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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 18:35
Satellite view of Southern California and Nevada as of June.

In a good year, the management of water resources in the American West is contentious. When a drought hits, most everyone feels it, and this year is certainly no exception. The notion of sustainability in water-strapped places isn’t much more complicated than balancing a checking account. And the budget projections aren’t exactly encouraging.

The last thing this situation needs is a decrease on the supply side. Unfortunately, precipitation in the Southwestern US is projected to decline as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Double unfortunately, the last century isn’t even a very good baseline for the region’s climate without climate change. Records from things like tree rings show drier periods in the past. A recent study led by Cornell’s Toby Ault attempts to pull this all together to improve our understanding of future drought risk in the region.

The worst US droughts of the 20th century were the 1930s “Dust Bowl” in the central US and the 1950s in the Southwest. In the past, the Southwest has averaged one or two of these almost-decade-long droughts per century, but there have also been droughts longer than anything in the historical record—droughts lasting several decades.

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Author: "Scott K. Johnson" Tags: "Scientific Method, climate change, Clima..."
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 17:00

Following on from part one, Wired.co.uk concludes our discussion of all thingsDragon Age: Inquisition  with executive producer Mark Darrah and creative director Mike Laidlaw. Here, the creators cover how players will continue their epic stories across console generations, upping the difficulty while giving gamers more control, and how the critical reception of the last game impacts the team's newest.

With Inquisition making the leap to PS4 and Xbox One, which lack backwards compatibility, how will people's past games be integrated?

Mike Laidlaw: We recognized that a core problem we were going to face is that there will be a big block of people who have jumped from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, or PS3 to PS4. We started some early explorations about how we could do that. What we realized very quickly was that an external solution was the best way to do things. So we built something called the Dragon Age Keep, which is currently in beta. It allows you to build up three-to-five world-states. You craft them to say "this is a world where Alistair is King and the Warden was a Daelish elf, etc," covering the events of Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2. You can build it up either through an interactive story, a bit like Pottermore.

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Author: "WIRED UK" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, Dragon Age, dragon age..."
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 15:30

Gencon bills itself as the world's largest gaming convention. It's four days devoted to RPGs, tabletop games, card games, dice games, miniatures games, foam swords, and cosplay. (But no—well, very few—console or computer games.)

I, along with 50,000 other folks, attended this year's bash located in downtown Indianapolis. It was my first true nerd con, and I spent 4,000 words describing the wonderful weirdness of it, but words alone can't do justice to a spectacle as big as this one.

Without further ado, then, here are the images that best summed up my own Gencon experience. (If you want to see more, including the performers in a has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed nerd burlesque, click over to my feature). Click on any image to enlarge.

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Author: "Nate Anderson" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, gallery, GenCon"
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 14:35

OAKLAND, CA—Documents released last week by the City of Oakland reveal that it is one of a handful of American jurisdictions attempting to upgrade an existing cellular surveillance system, commonly known as a stingray.

The Oakland Police Department, the nearby Fremont Police Department, and the Alameda County District Attorney jointly applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to "obtain a state-of-the-art cell phone tracking system," the records show.

Stingray is a trademark of its manufacturer, publicly traded defense contractor Harris Corporation, but "stingray" has also come to be used as a generic term for similar devices.

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Author: "Cyrus Farivar" Tags: "Law & Disorder, 2g, 4G, hailstorm, harri..."
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 13:00
Trinitite specimens.

Four months ago, Ars Technica sent me out to Alamogordo, New Mexico to be present at the unearthing of a landfill that was long-rumored to hold a trove of Atari games, dumped at the site after the video game crash of 1983. As I was preparing for the trip, my coworkers and I chatted about the event in the editors' IRC channel.

”When you’re hanging out in the trash dump be sure to look out for Trinitite,” automotive editor Jonathan Gitlin told me.

