Author Archives: BeauHD

NBC Publishes 200,000 Tweets Tied To Russian Trolls

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: NBC News is publishing its database of more than 200,000 tweets that Twitter has tied to "malicious activity" from Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA). The organization has been assessed by the U.S. Intelligence Community to be part of a Russian state-run effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. And they're not done. At the request of NBC News, three sources familiar with Twitter's data systems cross-referenced the partial list of names released by Congress to create a partial database of tweets that could be recovered. You can download the streamlined spreadsheet (29 mb) with just usernames, tweet and timestamps, view the full data for ten influential accounts via Google Sheets, download tweets.csv (50 mb) and users.csv with full underlying data, and/or explore a graph database in Neo4j, whose software powered the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations. NBC News' partners at Neo4j have put together a "get started" guide to help you explore the database of Russian tweets. "To recreate a link to an individual tweet found in the spreadsheet, replace 'user_key' in https://twitter.com/user_key/status/tweet_id with the screenname from the 'user_key' field and 'tweet_id' with the number in the 'tweet_id' field," reports NBC News. "Following the links will lead to a suspended page on Twitter. But some copies of the tweets as they originally appeared, including images, can be found by entering the links on webcaches like the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and archive.is."

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73 Percent of Fish In the Northwestern Atlantic Have Microplastics In Their Guts

According to a new study published today in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, microplastics have been found in the stomachs of nearly three out of every four mesopelagic fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic. "These findings are worrying, as the affected fish could spread microplastics throughout the ocean," reports Phys.Org. "The fish are also prey for fish eaten by humans, meaning that microplastics could indirectly contaminate our food supply through the transfer of associated microplastic toxins." From the report: Microplastics are small plastic fragments that have accumulated in the marine environment following decades of pollution. These fragments can cause significant issues for marine organisms that ingest them, including inflammation, reduced feeding and weight-loss. Microplastic contamination may also spread from organism to organism when prey is eaten by predators. Since the fragments can bind to chemical pollutants, these associated toxins could accumulate in predator species. Mesopelagic fish serve as a food source for a large variety of marine animals, including tuna, swordfish, dolphins, seals and sea birds. Typically living at depths of 200-1,000 meters, these fish swim to the surface at night to feed then return to deeper waters during the day. The researchers caught mesopelagic fish at varying depths, then examined their stomachs for microplastics back in the lab. They used a specialized air filter so as not to introduce airborne plastic fibers from the lab environment. The team found a wide array of microplastics in the fish stomachs -- with a whopping 73% of the fish having ingested the pollutants.

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Would You Fear Alien Life or Welcome It?

If you've ever watched a science fiction movie about aliens, you'll know that humans tend to freak out and destroy everything when faced with incontrovertible proof of the existence of alien life. But a new analysis from Arizona State University psychology professor Michael Varnum and his colleagues suggests that humans might actually remain pretty calm and collected when that big news breaks. CNET reports: Varnum makes this conclusion based on an analysis of newspaper articles covering past potential discoveries of extraterrestrial life. Specifically, he and his colleagues looked at articles about the weird dimming of so-called "Tabby's Star," Earth-like planets around the star Trappist-1, and the potential discovery of Martian microbe fossils from 1996. They found language in the stories demonstrated much more positive emotion than fear or other negative emotions. In a second study, the team also surveyed over 500 people, asking them to guess how they and humanity would react to an announcement that alien microbial life had been discovered. In the case of both their own reaction and everyone else's, the participants hypothesized responses that were more positive than negative. The research was published last month in Frontiers in Psychology.

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Distracted Driving: Everyone Hates It, But Most of Us Do It, Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Insurance company Esurance has a new study out on distracted driving, and it makes for interesting reading. Almost everyone agrees distracted driving is bad, yet it's still remarkably prevalent. Even drivers who report rarely driving distracted also report that they engage in distracting behaviors. The study also raises some questions about the growing complexity of modern vehicles, particularly the user interfaces they confront us with. The Esurance report includes survey data from more than a thousand participants. More than 90 percent said that browsing for apps, texting, and emailing were distracting. Yet more than half of daily commuters admitted to doing it. The survey also found that the longer your commute, the greater the chance is you'll get distracted, probably by your phone. Even participants who reported they were "rarely distracted" admitted to distracting behavior like talking on the phone or even viewing GPS Navigation data. (Any task performed while driving should be able to be performed in under two seconds to avoid becoming a distraction.)

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Coffee Beans Are Good For Birds, Fancy Brew Or Not

Zorro shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source ): Birds are not as picky about their coffee as people are. Although coffee snobs prefer arabica beans to robusta, a new study in India found that growing coffee does not interfere with biodiversity -- no matter which bean the farmer chooses. In the Western Ghats region of India, a mountainous area parallel to the subcontinent's western coast, both arabica and robusta beans are grown as bushes under larger trees -- unlike in South America, where the coffee plants themselves grow as large as trees, said Krithi Karanth, who helped lead the study, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports. Arabica and robusta farms proved equally good for these creatures. "Some birds do better with arabica than robusta, but overall, they're both good for wildlife," she said. The difference is important, because data shows that more farmers in the area have been shifting to robusta in recent years, as prices rise for the variety, which is easier to grow. The researchers counted 106 species of birds on the coffee plantations, including at-risk species, such as the alexandrine parakeet, the breyheaded bulbul and the nilgiri woodpigeon. The findings show that farming is not incompatible with wildlife protection, said Jai Ranganathan, a conservation biologist and senior fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research.

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Phishing Attack Scores Credentials For More Than 50,000 Snapchat Users

An anonymous reader quotes an exclusive report from The Verge: In late July, Snap's director of engineering emailed the company's team in response to an unfolding privacy threat. A government official from Dorset in the United Kingdom had provided Snap with information about a recent attack on the company's users: a publicly available list, embedded in a phishing website named klkviral.org, that listed 55,851 Snapchat accounts, along with their usernames and passwords. The attack appeared to be connected to a previous incident that the company believed to have been coordinated from the Dominican Republic, according to emails obtained by The Verge. Not all of the account credentials were valid, and Snap had reset the majority of the accounts following the initial attack. But for some period of time, thousands of Snapchat account credentials were available on a public website. According to a person familiar with the matter, the attack relied on a link sent to users through a compromised account that, when clicked, opened a website designed to mimic the Snapchat login screen.

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The Future of Free and Open-Source Maps

Grady Martin writes: Former OpenStreetMap contributor and Google Summer of Code mentor Serge Wroclawski has outlined why OpenStreetMap is in serious trouble, citing unclear usage policies, poor geocoding (address-to-coordinate conversion), and a lack of a review model as reasons for the project's decline in quality. Perhaps more interesting, however, are the problems purported to stem from OpenStreetMap's power structure. Wroclawski writes: "In the case of OpenStreetMap, there is a formal entity which owns the data, called the OpenStreetMap Foundation. But at the same time, the ultimate choices for the website, the geographic database and the infrastructure are not under the direct control of the Foundation, but instead rest largely on one individual, who (while personally friendly) ranges from skeptical to openly hostile to change."

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The Slow Demise of Barnes & Noble

John Biggs via TechCrunch reports of the slow demise of Barnes & Noble, which he has been chronicling for several years now. There have been many signs of trouble for the bookseller chain over the years, but none have been more apparent than the recent layoffs made earlier this week. From the report: On Monday the company laid off 1,800 people. This offered a cost savings of $40 million. [...] In fact, what B&N did was fire all full time employees at 781 stores. Further, the company laid off many shipping receivers around the holidays, resulting in bare shelves and a customer escape to Amazon. In December 2017, usually B&N's key month, sales dropped 6 percent to $953 million. Online sales fell 4.5 percent. It is important to note that when other big box retailers, namely Circuit City, went the route of firing all highly paid employees and bringing in minimum wage cashiers, stockers, and salespeople it signaled the beginning of the end.

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Labor Board Says Google Could Fire James Damore For Anti-Diversity Memo

According to a recently disclosed letter from the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, Google didn't violate labor laws by firing engineer James Damore for a memo criticizing the company's diversity program. "The lightly redacted statement is written by Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel of the NLRB's division of advice; it dates to January, but was released yesterday, according to Law.com," reports The Verge. "Sophir concludes that while some parts of Damore's memo was legally protected by workplace regulations, 'the statements regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected.'" From the report: Damore filed an NLRB complaint in August of 2017, after being fired for internally circulating a memo opposing Google's diversity efforts. Sophir recommends dismissing the case; Bloomberg reports that Damore withdrew it in January, and that his lawyer says he's focusing on a separate lawsuit alleging discrimination against conservative white men at Google. NLRB records state that its case was closed on January 19th. In her analysis, Sophir writes that employers should be given "particular deference" in trying to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, since these are tied to legal requirements. And employers have "a strong interest in promoting diversity" and cooperation across different groups of people. Because of this, "employers must be permitted to 'nip in the bud' the kinds of employee conduct that could lead to a 'hostile workplace,'" she writes. "Where an employee's conduct significantly disrupts work processes, creates a hostile work environment, or constitutes racial or sexual discrimination or harassment, the Board has found it unprotected even if it involves concerted activities regarding working conditions."

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Apple Says That All New Apps Must Support the iPhone X Screen

Today, Apple emailed developers to inform them that all new apps that are submitted to the App Store must support the iPhone X's Super Retina display, starting this April. What this means is that developers of new applications must ensure they accommodate the notch and go edge-to-edge on the 5.8-inch OLED screen. 9to5Mac reports: Apple has not set a deadline for when updates to existing apps must support iPhone X natively. From April, all new apps must also be built against the iOS 11 SDK. In recent years, Apple has enforced rules more aggressively when it comes to supporting the latest devices. Apple informed the news in an email today encouraging adoption of the latest iOS 11 features like Core ML, SiriKit and ARKit. Requiring compilation with the iOS 11 SDK does not necessarily mean the apps must support new features. It ensures that new app developers are using the latest Apple development tools, which helps prevent the App Store as a whole from going stale, and may encourage adoption of cutting edge features. The rules don't mean that much until Apple requires updates to also support iPhone X and the iOS 11 SDK, as updates represent the majority of the App Store. Most developers making new apps already target iPhone X as a top priority.

