US sent teens into Cuba to inspire revolution

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The Cuban regime has been a US target for more than 50 years now, but a new report from the Associated Press suggests the government may have been more reckless in its tactics than anyone realized. The report documents a USAID program that sent nearly a dozen youths from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru into the country to recruit Cubans for anti-government activism. The group targeted a number of civil society groups including an HIV-prevention workshop, which handlers called “perfect excuse” to recruit dissidents.

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Meet Minilock, a powerful new encryption tool built on ChromeOS

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A padlock might be the easiest piece of security tech a person can own. You close it, it clicks, and then you need a key to open it up again. It’s simple, intuitive. You never need to explain to anyone how a padlock works, and you never need to worry that you’re using it wrong. If you want to know if you’ve locked it, you just give it a tug and the answer’s right there.

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Comcast Confessions: why the cable guy is always late

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The recording of the “Comcast Rep from Hell” has now been listened to more than 5 million times, sparking a conversation about the largest player in the nation’s cable industry. That debate is a timely one: Comcast is in the process of acquiring the second-largest cable provider, Time Warner Cable, and both companies are plagued by notoriously low customer-satisfaction ratings.

Comcast and Time Warner have agreed on a price, but the deal isn’t done. The Federal Communications Commission…

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‘BioShock’ is coming to iPhone and iPad

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Rapture is going mobile — publisher 2K Games has revealed that the 2007 atmospheric shooter BioShock is coming to iOS devices. According to Polygon, the iOS version will be a full port of the original, and will feature Bluetooth controller support, which makes the game feel surprisingly close to the PC and console original. The touch controls, meanwhile, “slightly frustrated the experience” according to Polygon‘s Brian Crecente.

The port is being developed by 2K China, the same team that successfully brought the sci-fi strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown to iOS. There’s no word on a price, though 2K previously released XCOM for $19.99 on iOS, making it one of the more expensive mobile games. BioShock is expected to launch on iPhone and…

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Microsoft’s first Windows Phone 8.1 update is now rolling out

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Microsoft’s first update to Windows Phone 8.1 is rolling out to developers today. While it’s technically a developer release, anybody with a Windows Phone can register freely to install the update through Microsoft’s App Studio program. If you’re an App Studio participant then you won’t need to pay the $19 fee to be a Windows Phone developer, and you’ll still be able to get early access to Update 1.

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Samsung’s next Galaxy may have chamfered metal edges like the iPhone

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Of all the things Samsung has copied from Apple over the years, the polished metal edges introduced with the iPhone 5 have been one thing the Korean company hasn’t yet reproduced. At least not in any officially announced devices. New images of the rumored Galaxy Alpha handset show a white phone that seems to be a blend between the Galaxy S5 and Apple’s latest iPhone models. A metal band runs around all sides of the device, featuring a prominent chamfered treatment that grows larger at the top and bottom. The simple one-button front layout and dimpled back cover have been retained from the S5, though the overall shape is a bit more rectangular. These photos appear to show a subtly more refined design than the black Galaxy Alpha that had…

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800,000 ceramic poppies turn the Tower of London’s moat red

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Image credit: Jim Crossley / Creative Commons.

As the world remembers the centenary of the First World War, London’s Tower of London is being covered by ceramic poppies to commemorate the lives lost in the conflict. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is an evolving installation that will see 888,246 of the artificial flowers “planted,” at the Tower, each representing a British or Colonial death during the war.

The first poppy was planted by YS Crawford Butler, the oldest serving of the…

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GayStation charity console won by a Pokémon

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Someone nicknamed “Pumpkaboo” is now the proud owner of a gorgeous, rainbow-patterned PlayStation 4. All it took was 28,300 kr (about $4,119). Swedish retailer Webhaller placed the “Sony GayStation 4” on auction last last month, in celebration of the recent Stockholm Pride Festival. Asides from being a show of solidarity, the machine was also used as a way to accrue proceeds for the RSFL Newcomers network, which looks to assist non-heteronormative foreigners.

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Giant floating snowflake will offer a five-star view of the Northern Lights

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Rich tourists will soon be able to enjoy the Northern Lights from within a floating, snowflake-shaped resort located in the waters near Tromso, Norway. The 86-bedroom Krystall hotel is being marketed as a “scarless development,” according to The Telegraph. In other words, the glass-roofed luxury property is not only intended to be “self-sustainable” but also to have a minimal impact on its environment.

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Google’s Venn diagram doodle makes correlation cute

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Google is celebrating the 180th birthday of John Venn, creator of the Venn diagram, with a special doodle on its front page. The interactive doodle allows you to choose from ten subjects in order to find the correlation between them. Choosing “sea life” and “has wings,” for example, will bring up a cutesy illustration of a flying fish. It’s a neat illustration of what a Venn diagram is, even if it doesn’t quite cover the breadth of the diagrams’ uses. It’ll be up on Google.com for the rest of the day, after which you can check it out at Google’s Doodle archive.

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A British national park is using ponies to fight smartphone addiction

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Britain’s New Forest National Park wants to take away your cellphone, your tablet, and your car keys. The park, in southern England, has started a new scheme in which visitors can deposit their electronic devices at a dedicated “Tech Creche.” Smartphones and iPads are kept in device daycare while their owners roam the park, supposedly freed from the tyranny of screens, push notifications, and GPS directions.