”What’s Trinitite?” I asked. He explained that it was a type of radioactive glass that formed during the first test of the first nuclear bomb in 1945. I did a quick Google search and understood (somewhat incorrectly, more on that later) that collecting and selling Trinitite had been made illegal long ago. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for the murky green or red glass when I was in Alamogordo, and I finished booking my motel room.

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Scientific Method, Staff, Alamogordo, At..."
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 22:30
David Goodfriend, founder of the Sports Fans Coalition.

Since 1973, the National Football League has prevented local TV stations from broadcasting games when tickets aren’t sold out—and Federal Communications Commission rules enable this decidedly fan-unfriendly policy. The rules are finally close to being overturned, and if they are you can thank David Goodfriend.

Founder of the Sports Fans Coalition, Goodfriend is an attorney and lobbyist with years of experience in government and private industry. He was a Clinton Administration official, a Congressional staffer, legal advisor at the FCC, and executive at Dish Network. The Sports Fans Coalition teamed with four consumer advocacy organizations in 2011 to petition the FCC to stop supporting the NFL’s blackout regime.

In practice, the FCC rules primarily benefit the NFL because the nation’s other major sports leagues don’t punish fans by keeping games off local TV when they aren’t sold out. The NFL has resorted to astroturfing to make it seem as though the general public supports blackouts, and dismissed opposition from fans as being incited by cable and satellite companies. NFL attorney Gerard Waldron (who also lobbies for broadcasters on other matters) disparaged Goodfriend’s motivations, telling Ars that the Sports Fans Coalition “has received funding from Dish, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon,” and that Goodfriend “has close and longtime ties to Dish as their former in-house lobbyist and now is an outside consultant.”

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 21:00
Apparently, my normal every-day resting face is SEVERELY GRUMPY when viewed in infrared.

Like most geeks in my generation, my first real glimpse of thermal imaging was provided by John McTiernan’s 1987 film Predator, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team of badasses are stalked and killed by an even badassier three-meter-tall alien out on safari. The eponymous "predator" perceives the world through machine-augmented infrared vision, and Ahnold’s body heat is brightly visible to the creature as he and his crew scurry around amidst the comparatively cool jungle foliage.

It makes for a neat visual effect, and Ahnold must figure out how to evade the hunter’s thermal vision as the movie violently explodes toward the inevitable final showdown. But real-time infrared thermal imaging is expensive—McTiernan had a Hollywood budget and could afford to rent the bulky equipment required to capture the film’s iconic imagery. Thermal imaging is still most often seen as a tool of military and law enforcement, with even small hand-held thermal cameras costing thousands of dollars.

FLIR Systems wants to change that. The Oregon-based company is the largest manufacturer of thermal imaging systems in the world, and it has a substantial customer base in the United States Department of Defense (the company’s name comes from the acronym FLIR, which stands for forward looking infrared). The company also makes medical grade thermal imaging devices and even professional-level thermal cameras intended for use by civilian agencies (like local fire departments). But FLIR Systems’ newest product is aimed at normal folks who don’t necessarily have thousands of dollars to spend on a pro-grade thermal imaging system.

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Author: "Lee Hutchinson" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, apple, flir, flir one, G..."
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 18:45

No matter how many emoticons you use, messaging apps (for the most part) remain a rather impersonal form of communication that fall somewhere between e-mail and phone calls on the formality scale.

Artist and actress Miranda July is hoping to change this with her new messaging app Somebody, which will send your missives not directly to your friend, but to a nearby human stranger who will relay the message verbally to its intended recipient.

While the app is very much a real piece of technology, it is also a far-reaching public art project that to some extent involves the sender replacing their avatar with a real-life messenger, who is being directed in a mini performance. On the app's website, July describes Somebody as: "The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us."

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Author: "WIRED UK" Tags: "Technology Lab, apps, Miranda July"
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 18:00

YouTube can teach you many things from how to style your hair into victory rolls to how to play guitar, but if you want to pick up advanced first aid, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

A new study has analysed videos showing how to perform CPR and basic life support on YouTube and discovered that many are not consistent with health guidelines and do not qualify as educational material.