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Judge Won’t Let FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal Stop Lawsuit Alleging Charter Throttled Netflix

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hollywood Reporter: [I]n the first significant decision referring to the repeal [of net neutrality] since FCC chairman Ajit Pai got his way, a New York judge on Friday ruled that the rescinding of net neutrality rules wasn't relevant to an ongoing lawsuit against Charter Communications. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the lawsuit almost exactly a year ago today. It's alleged that Charter's Spectrum-TWC service promised internet speeds it knew it couldn't deliver and that Spectrum-TWC also misled subscribers by promising reliable access to Netflix, online content and online games. According to the complaint, the ISP intentionally failed to deliver reliable service in a bid to extract fees from backbone and content providers. When Netflix wouldn't pay, this "resulted in subscribers getting poorer quality streams during the very hours when they were most likely to access Netflix," and after Netflix agreed to pay demands, service "improved dramatically." This arguably is the kind of thing that net neutrality was supposed to prevent. And Charter itself pointed to the net neutrality repeal in a bid to block Schneiderman's claims that Charter had engaged in false advertising and deceptive business practices. New York Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood isn't sold. He writes in an opinion that the FCC's order "which promulgates a new deregulatory policy effectively undoing network neutrality, includes no language purporting to create, extend or modify the preemptive reach of the Transparency Rule," referring to how ISPs have to disclose "actual network performance." And although Charter attempted to argue that the FCC clarified its intent to stop state and local governments from imposing disclosure obligations on broadband providers that were inconsistent with FCC's rules, Sherwood notes other language from the "Restoring Internet Freedom Order" how states will "continue to play their vital role in protecting consumers from fraud, enforcing fair business practices... and generally responding to consumer inquiries and complaints."

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Federal Judge Says Embedding a Tweet Can Be Copyright Infringement

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Rejecting years of settled precedent, a federal court in New York has ruled [PDF] that you could infringe copyright simply by embedding a tweet in a web page. Even worse, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets. If adopted by other courts, this legally and technically misguided decision would threaten millions of ordinary Internet users with infringement liability. This case began when Justin Goldman accused online publications, including Breitbart, Time, Yahoo, Vox Media, and the Boston Globe, of copyright infringement for publishing articles that linked to a photo of NFL star Tom Brady. Goldman took the photo, someone else tweeted it, and the news organizations embedded a link to the tweet in their coverage (the photo was newsworthy because it showed Brady in the Hamptons while the Celtics were trying to recruit Kevin Durant). Goldman said those stories infringe his copyright. "[W]hen defendants caused the embedded Tweets to appear on their websites, their actions violated plaintiff's exclusive display right; the fact that the image was hosted on a server owned and operated by an unrelated third party (Twitter) does not shield them from this result," Judge Katherine Forrest said.

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China Reassigns 60,000 Soldiers To Plant Trees In Bid To Fight Pollution

According to The Independent, citing the Asia Times, China has reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plan trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country's forest coverage. The soldiers are from the People's Liberation Army, along with some of the nation's armed police force. From the report: The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing. The area is known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city. The idea is believed to be popular among members of online military forums as long as they can keep their ranks and entitlements. It comes as part of China's plan to plant at least 84,000 square kilometers (32,400 square miles) of trees by the end of the year, which is roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland. The aim is to increase the country's forest coverage from 21 per cent of its total landmass to 23 per cent by 2020, the China Daily newspaper reported.

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Microsoft Launches LinkedIn-Powered Resume Assistant For Office 365 Subscribers

Microsoft and LinkedIn have launched their Resume Assistant, a Word-integrated tool that aims to help you write your resume by suggesting work experience descriptions pulled from similar LinkedIn profiles and requirements from real job postings. "The feature is available to Microsoft Office 365 subscribers, but one does not need a LinkedIn account to use it," reports Quartz. From the report: What's more, when you're done, Resume Assistant promises to "surface relevant job opportunities for you directly within Microsoft Word." The tool is the newest product to come out of Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn, the high price of which raised more questions than it answered. Industry analysts speculated that Microsoft might have more up its sleeve than just trying to snag more users -- offering companies an entire hiring, learning, and training package, perhaps.

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Household Products Now Rival Cars As a Source of Air Pollution, Say Scientists

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Household cleaners, paints and perfumes have become substantial sources of urban air pollution as strict controls on vehicles have reduced road traffic emissions, scientists say. Researchers in the US looked at levels of synthetic "volatile organic compounds", or VOCs, in roadside air in Los Angeles and found that as much came from industrial and household products refined from petroleum as from vehicle exhaust pipes. The compounds are an important contributor to air pollution because when they waft into the atmosphere, they react with other chemicals to produce harmful ozone or fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. Ground level ozone can trigger breathing problems by making the airways constrict, while fine airborne particles drive heart and lung disease. Writing in the journal Science, De Gouw and others report that the amount of VOCs emitted from household and industrial products is two to three times higher than official US estimates suggest. The result is surprising since only about 5% of raw oil is turned into chemicals for consumer products, with 95% ending up as fuel.

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Electronics-Recycling Innovator Faces Prison For Extending Computers’ Lives

schwit1 shares a report from Los Angeles Times: Prosecutors said 33-year-old [Eric Lundgren, an electronic-waste recycling innovator] ripped off Microsoft by manufacturing 28,000 counterfeit discs with the company's Windows operating system on them. He was convicted of conspiracy and copyright infringement, which brought a 15-month prison sentence and a $50,000 fine. In a rare move though, a federal appeals court has granted an emergency stay of the sentence, giving Lundgren another chance to make his argument that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Lundgren does not deny that he made the discs or that he hoped to sell them. But he says this was no profit-making scheme. By his account, he just wanted to make it easier to extend the usefulness of secondhand computers -- keeping more of them out of the trash. The case centers on "restore discs," which can be used only on computers that already have the licensed Windows software and can be downloaded free from the computer's manufacturer, in this case Dell. The discs are routinely provided to buyers of new computers to enable them to reinstall their operating systems if the computers' hardware fails or must be wiped clean. But they often are lost by the time used computers find their way to a refurbisher. Lundgren said he thought electronics companies wanted the reuse of computers to be difficult so that people would buy new ones. He thought that producing and selling restore discs to computer refurbishers -- saving them the hassle of downloading the software and burning new discs -- would encourage more secondhand sales. In his view, the new owners were entitled to the software, and this just made it easier. The government, and Microsoft, did not see it that way. Federal prosecutors in Florida obtained a 21-count indictment against Lundgren and his business partner, and Microsoft filed a letter seeking $420,000 in restitution for lost sales. Lundgren claims that the assistant U.S. attorney on the case told him, "Microsoft wants your head on a platter and I'm going to give it to them."

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Is Under Investigation Over $3.9 Billion Media Deal

According to a report in The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled), Ajit Pai and the FCC approved a set of rules in 2017 to allow television broadcasters to increase the number of stations they own. Weeks after the rules were approved, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media. PC Gamer reports: The deal was made possible by the new set of rules, which subsequently raised some eyebrows. Notably, the FCC's inspector general is reportedly investigating if Pai and his aides abused their position by pushing for the rule changes that would make the deal possible, and timing them to benefit Sinclair. The extent of the investigation is not clear, nor is how long it will take. However, it does bring up the question of whether Pai had coordinated with Sinclair, and it could force him to publicly address the topic, which he hasn't really done up to this point. Legislators first pushed for an investigation into this matter last November. At the time, a spokesman for the FCC representing Pai called the allegations "baseless" and alluded to it being a partisan play by those who oppose the chairman. "For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the FCC to update its media ownership regulations," the FCC spokesman said. "The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing these rules, it's not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals."

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Bloomberg Starts Tracking Tesla Model 3 Production

WindBourne writes: Tesla is producing their Model 3, but is apparently tired of answering critics about production. So, they quit telling. Now, Bloomberg has an active tracker that shows the total production and deliveries, along with the production per week, which is probably more important. In fact, they are now up to 1,025 Model 3s per week, and it is apparent that Tesla is growing by leaps and bounds on this as parts of the manufacturing line are converted to full robotics. Bloomberg reportedly tracks Tesla's production via Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), which are unique strings of digits displayed on every new car sold in the U.S., along with "data from official U.S. government resources, social media reports, and direct communication with Tesla owners." While the company is now building approximately 1,025 Model 3 vehicles a week, Bloomberg estimates that Tesla has manufactured a total of 7,438 Model 3s so far.

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Google To Kill Off ‘View Image’ Button In Search

Google is removing the "view image" button that appeared when you clicked on a picture, which allowed you to open the image alone. The provision to remove the button is part of a deal Google has made with stock-photo agency Getty to end their legal battle. The Register reported last week that the two companies announced a partnership that "will allow Google to continue carrying Getty-owned photographs in its image and web search results." The Verge reports: The change is essentially meant to frustrate users. Google has long been under fire from photographers and publishers who felt that image search allowed people to steal their pictures, and the removal of the view image button is one of many changes being made in response. The intention seems to be either stopping people from taking an image altogether or driving them through to the website where the image is found, so that the website can serve ads and get revenue and so people are more likely to see any associated copyright information. That's great news for publishers, but it's an annoying additional step for someone trying to find a picture. Now you'll have to wait for a website to load and then scroll through it to find the image. Websites sometimes disable the ability to right click, too, which would make it even harder for someone to grab a photo they're looking for. In addition to removing the "view image" button, Google has also removed the "search by image" button that appeared when you opened up a photo, too. This change isn't quite as big, however. You'll still be able to do a reverse image search by dragging the image to the search bar, and Google will still display related images when you click on a search result. The button may have been used by people to find un-watermarked versions of images they were interested in, which is likely part of why Google pulled it.

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119,000 Passports, Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found On Unsecured Amazon Server

FedEx left scanned passports, drivers licenses, and other documentation belonging to thousands of its customers exposed on a publicly accessible Amazon S3 server, reports Gizmodo. "The scanned IDs originated from countries all over the world, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, and several European countries. The IDs were attached to forms that included several pieces of personal information, including names, home addresses, phone numbers, and zip codes." From the report: The server, discovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Center, was secured as of Tuesday. According to Kromtech, the server belonged to Bongo International LLC, a company that aided customers in performing shipping calculations and currency conversations, among other services. Bongo was purchased by FedEx in 2014 and renamed FedEx Cross-Border International a little over a year later. The service was discontinued in April 2017. According to Kromtech, more than 119,000 scanned documents were discovered on the server. As the documents were dated within the 2009-2012 range, its unclear if FedEx was aware of the server's existence when it purchased Bongo in 2014, the company said.

