights violations in real time. UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “This could be a truly groundbreaking agreement. The private sector has an essential role to play in advancing human rights, and this partnership with Microsoft demonstrates how we can join forces in a constructive way.”
A court in the US has ruled that “Google” has not become a generic term and that the company retains its trademark (Ars Technica). The case was brought by a man who registered 763 domain names including the word “google”. He was forced to give them up when Google filed a cybersquatting complaint against him, which he responded to with this attempt to invalidate Google’s trademark. However, the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “even if we assume that the public uses the verb ‘google’ in a generic and indiscriminate sense, this tells us nothing about how the public primarily understands the word itself, irrespective of its grammatical function, with regard to Internet search engines”.
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A company hoping to send people’s ashes into space has announced its next mission will be on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (WIRED). Elysium Space is a San Francisco based startup describes itself as a mix of funeral and space experts. Exactly when the launch will happen is unknown. “We’re in the launch queue and look forward to getting to space and fulfilling our mission as soon as possible,” Thomas Civeit, founder and CEO of Elysium Space, told WIRED. “SpaceX has full control of the launch date.” The mission will take ashes into a Sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth, lasting two years, before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up in the process, to avoid any space pollution.
To mark the passing of 100 years since the birth of Bletchley code-cracker Bill Tutte, a virtual Lorenz machine has been put online (WIRED). The Lorenz SZ40, SZ42A and SZ24B were teleprinter cipher attachment machines developed by C. Lorenz AG in Berlin during the Second World War. The SZ model name is from the German “Schlüssel-Zusatz” which means cipher attachment. The Enigma cipher machine was portable enough for frontline troops, but it required two operators at each end of the link – one to encipher the message, a letter at a time, and another to transmit it via Morse code. Through analysing these codes, Tutte was able to determine how the Lorenz machine worked and gained a game-changing insight into German messages.
The first trailer has been released for It Came From The Desert a giant ant monster movie inspired by a classic 80s computer game (Den of Geek). The game, itself inspired by 1954 sci-fi film Them!, was originally released by Cinemaware in 1989 for the Amiga before being ported to other formats, and combined adventure and action elements. As yet, there’s no release date scheduled for the film, but you can still buy the original game as part of the Cinemaware Anthology: 1986-1991 on Steam.
The USA’s National Film Preservation Foundation has created a new online collection of ‘sponsored films’ – public education and advertising shorts paid for by the government, charities or businesses with the urge to communicate something to the general public (The Verge). The collection – available to stream or download – is based on the films listed Rick Prelinger’s book, The Field Guide to Sponsored Films and include content ranging from an 1897 silent advert for cigarettes to 50s films from the National Committee for Atomic Information. Prelinger’s informative historic guide to the films is also available to download for free.
Microsoft has remastered original Xbox cult classic action/strategy/card combat game Phantom Dust and released it for free (GamesRadar). A new trailer shows off the game’s new widescreen aspect ratio, and promises “gameplay enhancements including multiplayer starter decks that let you jump straight into multiplayer, improved frame rate, and adjustments to overall game balance”. The full original game is available to download for free on both Xbox One and Windows 10, although head of Xbox games marketing Aaron Greenberg tweeted: “you can buy multiplayer cards if you want to, but will not be penalized if you don’t”.
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