The research was carried out by a team of emergency medicine specialists from Turkey who filtered through thousands of results after searching using the terms "CPR", "cardiopulmonary resuscitation", "BLS" and "basic life support" to find the videos that were relevant enough to be analysed. Videos that incorporated advertising, were off-topic, that weren't posted between 2011 and 2013 or that weren't in English were excluded.

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Author: "WIRED UK" Tags: "Scientific Method"
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 17:00
.related-stories { display: none !important; }

In the never-ending war between PC and console gamers, one of the PC side's favorite points is the fact that console hardware stays frustratingly static for years at a time, while PC users can upgrade everything from the RAM to the graphics card as technology improves. Thus, by the end of a given console generation (and sometimes earlier), a price-competitive PC will almost always be able to outclass the performance of its aging console competition.

This is true, as far as it goes. But as any console owners can tell you, unchanging hardware does not mean unchanging graphical performance over the life of a console. On the contrary, as time goes on, developers are often able to extract more from a console's limited architecture than anyone ever thought possible when the system launched.

In the early days, new processors and memory chips in the actual game cartridges contributed to this evolution. More recently, it's become a function of developers having the time and experience to know how to get every last ounce of power from an architecture that is intimately familiar.

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Author: "Kyle Orland" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, Atari, Genesis, micros..."
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 18:45
Kogan's Agora 4G (right) is like a larger version of the Moto G (left).
Andrew Cunningham
Specs at a glance: BenQ/Kogan Agora 4G
Screen 1280×720 5.0-inch IPS (294 PPI)
OS Android 4.4.2
CPU 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (quad-core Cortex A7)
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 305
Storage 8GB NAND flash expandable via microSD
Networking 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 2G 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz, 3G 850 / 900 / 2100MHz, 4G 900 / 1800 / 700MHz
Ports Micro-USB, headphones
Camera 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
Size 5.63" × 2.87" × 0.35" (143 x 73 x 9.0 mm)
Weight 4.76 oz. (135 g)
Battery 2520mAh
Starting price $229 off-contract

You don't have to pay $600 for an unlocked smartphone anymore. That much was true before the $179 Moto G won our hearts late last year, but that phone was one of the first examples of a new class of smartphone, the kind of device that could give you a budget phone that didn't feel like a budget phone.

The problem is that there still isn't a whole lot of choice in this segment yet. Heavy hitters like Samsung, HTC, and LG continue to price their flagship devices as they always have, and going for cut-down "mini" versions of the same phones generally only saves you $100 or $150. So if you like larger phones—say, five inches and up—but you didn't have a lot of money to spend, your hands were tied by the options available.

That's one of the reasons why we were intrigued by the Kogan Agora 4G when it was announced earlier this month. It's got a bit of an odd pedigree—it was actually built with BenQ, but it's branded and sold by Australian retailer Kogan—but it's an unlocked phone available in the US that sells for $229. That's more expensive than the $179 Moto G base model, but within spitting distance of the $219 Moto G LTE. It also comes with a five-inch screen, though, and this makes it look and feel more like a Samsung-esque flagship than a nice-but-cheap midrange phone.

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Author: "Andrew Cunningham" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Agora 4G, android, Cyano..."
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 18:00
Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

CaptainCodeman asks:

I recently had a job interview in which they gave me an hour to write some real code. It wasn't a huge amount, probably less than 100 lines. After about 45 minutes, I compiled, ran it, and got it to work. I may have spent 5-10 minutes working out compile errors and a couple minor bugs, but overall it was very smooth. (Incidentally, I did get an offer from them.)

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Author: "Stack Exchange" Tags: "Technology Lab"
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 17:40

This week, the man responsible for what is probably the biggest cryptographic failure in military history died—just a few months before he was due to be released from prison. John Walker Jr. led a family spy ring that exposed a vast trove of classified data to the Soviet Union for 18 years by giving them access to Navy cryptographic materials. He passed away in a North Carolina federal prison hospital on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 77 years old.