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France’s Telecom Regulator Thinks Net Neutrality Should Also Apply To Devices

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The ARCEP, France's equivalent of the FCC in the U.S., wants to go beyond telecommunications companies. While many regulatory authorities have focused on carriers and internet service providers, the French authority thinks Google, Apple, Amazon and all the big tech companies also need their own version of net neutrality. The ARCEP just published a thorough 65-page report about the devices we use every day. The report says that devices give you a portion of the internet and prevent an open internet. "With net neutrality, we spend all our time cleaning pipes, but nobody is looking at faucets," ARCEP president Sebastien Soriano told me. "Everybody assumes that the devices that we use to go online don't have a bias. But if you want to go online, you need a device just like you need a telecom company." Now that net neutrality has been laid down in European regulation, the ARCEP has been looking at devices for the past couple of years. And it's true that you can feel you're stuck in an ecosystem once you realize you have to use Apple Music on an Apple Watch, or the Amazon Echo assumes you want to buy stuff on Amazon.com when you say "Alexa, buy me a tooth brush." Voice assistants and connected speakers are even less neutral than smartphones. Game consoles, smartwatches and connected cars all share the same issues. The ARCEP doesn't think we should go back to computers and leave our phones behind. This isn't a debate about innovation versus regulation. Regulation can also foster innovation. "This report has listed for the first time ever all the limitations you face as a smartphone user," Soriano said. "By users, we mean both consumers and developers who submit apps in the stores."

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Windows 10 Is Adding an Ultimate Performance Mode For Pros

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: When you're creating 3D models or otherwise running intensive tasks, you want to wring every ounce of performance out of your PC as possible. It's a good thing, then, that Microsoft has released a Windows 10 preview build in the Fast ring that includes a new Ultimate Performance mode if you're running Pro for Workstations. As the name implies, this is a step up for people for whom even the High Performance mode isn't enough -- it throws power management out the window to eliminate "micro-latencies" and boost raw speed. You can set it yourself, but PC makers will have the option of shipping systems with the feature turned on. Ultimate Performance isn't currently available for laptops or tablets, but Microsoft suggests that could change.

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Cryptocurrency Miners Are ‘Limiting’ the Search For Alien Life Now

Since the latest graphics processing units (GPUs) are so popular with cryptocurrency miners, the SETI project -- short for "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" -- can't find the graphics cards it needs to expand its operations. The SETI@home project helps provide some computing power, as it involves thousands of volunteers who turn the power of their computers over to the project, but it's only a portion of the SETI project's total computing power. Motherboard reports: Searching the stars is intense work that "uses radio telescopes to listen for narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space." Analyzing all of the data from these telescopes uses a lot of computing power. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs and we can't get 'em," Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of SETI, told the BBC. "That's limiting our search for extraterrestrials." Manufacturers such as Nvidia are struggling to keep up with demand for graphics cards. It recently told investors it would rise to meet its manufacturing challenge while focusing on its core market -- gamers. It even suggested vendors limit purchases of graphics cards from individual buyers in an effort to stop miners from buying up all the cards. "This is a new problem, it's only happened on orders we've been trying to make in the last couple of months," Werthimer told the BBC. "We've got the money, we've contacted the vendors, and they say, 'we just don't have them.'"

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SpaceX Hits Two Milestones In Plan For Low-Latency Satellite Broadband

SpaceX is about to launch two demonstration satellites, and it is on track to get the Federal Communications Commission's permission to offer satellite internet service in the U.S. "Neither development is surprising, but they're both necessary steps for SpaceX to enter the satellite broadband market," reports Ars Technica. "SpaceX is one of several companies planning low-Earth orbit satellite broadband networks that could offer much higher speeds and much lower latency than existing satellite internet services." From the report: Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed approving SpaceX's application "to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis," a commission announcement said. SpaceX would be the fourth company to receive such an approval from the FCC, after OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat. "These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests," the FCC said today. SpaceX's application has undergone "careful review" by the FCC's satellite engineering experts, according to Pai. "If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies," Pai said. Separately, CNET reported yesterday that SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch on Saturday will include "[t]he first pair of demonstration satellites for the company's 'Starlink' service." The demonstration launch is confirmed in SpaceX's FCC filings. One SpaceX filing this month mentions that a secondary payload on Saturday's Falcon 9 launch will include "two experimental non-geostationary orbit satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b." Those are the two satellites that SpaceX previously said would be used in its first phase of broadband testing.

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Ultra-Processed Foods May Be Linked To Cancer, Says Study

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Ultra-processed" foods, made in factories with ingredients unknown to the domestic kitchen, may be linked to cancer, according to a large and groundbreaking study. Ultra-processed foods include pot noodles, shelf-stable ready meals, cakes and confectionery which contain long lists of additives, preservatives, flavorings and colorings -- as well as often high levels of sugar, fat and salt. They now account for half of all the food bought by families eating at home in the UK, as the Guardian recently revealed. A team, led by researchers based at the Sorbonne in Paris, looked at the medical records and eating habits of nearly 105,000 adults who are part of the French NutriNet-Sante cohort study, registering their usual intake of 3,300 different food items. They found that a 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods in the diet was linked to a 12% increase in cancers of some kind. The researchers also looked to see whether there were increases in specific types of cancer and found a rise of 11% in breast cancer, although no significant upturn in colorectal or prostate cancer. "If confirmed in other populations and settings, these results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades," says the paper in the British Medical Journal.

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Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Add-ons From Sold Devices

TickBox TV, the company behind a Kodi-powered streaming device, must release a new software updater that will remove copyright-infringing addons from previously shipped devices. A California federal court issued an updated injunction in the lawsuit that was filed by several major Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix, which will stay in place while both parties fight out their legal battle. TorrentFreak reports: Last year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media. ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices. Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold. The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any "build," "theme," "app," or "addon" that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded. In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices. All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box's home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed. In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

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Facebook Is Spamming Users Via Their 2FA Phone Numbers

According to Mashable, Facebook account holder Gabriel Lewis tweeted that Facebook texted "spam" to the phone number he submitted for the purposes of 2-factor authentication. Lewis insists that he did not have mobile notifications turned on, and when he replied "stop" and "DO NOT TEXT ME," he says those messages showed up on his Facebook wall. From the report: Lewis explained his version of the story to Mashable via Twitter direct message. "[Recently] I decided to sign up for 2FA on all of my accounts including FaceBook, shortly afterwards they started sending me notifications from the same phone number. I never signed up for it and I don't even have the FB app on my phone." Lewis further explained that he can go "for months" without signing into Facebook, which suggests the possibility that Mark Zuckerberg's creation was feeling a little neglected and trying to get him back. According to Lewis, he signed up for 2FA on Dec. 17 and the alleged spamming began on Jan. 5. Importantly, Lewis isn't the only person who claims this happened to him. One Facebook user says he accidentally told "friends and family to go [to] hell" when he "replied to the spam."

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YouTube TV Is Adding More Channels, But It’s Also Getting More Expensive

YouTube's internet TV streaming service is expanding its programming with the addition of several Turner networks including TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. YouTube TV is also bringing NBA TV and MLB Network to the base lineup. NBA All Access and MLB.TV will be offered as optional paid add-ons "in the coming months." The downside? The price of the service is going up. The Verge reports: Starting March 13th, YouTube TV's monthly subscription cost will rise from $35 to $40. All customers who join the service prior to the 13th will be able to keep the lower $35 monthly rate going forward. And if you've been waiting for YouTube to add Viacom channels, that still hasn't happened yet. Hopefully these jumps in subscription cost won't happen very often. Otherwise these internet TV businesses might suddenly start feeling more like cable (and not in a good way). The Verge also mentions that YouTube TV is adding a bunch of new markets including: Lexington, Dayton, Honolulu, El Paso, Burlington, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Petersburg, Mobile, Syracuse, Champaign, Springfield, Columbia, Charleston, Harlingen, Wichita, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton.

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New Silicon Chip-Based Quantum Computer Passes Major Test

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Researchers from two teams now working with Intel have reported advances in a new quantum computing architecture, called spin qubits, in a pair of papers out today. They're obviously not the full-purpose quantum computers of the future. But they've got a major selling point over other quantum computing designs. "We made these qubits in silicon chips, similar to what's used in classical computer processes," study author Thomas Watson from TU Delft in the Netherlands told me. "The hope is that by doing things this way, we can potentially scale up to larger numbers needed to perform useful quantum computing." Today, a research group at TU Delft, called QuTech, announced that they'd successfully tested two "spin qubits." These qubits involve the interaction of two confined electrons in a silicon chip. Each electron has a property called spin, which sort of turns it into a tiny magnet, with two states: "up" and "down." The researchers control the electrons with actual cobalt magnets and microwave pulses. They measure the electron's spins by watching how nearby electric charges react to the trapped electrons' movements. Those researchers, now working in partnership with Intel, were able to perform some quantum algorithms, including the well-known Grover search algorithm (basically, they could search through a list of four things), according to their paper published today in Nature. Additionally, a team of physicists led by Jason Petta at Princeton reported in Nature that they were able to pair light particles, called photons, to corresponding electron spins. This just means that distant spin qubits might be able to talk to one another using photons, allowing for larger quantum computers. There are some advantages to these systems. "Present-day semiconductor technology could create these spin qubits, and they would be smaller than the superconducting chips used by IBM," reports Gizmodo. "Additionally, they stay quantum longer than other systems." The drawbacks include the fact that it's very difficult to measure the spins of these qubits, and even more difficult to get them to interact with each other. UC Berkeley postdoc Sydney Schreppler also mentioned that the qubbits needed to be really close to each other.

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Tesla Roadster Elon Musk Launched Into Space Has 6 Percent Chance of Hitting Earth In the Next Million Years

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk grabbed the world's attention last week after launching his Tesla Roadster into space. But his publicity stunt has a half-life way beyond even what he could imagine -- the Roadster should continue to orbit through the solar system, perhaps slightly battered by micrometeorites, for a few tens of millions of years. Now, a group of researchers specializing in orbital dynamics has analyzed the car's orbit for the next few million years. And although it's impossible to map it out precisely, there is a small chance that one day it could return and crash into Earth. But don't panic: That chance is just 6% over a million years, and it would likely burn up as it entered the atmosphere. Hanno Rein of the University of Toronto in Canada and his colleagues regularly model the motions of planets and exoplanets. "We have all the software ready, and when we saw the launch last week we thought, 'Let's see what happens.' So we ran the [Tesla's] orbit forward for several million years," he says. The Falcon Heavy rocket from SpaceX propelled the car out toward Mars, but the sun's gravity will bring it swinging in again some months from now in an elliptical orbit, so it will repeatedly cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus until it sustains a fatal accident. The Roadster's first close encounter with Earth will be in 2091 -- the first of many in the millennia to come.

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FBI, CIA, and NSA: Don’t Use Huawei Phones

The heads of six top U.S. intelligence agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday they would not advise Americans to use products or services from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. "The six -- including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA and the director of national intelligence -- first expressed their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE in reference to public servants and state agencies," reports CNBC. From the report: "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Chris Wray testified. "That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure," Wray said. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage." In a response, Huawei said that it "poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." A spokesman said in a statement: "Huawei is aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities."