Participating people can print off vouchers that promise they’ll “swap screen time for family time.” The park also suggests visitors leave their cars at the visitor center, travelling instead on foot or by open top bus to lessen the environmental impact on the park. The scheme is designed to reconnect children and parents on family…

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Israel eavesdropped on Secretary John Kerry during Middle East negotiations in 2013

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The US and Israel have been staunch allies for decades, but that doesn’t mean that the two nations aren’t keeping an eye on each other. Der Spiegel reports that Israeli intelligence agents wiretapped US Secretary of State John Kerry the last time he tried to broker a peace deal in the Middle East, in 2013. The German paper cites “reliable sources” who say that some of Secretary Kerry’s negotiation efforts between Israel, Palestine, and Arab states were carried out using unencrypted telephone equipment. Apparently the calls were intercepted as they were transmitted by satellite. The Israeli government then used the information it obtained to try “to reach a diplomatic solution in the Middle East.”

It seems everyone spies on everyone,…

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Elon Musk says artificial intelligence is ‘potentially more dangerous than nukes’

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If the robots take over, at least Elon Musk will be able to say “I told you so.” The billionaire inventor loves to make the impossible possible, but he is deeply afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). On Twitter this weekend, Musk said that “we need to be super careful with AI,” adding that they are “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

If that weren’t concerning enough, Musk followed up his statement with another tweet that read: “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence [sic]. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.” Both are scary enough — one compares sentient networked robots with the most dangerous weapon on earth, and the other suggests we’re merely the fleshy precursors to robot…

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US aid worker infected with ebola is now being treated at an Atlanta hospital

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On Saturday, Dr. Kent Brantly arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. He is understood to be the first person carrying ebola who has been inside the United States. Dr. Brantly, of Texas, contracted the highly contagious virus while working in Liberia to help treat ebola patients, and he has been brought back to the US for intensive care at Emory University Hospital. The university is equipped with a special facility — designed in partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control — made to treat patients with extremely contagious conditions. Dr. Brantly’s co-worker, Nancy Writebol, also contracted ebola at the same clinic in Liberia. She is expected to return to the US for intensive care in a few days, according to The New York Times.

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Lego set shows there’s cool stuff happening in the real world, too

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Let’s face it: your kid probably doesn’t need another set of Star Wars-themed Lego — especially since there’s a lot of damn cool stuff going on in the real world. Like science. Science is cool. Lego has put together this $20 “Research Institute” set to let young’uns act like scientists. And the figurines are all women, to boot! It’s just too bad it looks like everyone else is having fun other than the chemist.

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Hunters may be hired to kill 2,800 deer on Civil War battlefields

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Civil War battlefields may soon light up with gunfire once again if a new plan to “reduce” deer populations gets approved. The US National Parks Service has proposed a $1.8 million plan to hire sharpshooters to hunt and kill white-tailed deer at three Civil War battlefields over the next five years.

Deer populations at the Antietam and Monocacy battlefields, located in Maryland, as well as the Manassas battlefield in Virginia, are far above desired levels. The public is prohibited from hunting on the parkland, and populations have reached as high as 230 deer per square mile at Monocacy. The Parks Service hopes to bring those numbers down to 15 or 20 per square mile, reports the Associated Press.

The proposed plan would call for a…

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LG says new software should stop G Watch from corroding

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It seems software updates can solve just about anything. LG has issued a patch for its G Watch to address mounting complaints that the charging connectors on the bottom of the device are rapidly corroding. Early adopters of the Android Wear-powered watch have reported that the terminals have corroded in as little as a week. At best, the corrosion simply discolors the connectors, but some say that the corrosion is so bad that their watches will no longer charge. Others say that the corrosion causes discomfort.

But how, exactly, will a software update solve a hardware problem? “LG will be rolling out a maintenance release over the next few days that will disable the current when the G Watch is not in the charging dock,” a support…

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Crimeans are now using the Russian internet

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Russia may have claimed Crimea as its own, but it takes much more than annexation to truly integrate the peninsula into the mainland. One of those steps has just been completed, as a large portion of Crimean internet traffic is now being routed through Russia for the first time. According to research from internet analysis company Renesys, internet signals started flowing through a newly-constructed submarine cable connecting Crimea to Russia on July 24th.

The process didn’t happen over night. After Russia annexed Crimea in late March, officials started work on bringing the peninsula into the fold. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was quoted on March 24th saying that “It is necessary to ensure that [state-owned Russian…

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The Weekender: the week of finger implants and smelly fears

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Another week has come and gone. The 31st week of the year 2014. We on this planet are nearly two-thirds of the way in transit around the life-giving star we call “the Sun,” a star that will swell and envelope our world in several billion years — quite soon, in cosmic time. But fear not, summer remains. The best days of the year are still to come. It is now August, the month of corn on the cob, carnivals, and last-minute road trips. If the weather is gentle where you are this weekend, you…

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Siri won’t let Beats into Dr. Dre’s party in bizarre new ad

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Beats officially became part of Apple today, and the companies are celebrating with a strange new ad in which no one gets to celebrate at all. In the 30-second spot posted to Twitter, Siri overhears two Beats spokes-speakers happily discussing the news about their new corporate owners. Siri’s disembodied voice lets them know that Beats founder Dr. Dre is hosting a party tonight, leading to much rejoicing. “I gotta go get my hair and nails done,” shouts the lady Pill, who is named Tina and has a Twitter account. The man Pill asks for directions, but Siri shoots him down. “Sorry, Mikey and Tina,” Siri says, not sounding sorry at all. “Dre’s party is invitation only.” The Pills get sad. They’re out of luck. Fade to logos!

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