John Walker Jr. started spying for the Soviets while he was a chief warrant officer in the US Navy—to help get out of debt from a failed bar. He kept doing it for 18 years.
As a newly commissioned Navy officer, I was sent to a school at Newport, R.I. to be trained as a “CMS custodian,” and indoctrinated into the arts of managing the Communications Security Material System. It was 1986, just a year after Walker stood trial, and the instructors jokingly referred to the course as the “John Walker Jr. Memorial Stay Out Of Prison School.” A good portion of the course involved training videos detailing how Walker had managed to break the chain of custody created around the Navy’s single-use code sheets and secret them off base in his trunk—mostly to hammer into us how important that chain of custody was.

Walker’s Cold War spying for the Soviets started in 1967, when he was selling information about US Navy communications systems and the encryption codes used to configure Navy communications gear for secure transmissions over the Fleet Broadcasting System. The information he provided, some claim, led directly to the North Korean seizure of the US Navy intelligence collection ship USS Pueblo, as the Soviets apparently spurred the attack to gain access to the hardware used with the material Walker provided just a month earlier.

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Author: "Sean Gallagher" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Technology Lab, cryptogr..."
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 15:41
Employees at the Department of Homeland Security may be feeling a bit less secure about their personal data.

On Aug. 2, Department of Homeland Security officials revealed that the agency's contractor for conducting security clearance background checks had been hacked, and an unknown number of DHS employees' personal data from those investigations had been stolen—potentially by a state-sponsored hacker. Now the DHS has a handle on how many records were stolen from contractor USIS: at least 25,000.

The Associated Press cites information from an unnamed DHS official, who spoke with the service under the condition of anonymity. "Homeland Security will soon begin notifying employees whose files were compromised and urge them to monitor their financial accounts," the Associated Press' Joce Sterman reported.

USIS is, as the Washington Post reported, the largest contract provider of background investigations to the federal government. The attack on USIS comes after the March revelation that the US Office of Personnel Management had been attacked by hackers based in China, potentially giving them access to the personal information of millions of government employees—though OPM offficials say that no personal data appeared to have been taken in the attack before it was detected.

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Author: "Sean Gallagher" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Risk Assessment"
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 12:15

A researcher has refined an attack on wireless routers with poorly implemented versions of the Wi-Fi Protected Setup that allows someone to quickly gain access to a router's network.

The attack exploits weak randomization, or the lack of randomization, in a key used to authenticate hardware PINs on some implementations of Wi-Fi Protected Setup, allowing anyone to quickly collect enough information to guess the PIN using offline calculations. By calculating the correct PIN, rather than attempting to brute-force guess the numerical password, the new attack circumvents defenses instituted by companies.

While previous attacks require up to 11,000 guesses—a relatively small number—and approximately four hours to find the correct PIN to access the router's WPS functionality, the new attack only requires a single guess and a series of offline calculations, according to Dominique Bongard, reverse engineer and founder of 0xcite, a Swiss security firm.

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Author: "Robert Lemos" Tags: "Risk Assessment"
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Date: Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 00:30
Samsung has lots of ammunition against Google, but will it ever pull the trigger?

Samsung and Nokia have signed an agreement to bring Nokia's HERE mapping service to just about every Samsung device imaginable. Nokia announced that HERE for Android will be exclusive to Samsung's Galaxy smartphone line, and it will also be bringing a mini version of HERE to Samsung's Tizen-based smartwatches, including the newly-announced Samsung Gear S.

Nokia HERE's origins lie in Nokia's Ovi mapping service and the company's 2007 purchase of Navteq. HERE data is one of the main competitors to Google Maps—besides the in-house app, the data also powers Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, Amazon Maps, and Garmin GPS devices. This Nokia has nothing to do with Microsoft, which only bought Nokia's "Devices & Services" division. The remaining parts of the company deal with maps, cellular networking technology, and R&D.