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Valve Bans Developer After Employees Leave Fake User Reviews

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Insel Games, a Maltese developer of online multiplayer titles, has been banned from Steam and had all its titles removed from Valve's storefront after evidence surfaced that it was encouraging employees to manipulate user review scores on the service. Yesterday, redditor nuttinbutruth posted a purported leaked email from Insel Games' CEO encouraging employees to buy reimbursed copies of the game in order to leave a Steam review. "Of course I cannot force you to write a review (let alone tell you what to write) -- but I should not have to," the email reads. "Neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs. If [Wild Busters] fails, Insel fails... and then we will all have no jobs next year." In a message later in the day, Valve said it had investigated the claims in the Reddit post and "identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously." While Valve has ended its business relationship with Insel Games, users who previously purchased the company's games on Steam will still be able to use them.

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AMP For Email Is a Terrible Idea

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Devin Coldewey: Google just announced a plan to "modernize" email with its Accelerated Mobile Pages platform, allowing "engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences." Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash. See, email belongs to a special class. Nobody really likes it, but it's the way nobody really likes sidewalks, or electrical outlets, or forks. It not that there's something wrong with them. It's that they're mature, useful items that do exactly what they need to do. They've transcended the world of likes and dislikes. Email too is simple. It's a known quantity in practically every company, household, and device. The implementation has changed over the decades, but the basic idea has remained the same since the very first email systems in the '60s and '70s, certainly since its widespread standardization in the '90s and shift to web platforms in the '00s. The parallels to snail mail are deliberate (it's a payload with an address on it) and simplicity has always been part of its design (interoperability and privacy came later). No company owns it. It works reliably and as intended on every platform, every operating system, every device. That's a rarity today and a hell of a valuable one. More important are two things: the moat and the motive. The moat is the one between communications and applications. Communications say things, and applications interact with things. There are crossover areas, but something like email is designed and overwhelmingly used to say things, while websites and apps are overwhelmingly designed and used to interact with things. The moat between communication and action is important because it makes it very clear what certain tools are capable of, which in turn lets them be trusted and used properly. We know that all an email can ever do is say something to you (tracking pixels and read receipts notwithstanding). It doesn't download anything on its own, it doesn't run any apps or scripts, attachments are discrete items, unless they're images in the HTML, which is itself optional. Ultimately the whole package is always just going to be a big , static chunk of text sent to you, with the occasional file riding shotgun. Open it a year or ten from now and it's the same email. And that proscription goes both ways. No matter what you try to do with email, you can only ever say something with it -- with another email. If you want to do something, you leave the email behind and do it on the other side of the moat.

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The Next Falcon Heavy Will Carry the Most Powerful Atomic Clock Ever Launched

schwit1 shares a report from Space.com: This isn't your average timekeeper. The so-called Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) is far smaller than Earth-bound atomic clocks, far more precise than the handful of other space-bound atomic clocks, and more resilient against the stresses of space travel than any clock ever made. According to a NASA statement, it's expected to lose no more than 2 nanoseconds (2 billionths of a second) over the course of a day. That comes to about 7 millionths of a second over the course of a decade. n an email to Live Science, Andrew Good, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory representative, said the first DSAC will hitch a ride on the second Falcon Heavy launch, scheduled for June. Every deep-space mission that makes course corrections needs to send signals to ground stations on Earth. Those ground stations rely on atomic clocks to measure just how long those signals took to arrive, which allows them to locate the spacecrafts position down to the meter in the vast vacuum. They then send signals back, telling the craft where they are and where to go next. Thats a cumbersome process, and it means any given ground station can support only one spacecraft at a time. The goal of DSAC, according to a NASA fact sheet, is to allow spacecraft to make precise timing measurements onboard a spacecraft, without waiting for information from Earth. A DSAC-equipped spacecraft, according to NASAs statement, could calculate time without waiting for measurements from Earth -- allowing it to make course adjustments or perform precision science experiments without pausing to turn its antennas earthward and waiting for a reply.

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New Horizons Probe Captures Images At Record Distance From Earth

jwhyche writes: The New Horizons probe has captured the farthermost images of Earth. The probe took images of Earth from a distance of over 3.79 billion miles on December 5th, 2017. This beats the image Voyager 1 captured 27 years ago. The Voyager image was taken at a distance of 3.75 billion miles and has become known as the "Pale Blue Dot" photo. Engadget notes that this new record is likely to be broken again within a matter of months. "The [New Horizons spacecraft] is slated to swing by another Kuiper Belt object (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019 and record more imagery in the process," reports Engadget. "So long as the mission goes according to plan, New Horizons could hold on to its lead for a long time."

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Hospitals May Turn To Algorithms To Fight Fatal Infections

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: Clostridium difficile, a deadly bacterium spread by physical contact with objects or infected people, thrives in hospitals, causing 453,000 cases a year and 29,000 deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Traditional methods such as monitoring hygiene and warning signs often fail to stop the disease. But what if it were possible to systematically target those most vulnerable to C-diff? Erica Shenoy, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jenna Wiens, a computer scientist and assistant professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, did just that when they created an algorithm to predict a patient's risk of developing a C-diff infection, or CDI. Using patients' vital signs and other health records, this method -- still in an experimental phase -- is something both researchers want to see integrated into hospital routines. The CDI algorithm -- based on a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning -- is at the leading edge of a technological wave starting to hit the U.S. health care industry. After years of experimentation, machine learning's predictive powers are well-established, and it is poised to move from labs to broad real-world applications, said Zeeshan Syed, who directs Stanford University's Clinical Inference and Algorithms Program. Shenoy and Wiens' CDI algorithm analyzed a data set from 374,000 inpatient admissions to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System, seeking connections between cases of CDI and the circumstances behind them. The records contained over 4,000 distinct variables. As it repeatedly analyzes this data, the ML process extracts warning signs of disease that doctors may miss -- constellations of symptoms, circumstances and details of medical history most likely to result in infection at any point in the hospital stay.

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New York Times CEO: Print Journalism Has Maybe Another 10 Years

New York Times CEO Mark Thompson believes that the newspaper printing presses may have another decade of life in them, but not much more. "I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products," Thompson said on "Power Lunch." He said he'd like to have the print edition "survive and thrive as long as it can," but admitted it might face an expiration date. "We'll decide that simply on economics," he said. "There may come a point when the economics of [the print paper] no longer make sense for us. The key thing for us is that we're pivoting. Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone." CNBC reports: Digital subscriptions, in fact, may be what's keeping the New York Times afloat for a new generation of readers. While Thompson said the number of print subscribers is relatively constant, "with a little bit of a decline every time," the company said last week that it added 157,000 digital subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2017. The majority were new subscribers, but that number also included cooking and crossword subscriptions. Revenue from digital subscriptions increased more than 51 percent in the quarter compared with a year earlier. Overall subscription revenue increased 19.2 percent. Meanwhile, the company's fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analysts expectations, "even though the print side of the business is still somewhat challenged," Thompson said. Total revenue rose 10 percent from a year earlier to $484.1 million. New York Times' shares have risen more than 20 percent this year. "Without question we make more money on a print subscriber," Thompson added. "But the point about digital is that we believe we can grow many, many more of them. We've already got more digital than print subscribers. Digital is growing very rapidly. Ultimately, there will be many times the number of digital subscribers compared to print."

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Kaspersky Says Telegram Flaw Used For Cryptocurrency Mining

According to Kaspersky Lab, hackers have been exploiting a vulnerability in Telegram's desktop client to mine cryptocurrencies such as Monero and ZCash. "Kaspersky said on its website that users were tricked into downloading malicious software onto their computers that used their processing power to mine currency, or serve as a backdoor for attackers to remotely control a machine," reports Bloomberg. From the report: While analyzing the servers of malicious actors, Kaspersky researchers also found archives containing a cache of Telegram data that had been stolen from victims. The Russian security firm said it "reported the vulnerability to Telegram and, at the time of publication, the zero-day flaw has not since been observed in messenger's products."

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Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash

schwit1 shares a report from Activist Post: Following years of resistance from citizens, the city of Seattle has decided to completely remove controversial surveillance equipment -- at a cost of $150,000. In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection. The Seattle Times reports on the latest developments: "Seattle's wireless mesh network, a node of controversy about police surveillance and the role of federal funding in city policing, is coming down. Megan Erb, spokeswoman for Seattle Information Technology, said the city has budgeted $150,000 for contractor Prime Electric and city employees to remove dozens of surveillance cameras and 158 'wireless access points' -- little, off-white boxes with antennae mounted on utility poles around the city." The nodes were purchased by the Seattle Police Department via a $3.6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The Seattle Police Department argued the network would be helpful for protecting the port and for first-responder communication during emergencies. As the Times notes, "the mesh network, according to the ACLU, news reports and anti-surveillance activists from Seattle Privacy Coalition, had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday." However, by November 2013, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb announced, "The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft (privacy) policy and until there's an opportunity for vigorous public debate." The privacy policy for the network was never developed and, instead, the city has now opted to remove the devices at a cost of $150,000. The Times notes that, "crews are tearing its hardware down and repurposing the usable parts for other city agencies, including Seattle Department of Transportation traffic cameras."

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Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: After a year that saw over $300 million in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS's labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. All totaled, the Weather Service faces cuts of $75 million in the initial proposal. Some or all of those cuts could be jettisoned before the bill is voted upon. "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Further reading: The Washington Post

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Google Is Adding Snapchat-Style Stories To Mobile Search Results

Google is rolling out tappable, visual stories that incorporate text, images, and videos in the style made popular by Snapchat. "It started widely testing the multimedia format, called AMP stories, today (Feb. 13) in an effort to help publishers engage more with readers on mobile," reports Quartz. Google announced the feature in a developer blog post. From the report: Users can now find Google stories in search results -- in a box called "visual stories" -- when they search on mobile at g.co/ampstories for the names of publishers that have begun using the format, such as CNN, Conde Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media, and the Washington Post brands. Google worked with those publishers to develop the format. Desktop users can also get a taste of stories through Google's Accelerate Mobile Pages site. When a user selects a story, like Cosmopolitan magazine's piece on apple cider vinegar, it displays in a full-screen, slideshow format, similar to those on Snapchat and Instagram. The multimedia format is part of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, a competitor to Facebook's Instant Articles that helps load pages faster on mobile devices. Like AMP, the AMP story format is open-sourced, so anyone can use it. However, Google is reportedly only displaying stories from a select group of publishers, including those it partnered with on the development, on its own site at the moment. The company said it plans to bring AMP stories to more Google products in the future, and expand the ways they appear in Google search.

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Huawei Got People To Write Fake Reviews For An Unreleased Phone

As spotted by 9to5Google, Huawei has apparently posted fake reviews on Best Buy for its new Mate 10 Pro, which is available for pre-order in the U.S. despite not having any deals with U.S. carriers. "The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook," reports The Verge. From the report: On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. "Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page," the post states. On the Best Buy site, there are currently 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. "I can't wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people," reads one. "This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it," another reads. It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That's all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. "Huawei's first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation," a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. "While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn't disclosed they participated in the review program."

