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AM Prep-Cyber Corner

January 2, 2019

IN THE NEWS: BEYOND PLUTO

LAUREL, Md. (AP) — NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft pulled off the most distant exploration of another world Tuesday, skimming past a tiny, icy object 4 billion miles from Earth that looks to be shaped like a bowling pin.

Flight controllers in Maryland declared success 10 hours after the high-risk, middle-of-the-night encounter at the mysterious body known as Ultima Thule on the frozen fringes of our solar system, an astounding 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto.

The close approach came a half-hour into the new year, and 3 ½ years after New Horizons’ unprecedented swing past Pluto.

For Ultima Thule — which wasn’t even known when New Horizons departed Earth in 2006 — the endeavor was more difficult. The spacecraft zoomed within 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of it, more than three times closer than the Pluto flyby.

Operating on autopilot, New Horizons was out of radio contact with controllers at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory from late Monday afternoon until late Tuesday morning. Scientists wanted the spacecraft staring down Ultima Thule and collecting data, not turning toward Earth to phone home.

IN THE NEWS: VOTING MACHINES-GEORGIA

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s outdated election system has drawn criticism from cybersecurity experts and voting integrity advocates, and now a commission tasked with examining potential replacements is preparing to make recommendations to lawmakers.

The paperless system was closely scrutinized during last year’s nationally watched gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state and chief elections official. Abrams and her allies accused Kemp of suppressing minority votes and mismanaging the election, including by neglecting elections infrastructure. Kemp, now governor-elect, has vehemently denied those allegations.

Cybersecurity experts have warned that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unreliable and vulnerable to hacking, and provide no way to do an audit or confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because there’s no paper trail.

The state’s voting system has been challenged in lawsuits, including one filed after the November election by Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit backed by Abrams. In addition to the outdated machines, critics also raised concerns after security lapses exposed the personal information of Georgia voters.

IN THE NEWS: PODCASTING INMATE

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — In California, inmates typically are granted parole by doing good deeds or showing they have been rehabilitated by becoming pastors, drug counselors or youth advocates. For Walter “Earlonne” Woods, the path to freedom was podcasting.

Woods, 47, was recently released from San Quentin State Prison after California Gov. Jerry Brown commuted his 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted armed robbery. Brown cited Woods’ leadership in helping other inmates and his work at “Ear Hustle,” a podcast he co-hosts and co-produces that documents everyday life inside the prison.

Woods has since been hired as a full-time producer for the often funny and at times heart-wrenching podcast, which has been a smashing success since its launch in 2017. The show’s roughly 30 episodes have been downloaded 20 million times by fans all over the world.

Listeners have praised “Ear Hustle” online as “eye-opening” and “incredibly humanizing.” But for Woods, one of the most meaningful reviews came from the governor’s office when they called with the good news.

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