The move is Samsung's latest attempt to distance itself from the Google ecosystem. "What will you do without Google Maps" is one of the biggest questions any company (or customer) needs to answer if it wants to ask itself how it could survive a Google-free existence. While it's not very difficult to dump the Play Store or Gmail for a different client, Google Maps is much harder to replace.

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Author: "Ron Amadeo" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, android fork, ecosystem,..."
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 22:10
The crush as Gencon's main exhibition hall opens.
Nate Anderson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN—"The Reavers in your bed," sang the kilted duo, "are going to eat your face!"

Sitting in the back row of a windowless conference room packed with 125 Firefly lovers, I listened to this demented lullaby while duly jotting down the chorus: eat... your... face. And I wondered, not for the first time, what I was doing among the 50,000 other attendees at Gencon.

I mean to say, when your job involves listening to a percussionist with more than a passing resemblance to Smee play a djembe while singer Marc Gunn strums an autoharp and belts out Irish drinking songs with lyrics like, "It's good to have Jayne Cobb on your side," certain questions inevitably arise. Chief among them: after seeing this, could I even call myself a 'nerd' anymore?

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Author: "Nate Anderson" Tags: "Features, Opposable Thumbs, GenCon"
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 21:00
Image from page 400 of "Breeder and sportsman" (1882).

Earlier this year, communications technology scholar Kalev Leetaru began culling over 14 million images from the Internet Archive’s public domain ebooks and uploading them to the Internet Archive’s Flickr account. As of today, 2.6 million images are now easily searchable and downloadable.

When the Internet Archive originally scanned the books, they used Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which made the book text searchable, but that didn’t mean much if you were looking for images. So Leetaru wrote some software to take advantage of the OCR program that the Internet Archive had used to scan public domain works published and written between 1500 and 1922.

According to the BBC, the OCR program scanned the books and discarded sections of the text that it recognized as images. Leetaru had his software go back and find those discarded portions of text, automatically converting those sections into Jpeg images and uploading them to Flickr. "The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book,” the BBC wrote.

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, digitization, li..."
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 20:45
The original design of Apple's 5th Avenue NYC store, which stood from 2006 until 2011.

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and several other Apple employees are listed as inventors on a newly granted design patent, which describes the design of the company's flagship New York City retail outlet. Jobs is listed as one of the seven co-inventors of the design, although he passed away about a year before the application was filed in October 2012.

The company is an enthusiastic proponent of patenting and trademarking just about everything it can, and its retail stores are no exception. Apple actually acquired a US trademark on its interior store design last year, and it has patented other elements of the stores, such as their special architectural glass panels and floating glass staircases.

Apple's newest patent grant shows that it was especially proud of its iconic Manhattan store on 5th Avenue. The actual store exists beneath a 32-foot glass cube, an older version of which is pictured above. Its subterranean entrance is open 24 hours a day.

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Author: "Joe Mullin" Tags: "Infinite Loop, Law & Disorder, apple, Ap..."
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 19:50
This LAPD patrol car is equipped with a LPR unit, mounted just in front of the light bar on the roof of the vehicle.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will not force local law enforcement to release a week’s worth of all captured automated license plate reader (ALPR, also known as LPR) data to two activist groups that had sued for the release of the information, according to a decision issued on Thursday.

In May 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in an attempt to compel the agencies to release a week’s worth of LPR data from a certain week in August 2012. The organizations have not determined yet whether they will file an appeal.

The organizations had claimed that these agencies were required to disclose the data under the California Public Records Act. In late July 2012, the ACLU and its affiliates sent requests to local police departments and state agencies across 38 states to request information on how LPRs are used.

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Author: "Cyrus Farivar" Tags: "Law & Disorder, ACLU, EFF, lapd, lasd, l..."
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