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Has No Dedicated Money For Broadband

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Trump's new 10-year plan for "rebuilding infrastructure in America" doesn't contain any funding specifically earmarked for improving Internet access. Instead, the plan sets aside a pool of funding for numerous types of infrastructure projects, and broadband is one of the eligible categories. The plan's $50 billion Rural Infrastructure Program lists broadband as one of five broad categories of eligible projects. Eighty percent of the program's $50 billion would be "provided to the governor of each state." Governors would take the lead in deciding how the money would be spent in their states. The other 20 percent would pay for grants that could be used for any of the above project categories. Separately, broadband would be eligible for funding from a proposed $20 billion Transformative Projects Program, along with transportation, clean water, drinking water, energy, and commercial space. Trump's plan would also add rural broadband facilities to the list of eligible categories for Private Activity Bonds, which allow private projects to "benefit from the lower financing costs of tax-exempt municipal bonds." The plan would also let carriers install small cells and Wi-Fi attachments without going through the same environmental and historical preservation reviews required for large towers.

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Comcast Sues Vermont Over Conditions On New License Requiring the Company To Expand Its Network

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VTDigger: Cable television giant Comcast is suing the Vermont Public Utility Commission over the panel's decision to require the company to expand its network and step up support for community access TV if it wants to continue doing business in Vermont. A key issue is the services Comcast must provide to local community access systems that carry municipal government and school board meetings and other local events. The 26 community access systems have been pushing -- against resistance by Comcast -- for high-definition video, greater ability to operate from remote locations, and inclusion in the interactive program guides that Comcast customers can use to decide what to watch. The PUC -- formerly known as the Public Service Board -- in January issued a new 11-year permit for Comcast to operate in Vermont. In July the panel rejected the company's request to drop some of the conditions attached to the permit. In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Comcast argued that the PUC "exceeded its authority under federal and Vermont law" by imposing "numerous conditions on Comcast's continued cable operations in the state that are arbitrary, unprecedented and will ultimately harm local cable subscribers by resulting in millions of dollars in increased cable costs." It said the commission "did so despite overwhelming record evidence that Vermont cable subscribers do not want to incur any additional costs or fees for the kinds of conditions imposed" in the commission's January order.

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Amazon Is Designing Custom AI Chips For Alexa

According to a report (paywalled) from The Information, Amazon is designing a custom artificial intelligence chip that would power future Echo devices and improve the quality and response time of its Alexa voice assistant. "The move closely followers rivals Apple and Google, both of which have already developed and deployed custom AI hardware at various scales," reports The Verge. From the report: While Amazon is unlikely to physically produce the chips, given its lack of both fabrication experience and a manufacturing presence in China, the news does pose a risk to the businesses of companies like Nvidia and Intel. Both companies have shifted large portions of their chipmaking expertise to AI and the future of the burgeoning field, and both make money by designing and manufacturing chips for companies like Apple, Amazon, and others. Amazon, which seeks to stay competitive in the smart home hardware market and in the realm of consumer-facing AI products, has nearly 450 people with chip expertise on staff, reports The Information, thanks to key hires and acquisitions the e-commerce giant has made in the last few years. The plan is for Amazon to develop its own AI chips so Alexa-powered products in its ever-expanding Echo line can do more on-device processing, instead of having to communicate with the cloud, a process that increases response rate times.

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Daylight Saving Time Isn’t Worth It, European Parliament Members Say

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it. Although the resolution it voted on was non-binding, the majority reflected a growing dissatisfaction with a system that has been used by the U.S., Canada, most of Europe, and regions in Asia, Africa, and South America for decades. The resolution asked the European Commission to review the costs and benefits of Daylight Saving Time. If the EU were to abolish Daylight Saving Time, it would need approval of the majority of EU member states and EU Parliament members. "We think that there's no need to change the clocks," Ireland Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly said to Deutsche Welle. "It came in during World War One, it was supposed to be for energy savings -- the indications are that there are very few energy savings, if any -- and there are an awful lot of disadvantages to both human beings and animals that make it outdated at this point."

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25 Years of Satellite Data Shows Global Warming Is Accelerating Sea Level Rise

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows. At the current rate, the world's oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets. It confirms scientists' computer simulations and is in line with predictions from the United Nations, which releases regular climate change reports. Of the 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of sea level rise in the past quarter century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice. But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.

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Facebook Lost Around 2.8 Million US Users Under 25 Last Year

According to new estimates by eMarketer, Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic declined by 9.9 percent in 2017, or about 1.4 million total users. That's almost three times more than the digital measurement firm expected. There were roughly 12.1 million U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic by the end of the year. Recode reports: There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its "cool" factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper -- but many young people don't seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic. Overall, eMarketer found Facebook lost about 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. The research firm released Facebook usage estimates for 2018 on Monday, and expects that Facebook will lose about 2.1 million users in the U.S. under the age of 25 this year.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Benchmarks Show An Incredible GPU, Faster CPU

MojoKid writes: Though the company has been evangelizing its new Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform for a while now, Qualcomm is lifting the veil today on the new chip's benchmark performance profile. At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the new Kyro 385 CPU, which features four high-performance cores operating at 2.8GHz and four efficiency cores that are dialed back to 1.7GHz, all of which should culminate in a claimed 25 percent uplift over the previous generation Snapdragon 835, along with improved power efficiency. In addition, the Snapdragon 845's new Adreno 630 integrated GPU core should deliver a boost in performance over its predecessor as well, with up to a 30 percent increase in graphics throughput, allowing it to become the first mobile platform to enable room-scale VR/AR experiences. Armed with prototype reference devices, members of the press put the Snapdragon 845 through its paces and the chip proved to be anywhere from 15 to 35 percent faster, depending on workloads and benchmarks, with graphics showing especially strong. Next-generation Android smartphones and other devices based on the Snapdragon 845 are expected to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of this month.

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Center Booster Lacked Ignition Fluid To Light Engines and Land On Platform

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: The center core booster of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy didn't land on a floating sea platform as intended during last week's first test flight because it ran out of ignition fluid, company Chief Executive Elon Musk said Monday. Musk took to Twitter on Monday morning to give a few more updates on the Falcon Heavy's first flight. After liftoff, the rocket's two side boosters touched down simultaneously on land, eliciting cheers and applause from the crowd of SpaceX employees gathered in the company's Hawthorne headquarters, as seen on the launch livestream. Those two boosters, which were used in previous launches of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, will not be reused again, Musk said in a post-launch news conference last week. But the center core booster ended up hitting the Atlantic Ocean at 300 mph and about 328 feet from the floating platform where it was supposed to land. Musk said Monday that there wasn't enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines of the booster "after several three engine relights."

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Trump’s New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports

The Trump administration has released an infrastructure plan on Monday that proposes that the federal government considers selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. According to Trump's blueprint, the administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for "potential divesture." Politico reports: State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent." Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture." Though technically owned by the federal government, both airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a long-term lease agreement. The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment. "The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure," reports CNNMoney. "Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio. States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend." As for how the money would be split up, the plan says that half of the new federal money, $100 billion, "would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities," reports CNNMoney. "An additional $20 billion would go toward 'projects of national significance' that can 'lift the American spirit,'" while another $50 billion will be designated "for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have," reports CNNMoney. "The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings..."

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Amazon Is Cutting Hundreds of Corporate Jobs

According to a Seattle Times report, Amazon is laying off hundreds of corporate workers in its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere. "The corporate cuts come after an eight-year hiring spree, taking the company from 5,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in its Seattle headquarters and gobbling up several retail businesses throughout the country," reports TechCrunch. From the report: However, according to the report, Amazon's rising employee numbers over the last two years left some departments over budget and with too many staff on hand. In the last few months, the company implemented hiring freezes to stem the flow of new workers, cutting the number of open positions in half from the 3,500 listed last Summer. The layoffs will mainly focus on Amazon's Seattle office, but there have already been cuts in some of its retail subsidiaries in other parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas-based online footwear retailer Zappos, which had to lay off 30 people recently. And the company behind Diapers.com, Quidsi, had to cut more than 250 jobs a year ago. The moves suggest Amazon may be trying to rein in spending and consolidate some of its retail businesses.

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Reddit Audiophiles Test HomePod, Say It Sounds Better Than $1,000 Speaker

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple released its much-hyped HomePod speaker to the masses last week, and the general consensus among early reviews is that it sounds superb for a relatively small device. But most of those reviews seem to have avoided making precise measurements of the HomePod's audio output, instead relying on personal experience to give generalized impressions. That's not a total disaster: a general rule for speaker testing is that while it's good to stamp out any outside factor that may cause a skewed result, making definitive, "objective" claims is difficult. But having some proper measurements is important. Reddit user WinterCharm, whose real name is Fouzan Alam, has made just that in a truly massive review for the site's "r/audiophile" sub. And if his results are to be believed, those early reviews may be underselling the HomePod's sonic abilities. After a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, Alam found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a generally well-regarded bookshelf speaker that retails for $999. What's more, Alam's measurements found the HomePod to provide a "near-perfectly flat frequency response," meaning it stays accurate to a given track without pushing the treble, mids, or bass to an unnatural degree. He concludes that the digital signal processing tech the HomePod uses to "self-calibrate" its sound to its surroundings allows it to impress at all volumes and in tricky environments. "The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker," he writes.

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There Are Ajit Pai ‘Verizon Puppet’ Jokes That the FCC Doesn’t Want You To Read

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release the draft versions of jokes told by Chairman Ajit Pai at a recent dinner, claiming that releasing the drafts would "impede the candid exchange of ideas" within the commission. In December, Pai gave a speech at the annual FCC Chairman's Dinner and played a video that attempts to lampoon critics who accuse Pai of doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer. The video was shown less than a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, a favorable move for the broadband industry requested by Verizon and other ISPs. The satirical skit shows Pai planning his future ascension to the FCC chairmanship with Verizon executive Kathleen Grillo in 2003, the last year Pai worked as a Verizon lawyer. The video shows Pai and the Verizon executive plotting to install a "Verizon puppet" as FCC chair. In response, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for "any communications records from within the chairman's office referencing the event or the Verizon executive," the news site wrote yesterday. "Nearly a dozen pages worth of emails were located, including draft versions of the video's script and various edits," Gizmodo wrote. "The agency is refusing to release them, however; it is 'reasonably foreseeable,' it said, that doing so would injure the 'quality of agency decisions.'" The FCC searched for the records in response to Gizmodo's request and "returned no communications whatsoever with Kathy Grillo," the article said.

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German Authorities Are Considering a Ban On Loot Boxes

Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: Heise reports that German authorities are examining loot boxes in video games and considering banning them in the country. Loot boxes might actually even violate laws against calls-to-purchase aimed directly towards minors that are already in effect. German authorities are also checking that. Loot boxes are randomized in-game item purchases that many people consider a form of gambling. The decision to take action against loot boxes in Germany is expected in March. Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body has since clarified that Germany authorities are not considering a general ban on loot boxes, but are actually examining regulations of online advertising and purchasing as a whole. "A closer look at the discussion is taking place, ie., if there are any specific risks and where to locate them legally. As part of that analysis the KJM (governmental institution responsible for youth protection regarding to online content/services) is taking a closer look at permitted and prohibited advertising in shop offerings. However these rules apply to online purchases in general, thus also to loot boxes," the rep said. "In the German debate this term [loot box] refers to a broad variety of different in-game or even just game-related purchase systems with more or less randomized items. Hence one cannot say that 'loot boxes' violate German laws, as each integration has to be evaluated as separate case."

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Is Social Media Causing Childhood Depression?

General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. "One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E," reports BBC. Dr. Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. "He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community," says Dr. Chatterjee. That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people. From the report: "Social media is having a negative impact on mental health," he said. "I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?" A 2017 study by The Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people aged 11-25 to track their moods while using the five most popular social media sites. It suggested Snapchat and Instagram were the most likely to inspire feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. YouTube had the most positive influence. Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse. Consultant psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou says one of the clearest indications children are spending too long on their phones is their behavior during a session with a psychiatrist. "Two or three years ago, it was very unusual for a child to answer their phone or text during an appointment. But now it is common," said the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital doctor. She has seen a rise in cases where social media is a contributing factor in teenage depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These problems are often complex and wide-ranging -- from excessive use of gaming or social media sites to feelings of inadequacy brought on by a constant bombardment of social media images of other people's lives, to cyber-bullying.

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Researchers Discover Efficient Way To Filter Salt, Metal Ions From Water

schwit1 shares a report on a new study, published in Sciences Advances, that offers a new solution to providing clean drinking water for billions of people worldwide: It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. The sponge like crystals can be used to capture, store and release chemical compounds. In this case, the salt and ions in sea water. Dr Huacheng Zhang, Professor Huanting Wang and Associate Professor Zhe Liu and their team in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO and Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, have recently discovered that MOF membranes can mimic the filtering function, or "ion selectivity," of organic cell membranes. With further development, these membranes have significant potential to perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions in a highly efficient and cost effective manner, offering a revolutionary new technological approach for the water and mining industries. Currently, reverse osmosis membranes are responsible for more than half of the world's desalination capacity, and the last stage of most water treatment processes, yet these membranes have room for improvement by a factor of 2 to 3 in energy consumption. They do not operate on the principles of dehydration of ions, or selective ion transport in biological channels.

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Why Hiring the ‘Best’ People Produces the Least Creative Results

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by Scott E. Page, who explains why hiring the "best" people produces the least creative results: The burgeoning of teams -- most academic research is now done in teams, as is most investing and even most songwriting (at least for the good songs) -- tracks the growing complexity of our world. We used to build roads from A to B. Now we construct transportation infrastructure with environmental, social, economic, and political impacts. The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them. The multidimensional or layered character of complex problems also undermines the principle of meritocracy: The idea that the "best person" should be hired. There is no best person. When putting together an oncological research team, a biotech company such as Gilead or Genentech would not construct a multiple-choice test and hire the top scorers, or hire people whose resumes score highest according to some performance criteria. Instead, they would seek diversity. They would build a team of people who bring diverse knowledge bases, tools and analytic skills. That team would more likely than not include mathematicians (though not logicians such as Griffeath). And the mathematicians would likely study dynamical systems and differential equations. Believers in a meritocracy might grant that teams ought to be diverse but then argue that meritocratic principles should apply within each category. Thus the team should consist of the "best" mathematicians, the "best" oncologists, and the "best" biostatisticians from within the pool. That position suffers from a similar flaw. Even with a knowledge domain, no test or criteria applied to individuals will produce the best team. Each of these domains possesses such depth and breadth, that no test can exist. When building a forest, you do not select the best trees as they tend to make similar classifications. You want diversity. Programmers achieve that diversity by training each tree on different data, a technique known as bagging. They also boost the forest 'cognitively' by training trees on the hardest cases -- those that the current forest gets wrong. This ensures even more diversity and accurate forests.

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NSA Sent Coded Messages From Its Twitter To Communicate With Foreign Spies

Matt Novak reports via Gizmodo: During the first Cold War, American and British spies would sometimes place coded messages in newspaper classified ads to communicate with each other. And according to new reports in the New York Times and The Intercept, the National Security Agency (NSA) has updated the tactic, using its public Twitter account to send secret messages to at least one Russian spy. That's just one relatively small detail in much more salacious articles about NSA and CIA agents traveling to Germany in an effort to recover cyberweapons that had been stolen from U.S. intelligence agencies. A Russian spy allegedly offered up the stolen cyber tools to the Americans in exchange for $10 million, eventually lowering his price to just $1 million. The Russian spy allegedly claimed to even have dirt on President Trump. According to the reports, the unnamed Russian met with U.S. spies in person in Germany, and the NSA sometimes communicated with the Russian spy by sending roughly a dozen coded messages from the NSA's Twitter account. The one important question: Were the messages sent via direct message or were they sent out as public tweets? The New York Times report leaves some ambiguity, but according to James Risen in The Intercept they were very public.

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Android Wear Is Getting Killed, and It’s All Qualcomm’s Fault

The death of Android Wear is all Qualcomm's fault, largely due to the fact that the company "has a monopoly on smartwatch chips and doesn't seem interested in making any smartwatch chips," writes Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo. This weekend marks the second birthday of Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, which was announced in February 2016 and is the "least awful smartwatch SoC you can use in an Android Wear device." Since Qualcomm skipped out on an upgrade last year, and it doesn't seem like we'll get a new smartwatch chip any time soon, the entire Android Wear market will continue to suffer. From the report: In a healthy SoC market, this would be fine. Qualcomm would ignore the smartwatch SoC market, make very little money, and all the Android Wear OEMs would buy their SoCs from a chip vendor that was addressing smartwatch demand with a quality chip. The problem is, the SoC market isn't healthy at all. Qualcomm has a monopoly on smartwatch chips and doesn't seem interested in making any smartwatch chips. For companies like Google, LG, Huawei, Motorola, and Asus, it is absolutely crippling. There are literally zero other options in a reasonable price range (although we'd like to give a shoutout to the $1,600 Intel Atom-equipped Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45), so companies either keep shipping two-year-old Qualcomm chips or stop building smartwatches. Android Wear is not a perfect smartwatch operating system, but the primary problem with Android Wear watches is the hardware, like size, design (which is closely related to size), speed, and battery life. All of these are primarily influenced by the SoC, and there hasn't been a new option for OEMs since 2016. There are only so many ways you can wrap a screen, battery, and body around an SoC, so Android smartwatch hardware has totally stagnated. To make matters worse, the Wear 2100 wasn't even a good chip when it was new.

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Researchers Are Developing An Algorithm That Makes Smartphones Child-Proof

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Researchers at the University of South Carolina and China's Zhejiang University have created an algorithm that can spot whether your kid is accidentally trying to, say, order from Amazon without your knowing. There are already plenty of activity-monitoring apps that aim to control what kids do on phones, but parents need to add them and turn them on, and they could be disabled by tech-savvy children. The researchers figured that automated age-range detection would make it easier for parents to hand their phones over to curious children without worrying that the kids will stumble upon an inappropriate website or get into a work e-mail account. The researchers built a simple app and asked a group of kids between the ages of three and 11 -- and a group of adults between 22 and 60 -- to use it. The app had participants unlock an Android phone and then play a numbers-based game on it, so that the researchers could record a variety of taps and swipes. They also tracked things like the amount of pressure applied by a user's finger and the area it encompassed. The researchers used the resulting data to train an age-detecting algorithm that they say is 84 percent accurate with just one swipe on the screen -- a figure that goes up to 97 percent after eight swipes.

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Ask Slashdot: What Is Missing In Tech Today?

dryriver writes: There is so much tech and gadget news pouring out of the internet every day that one might think "everything tech that is needed already exists." But of course, people thought precisely that at various points in human history, and then completely new tools, technologies, processes, designs, devices and innovations came along soon after and changed everything. Sometimes the opposite also happens: tech that was really good for its day and used to exist is suddenly no longer available. For example, many people miss the very usable Psion palmtop computers with their foldout QWERTY keyboards, touchscreens, and styluses; or would have liked the Commodore Amiga with its innovative custom chips and OS to continue existing and evolving; or would have liked to be able to keep using software like Softimage XSI or Adobe Director, which were suddenly discontinued. So here is the question: what tech, in your particular profession, industry, personal area of interest, or scientific or academic field, is currently "missing?" This can be tech that is needed but does not exist yet, either hardware or software, or some kind of mechanical device or process. It could also be tech that was available in the past, but was EOL'd or "End Of Lifed" and never came back in an updated or evolved form. Bonus question: if what you feel is "missing" could quite feasibly be engineered, produced, and sold today at a profit, what do you think is the reason it isn't available?

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US Transportation Department Calls For ‘Summit’ On Autonomous Cars

Auto manufacturers, technology companies, road safety advocates and policy makers will attend a March 1 conference over potential government actions that could speed the rollout of autonomous cars, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday. Reuters reports: Next month's "summit" is to help "identify priority federal and non-federal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout" of autonomous vehicles, the department said. It will also be open to the public. The U.S. National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants comments on what research to conduct before deciding whether to eliminate or rewrite regulations. It could take the agency years to finalize rule changes, and advocates are pushing Congress to act. The March 1 meeting at the department's headquarters in Washington will include "several stakeholder breakout sessions on various topics related to automation," NHTSA said.

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Hackers Manage To Run Linux On a Nintendo Switch

Romain Dillet reports via TechCrunch: Hacker group fail0verflow shared a photo of a Nintendo Switch running Debian, a distribution of Linux. The group claims that Nintendo can't fix the vulnerability with future firmware patches. According to fail0verflow, there's a flaw in the boot ROM in Nvidia's Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip. When your console starts, it reads and executes a piece of code stored in a read-only memory (hence the name ROM). This code contains instructions about the booting process. It means that the boot ROM is stored on the chip when Nvidia manufactures it and it can't be altered in any way after that. Even if Nintendo issues a software update, this software update won't affect the boot ROM. And as the console loads the boot ROM immediately after pressing the power button, there's no way to bypass it. The only way to fix it would be to manufacture new Nvidia Tegra X1 chips. So it's possible that Nintendo asks Nvidia to fix the issue so that new consoles don't have this vulnerability.

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Budget Deal Has Tax Credit Extensions For Nuclear, Fuel Cells, Carbon Capture

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A two-year budget deal was approved by the House and the Senate this morning and signed by President Trump a few hours later. The budget (PDF) included a slew of tax credit extensions that will affect how the energy industry plans its next two years. Most notably, the deal extended a $0.018 per-kWh credit for nuclear power plants over 6,000MW -- a tax credit that is primarily going to benefit one project in the US. That project is the construction of two new reactors at the Georgia Vogtle nuclear power plant. Interestingly, a bipartisan effort to increase and extend tax credits for carbon sequestration passed through this budget. The bill was pushed through by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). The bill would offer a tax credit per ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and either sequestered, used for another end product, or used for enhanced oil recovery. The credit applies to any facility that started carbon capture construction within the past seven years, and the credit extends for 12 years. While the budget deal leaves the federal tax credit scheme for electric vehicles unchanged (automakers can still entice buyers with a $7,500 credit for the first 200,000 electric vehicles that roll off that automaker's line), the budget did include and extend some interesting tax credits for other kinds of non-traditional energy. Fuel cell vehicles saw an extension of tax credits that will allow purchasers of new cars a tax credit of between $4,000 and $40,000, depending on the weight of the vehicle (this is probably good news for potential customers of Nikola's in-development fuel-cell semis). Non-hydrogen alternative fuel infrastructure also scored, as the new budget lets installers of infrastructure for alternative fuels like biodiesel and natural gas deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing the new pumps. Two-wheeled electric vehicle buyers will also see a 10-percent credit extended (though that credit has a $2,500 cap). Per-gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel credits that expired at the end of 2017 will continue.

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Rejoice: Samsung’s Next Flagship Smartphone Looks To Keep the Headphone Jack Alive

Notorious smartphone leaker Evan Blass has leaked a couple press images of the Galaxy S9, giving us the first indication that it will still have a headphone jack. "The full information spill today is actually focused on a new Samsung DeX Pad, which appears to be an evolution of last year's DeX dock for the Galaxy S8," reports The Verge. From the report: Samsung, LG, and a couple of other companies like OnePlus have remained resolute in their inclusion of a headphone jack, but that was far from a certainty for the next Galaxy S iteration. This is a phone that will compete against the iPhone X, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and more niche rivals like Google's Pixel 2: all of them surviving sans a headphone jack. So Samsung could have dumped the analog audio output, but it seems to have opted against it, and that's worthy of commendation. USB-C earphones are all still either bad or expensive -- or both -- and phones that retain compatibility with 3.5mm connectors remain profoundly useful to consumers that aren't yet convinced by Bluetooth.

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Detroit Decides Against Banning Airbbnb — For Now

Building officials say they will not enforce an apparent city ban of some Airbnb rentals until there is a legal review of an ordinance that went into effect this week. Detroit News reports: The ordinance, approved by the Detroit City Council in November, prohibits an owner-occupied-unit to be used for paid overnight guests. According to information listed online in the Detroit City Code, the rule went into effect Feb. 6, catching some city officials by surprise. "Detroit homeowners have been able to rent out a room in their homes for more than 100 years, and we don't believe the new ordinance was intended to take away that right," said David Bell, director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department for the City of Detroit, in a statement Friday. "The ordinance as written appears to ban all homeowners from having even their own friends and relatives stay at their homes if that friend or relative is paying them rent. The public was never told that was intended. I have asked the law department to review this question and give (the department) guidance." "Until the law department review is complete, (the department) will not be ticketing homeowners for renting out rooms in their own residence, whether through Airbnb or otherwise," Bell said. "(The department) and the administration will be working with City Council to resolve these issues."

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Maine Dairy Company Settles Lawsuit Over Oxford Comma

Daniel Victor reports via The New York Times: Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The dairy company in Portland, Me., agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to court documents filed on Thursday. The relatively small-scale dispute gained international notoriety last year when the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the missing comma created enough uncertainty to side with the drivers, granting those who love the Oxford comma a chance to run a victory lap across the internet. But the resolution means there will be no ruling from the land's highest courts on whether the Oxford comma -- the often-skipped second comma in a series like "A, B, and C" -- is an unnecessary nuisance or a sacred defender of clarity, as its fans and detractors endlessly debate. The case began in 2014, when three truck drivers sued the dairy for what they said was four years' worth of overtime pay they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carved out exemptions for: The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: agricultural produce; meat and fish products; and perishable foods. What followed the last comma in the first sentence was the crux of the matter: "packing for shipment or distribution of." The court ruled that it was not clear whether the law exempted the distribution of the three categories that followed, or if it exempted packing for the shipment or distribution of them. Had there been a comma after "shipment," the meaning would have been clear.

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‘Sinking’ Pacific Nation Tuvalu Is Actually Getting Bigger

mi shares a report from Phys.Org: The Pacific nation of Tuvalu -- long seen as a prime candidate to disappear as climate change forces up sea levels -- is actually growing in size, new research shows. A University of Auckland study examined changes in the geography of Tuvalu's nine atolls and 101 reef islands between 1971 and 2014, using aerial photographs and satellite imagery. It found eight of the atolls and almost three-quarters of the islands grew during the study period, lifting Tuvalu's total land area by 2.9 percent, even though sea levels in the country rose at twice the global average. Co-author Paul Kench said the research, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, challenged the assumption that low-lying island nations would be swamped as the sea rose. It found factors such as wave patterns and sediment dumped by storms could offset the erosion caused by rising water levels.

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Mayfair Games Shuts Down After 36 Years of Board Games

damnbunni writes: Longtime board game publisher Mayfair Games (English-language publisher for Settlers of Catan, Agricola, and many more) has shut down after 36 years. All of their games have been sold to Asmodee, who also owns Fantasy Flight Games, Z-Man Games, Rebel, Edge Entertainment, and a host of other board game companies they've picked up over the years. "As of today, the management team at Mayfair Games, Inc. announces we will wind down game publishing," the company said in a statement. "After 36 years, this was not an easy decision or one we took lightly, but it was necessary. Once we had come to this conclusion, we knew we had to find a good home for our games which is when we reached out to Asmodee."

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First Human Eggs Grown In Laboratory

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Human eggs have been grown in the laboratory for the first time, say researchers at the University of Edinburgh. The team say the technique could lead to new ways of preserving the fertility of children having cancer treatment. It is also an opportunity to explore how human eggs develop, much of which remains a mystery to science. Experts said it was an exciting breakthrough, but more work was needed before it could be used clinically. Women are born with immature eggs in their ovaries that can develop fully only after puberty. It has taken decades of work, but scientists can now grow eggs to maturity outside of the ovary. It requires carefully controlling laboratory conditions including oxygen levels, hormones, proteins that simulate growth and the medium in which the eggs are cultured. But while the scientists have shown it is possible, the approach published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction still needs refinement. In the paper, the researchers describe "how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity," reports The Guardian. "Of the 48 eggs that reached the penultimate step of the process, nine reached full maturity."

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YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos

Earlier today, YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers. TechCrunch reports: "We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next," Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post. The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube: 1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator's YouTube Original. 2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel's ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces. 3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next. The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression. Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what's being posted, and these videos have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube's rules and getting dinged.

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Android Messages May Soon Let You Text From the Web

Android Police dug into the code for the latest version of Android Messages and found two very intriguing features: Rich Communication Services (RCS) support and support for all the popular web browsers. From the report: Google is developing a web interface to run on a desktop or laptop, and it will pair with your phone for sending messages. Internally, the codename for this feature is "Ditto," but it looks like it will be labeled "Messages for web" when it launches. You'll be guided to visit a website on the computer you want to pair with your phone, then simply scan a QR code. Once that's done, you'll be able to send and receive messages in the web interface and it will link with the phone to do the actual communication through your carrier. I can't say with any certainty that all mainstream browsers will be supported right away, but all of them are named, so most users should be covered. Another major move appears to be happening with RCS, and it looks like Google may be tired of letting it progress slowly. A lot of new promotional text has been added to encourage people to "text over Wi-Fi" and suggesting that they "upgrade" immediately. There's a lot of text in that block, but most of it is purely promotional. It describes features that are already largely familiar as capabilities of RCS, including texting through a data connection, seeing messaging status (if somebody is typing) and read receipts, and sending photos. Google does put a lot of emphasis that if it's handling the photos, that they are high-quality. Android Police also notes the ability to make purchases via Messages.

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Should GitHub Allow Username Reuse?

Jesse Donat argues via Donut Studios why GitHub should never allow usernames to be valid again once they are deleted. He provides an example of a user who deleted his GitHub account and personal domain with a popular tool used for embedding data files into Go binaries. "While this is within his rights to do, this broke a dependency many people had within their projects," Donat writes. "To fix this, some users of the project recreated the account and the repository based on a fork of the project." Donat goes on to write: Allowing username reuse completely breaks any trust that what I pull is what it claims to be. What if this user had been malicious? It may have taken a while before someone actually noticed this wasn't the original user and the code was doing something more than it claimed to. While Go's "go get" functionality is no doubt naive and just pulls the head of a repository, this is not exclusively Go's problem as this affects any package manager that runs on tags. Simply tag malicious changes beyond the current release and it would be deployed to many users likely with little actual review.

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Hackers In Equifax Breach Accessed More Personal Information Than Previously Disclosed

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Equifax said, in a document submitted to the Senate Banking Committee and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that cyberthieves accessed records across numerous tables in its systems that included such data as tax identification numbers, email addresses and drivers' license information beyond the license numbers it originally disclosed. The revelations come some five months after Equifax announced it had been breached and personal information belonging to 145.5 million consumers had been compromised, including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses. It's unclear how many of the 145.5 million people are affected by the additional data including tax ID numbers, which are often assigned to people who don't have Social Security numbers. Hackers also accessed email addresses for some consumers, according to the document and an Equifax spokeswoman, who said "an insignificant number" of email addresses were affected. She added that email addresses aren't considered sensitive personal information because they are commonly searchable in public domains. As for tax ID numbers, the Equifax spokeswoman said they "were generally housed in the same field" as Social Security numbers. She added that individuals without a Social Security number could use their tax ID number to see if they were affected by the hack. Equifax also said, in response to questions from The Wall Street Journal, that some additional drivers' license information had been accessed. The company publicly disclosed in its Sept. 7 breach announcement that drivers' license numbers were accessed; the document submitted to the banking committee also includes drivers' license issue dates and states.

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Amazon To Take On UPS, FedEx Via ‘Shipping With Amazon’

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is planning to take on UPS and FedEx with a new shipping service named "Shipping with Amazon" (SWA). The new service will reportedly roll out in Los Angeles in the coming weeks. Ars Technica reports: Aside from first starting in LA, SWA will first serve third-party merchants that already sell on Amazon. The company plans to send drivers to pick up shipments from these businesses and deliver the packages for them. While shipping and delivery will mostly go through Amazon, anything outside of the retailer's reach will be given to the USPS and other shipping services for the "last mile" portion of the delivery. In the future, Amazon reportedly wants to open up SWA to businesses that aren't affiliated with the site -- meaning Amazon could ship and deliver packages from companies of all sizes. Amazon also believes it can compete with UPS and FedEx by making SWA more affordable for business customers, but its pricing structure hasn't been revealed.

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Major Websites Are Planning a ‘Day of Action’ To Block Repeal of Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group concerned with digital rights, has posted to medium today, revealing that many major websites, online communities, and internet users are planning a "day of action" focused on finding the final vote needed to pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA). "50 Senators have already come out in support of the CRA, which would completely overturn the FCC's December 14 decision and restore net neutrality protections," the post reads. "Several Senators have indicated that they are considering becoming the 51st vote we need to win, but they're under huge pressure from telecom lobbyists. Only a massive burst of energy from the internet will get them to move." The day of action is scheduled for February 27, and participants include Tumblr, Etsy, Vimeo, Medium, Namecheap, Imgur, Sonos, and DuckDuckGo. "Internet users will be encouraged to sound the alarm on social media and sign up to receive alerts with their lawmaker's position on net neutrality and prompts to take action on the big day, while websites, subreddits, and online communities will display prominent alerts driving phone calls, emails, and tweets to Senators and Representatives calling on them to pass the CRA." The post notes that we're faced with an uphill battle as the fight will elevate to the House of Representatives if the CRA can pass the Senate. From there it will go to the President's desk.

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Apple Intern Reportedly Leaked iPhone Source Code

Earlier this week, a portion of iOS source code was posted online to GitHub, and in an interesting twist, a new report from Motherboard reveals that the code was originally leaked by a former Apple intern. The Verge reports: According to Motherboard, the intern who stole the code took it and distributed it to a small group of five friends in the iOS jailbreaking community in order to help them with their ongoing efforts to circumvent Apple's locked down mobile operating system. The former employee apparently took "all sorts of Apple internal tools and whatnot," according to one of the individuals who had originally received the code, including additional source code that was apparently not included in the initial leak. The plan was originally to make sure that the code never left the initial circle of five friends, but apparently the code spread beyond the original group sometime last year. Eventually, the code was then posted in a Discord chat group, and was shared to Reddit roughly four months ago (although that post was apparently removed by a moderation bot automatically). But then, it was posted again to GitHub this week, which is when things snowballed to where they are now, with Apple ordering GitHub to remove the code.

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Elon Musk Explains Why SpaceX Prefers Clusters of Small Engines

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The company's development of the Falcon 9 rocket, with nine engines, had given Musk confidence that SpaceX could scale up to 27 engines in flight, and he believed this was a better overall solution for the thrust needed to escape Earth's gravity. To explain why, the former computer scientist used a computer metaphor. "It's sort of like the way modern computer systems are set up," Musk said. "With Google or Amazon they have large numbers of small computers, such that if one of the computers goes down it doesn't really affect your use of Google or Amazon. That's different from the old model of the mainframe approach, when you have one big mainframe and if it goes down, the whole system goes down." For computers, Musk said, using large numbers of small computers ends up being a more efficient, smarter, and faster approach than using a few larger, more powerful computers. So it was with rocket engines. "It's better to use a large number of small engines," Musk said. With the Falcon Heavy rocket, he added, up to half a dozen engines could fail and the rocket would still make it to orbit. The flight of the Falcon Heavy likely bodes well for SpaceX's next rocket, the much larger Big Falcon Rocket (or BFR), now being designed at the company's Hawthorne, California-based headquarters. This booster will use 31 engines, four more than the Falcon Heavy. But it will also use larger, more powerful engines. The proposed Raptor engine has 380,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, compared to 190,000 pounds of thrust for the Merlin 1-D engine.

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Spread of Breast Cancer Linked To Compound In Asparagus and Other Foods

Asparagus and other foods like potatoes, nuts, legumes and soy contain a compound known as asparagine, which researchers believe helps drive the spread of breast cancer to other organs. "When scientists reduced asparagine in animals with breast cancer, they found that the number of secondary tumors in other tissues fell dramatically," The Guardian reports. "The spread of malignant cells, often to the bones, lungs and brain, is the main cause of death among patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer." From the report: Asparagine is an amino acid that is made naturally in the body as a building block for proteins. But it is also found in the diet, and in high levels in certain meats, vegetables and dairy products. The international team of cancer specialists from Britain, the U.S., and Canada studied mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The mice develop secondary tumors in a matter of weeks and tend to die from the disease within months. Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers describe how they reduced the ability of breast cancer to spread in the animals by blocking asparagine with a drug called L-asparaginase. To a lesser extent, by putting the animals on a low-asparagine diet worked too. Inspired by the results, the scientists examined records from human cancers and found that breast tumors that churned out the most asparagine were most likely to spread, leading patients to die sooner. The same was seen in cancers of the head, neck and kidney.

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Researchers Create Simulation Of a Simple Worm’s Neural Network

ClockEndGooner writes: Researchers at the Technische Universitat Wein have created a simulation of a simple worm's neural network, and have been able to replicate its natural behavior to completely mimic the worm's natural reflexive behavior. According to the article, using a simple neural network of 300 neurons, the simulation of "the worm can find its way, eat bacteria and react to certain external stimuli. It can, for example, react to a touch on its body. A reflexive response is triggered and the worm squirms away. This behavior is determined by the worm's nerve cells and the strength of the connections between them. When this simple reflex network is recreated on a computer, the simulated worm reacts in exactly the same way to a virtual stimulation -- not because anybody programmed it to do so, but because this kind of behavior is hard-wired in its neural network." Using the same neural network without adding any additional nerve cells, Mathias Lechner, Radu Grosu, and Ramin Hasani were able to have the nematode simulation learn to balance a pole "just by tuning the strength of the synaptic connections. This basic idea (tuning the connections between nerve cells) is also the characteristic feature of any natural learning process."

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AIs Have Replaced Aliens As Our Greatest World Destroying Fear

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Quartz: As we've turned our gaze away from the stars and toward our screens, our anxiety about humanity's ultimate fate has shifted along with it. No longer are we afraid of aliens taking our freedom: It's the technology we're building on our own turf we should be worried about. The advent of artificial intelligence is increasingly bringing about the kinds of disturbing scenarios the old alien blockbusters warned us about. In 2016, Microsoft's first attempt at a functioning AI bot, Tay, became a Hitler-loving mess an hour after it launched. Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United Nations to ban the use of AI in weapons before it becomes "the third revolution in warfare." And in China, AI surveillance cameras are being rolled out by the government to track 1.3 billion people at a level Big Brother could only dream of. As AI's presence in film and TV has evolved, space creatures blowing us up now seems almost quaint compared to the frightening uncertainties of an computer-centric world. Will Smith went from saving Earth from alien destruction to saving it from robot servants run amok. More recently, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Transcendence have all explored the complexities that arise when the lines between human and robot blur. However, sentient machines aren't a new anxiety. It arguably all started with Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. It's a stunning depiction of a sprawling, smog-choked future, filled with bounty hunters muttering "enhance" at grainy pictures on computer screens. ("Alexa, enlarge image.") The neo-noir epic popularized the concept of intelligent machines being virtually indistinguishable from humans and asked the audience where our humanity ends and theirs begin. Even alien sci-fi now acknowledges that we've got worse things to worry about than extra-terrestrials: ourselves.

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Facebook Is Testing a Dislike Button

Ever since the inception of the Like button, Facebook users have been asking for a "dislike" button. Today, Facebook is testing a "downvote" button with certain users in the comment section of posts within Facebook groups and on old Facebook memories content. The Daily Beast reports: The feature appears to give users the ability to downrank certain comments. This is the first time Facebook has tested anything similar to a "dislike" button and it could theoretically allow for content that's offensive or relevant to be pushed to the bottom of a comment feed. In 2016, citing Facebook executives, Bloomberg said a dislike button "had been rejected on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity" to the platform. It's unclear how widely the dislike button is being tested. Facebook regularly tests features with small subsets of users that never end up rolling out to the broader public. Most users currently are only able to either Like or Reply to comments in a thread. The downvote option could have radical implications on what types of discussions and comments flourish on the platform. While it could theoretically be used to de-rank inflammatory or problematic comments, it could also easily be used as a tool for abuse.

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Arizona Introduces Bill That Would Allow Residents To Pay Taxes In Bitcoin

In a bid to attract businesses involved in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, Arizona lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow the state's citizens to pay their taxes in bitcoin. "Arizona State Rep. Jeff Weninger, who introduced the bill, said it was a signal to everyone in the United States, and possibly throughout the world, that Arizona was going to be the place to be for blockchain and digital currency technology in the future," reports Investopedia. From the report: Weninger, a Republican, also cited the ease of making online payments through the cryptocurrency "while you're watching television," as another reason. But he did not divulge much detail about the implementation of such a system. That might be the reason why Weninger faces an uphill battle in getting the bill approved by the state legislature. Bitcoin's price volatility is already being cited as a possible roadblock to implementing such a measure by state legislators. Arizona state senator Steve Farley, a Democrat who's running for governor, said the bill puts the "volatility burden" of bitcoin's price on taxpayers who make payments in U.S. dollars. "It would mean that the money goes to the state and then the state has to take responsibility of how to exchange it," Farley said.

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German Navy Experiences ‘LCS Syndrome’ In Spades As New Frigate Fails Sea Trials

schwit1 shares a report from Ars Technica, highlighting the problems the Germany Navy is facing right now. It has no working submarines due to a chronic repair parts shortage, and its newest ships face problems so severe that the first of the class failed its sea trials and was returned to the shipbuilders in December. From the report: The Baden-Wurttemberg class frigates were ordered to replace the 1980s-era Bremen class ships, all but two of which have been retired already. At 149 meters (488 feet) long with a displacement of 7,200 metric tons (about 7,900 U.S. tons), the Baden-Wurttembergs are about the size of destroyers and are intended to reduce the size of the crew required to operate them. Like the Zumwalt, the frigates are intended to have improved land attack capabilities -- a mission capability largely missing from the Deutsche Marine's other post-unification ships. The new frigate was supposed to be a master of all trades -- carrying Marines to deploy to fight ashore, providing gunfire support, hunting enemy ships and submarines, and capable of being deployed on far-flung missions for up to two years away from a home port. As with the U.S. Navy's LCS ships, the German Navy planned to alternate crews -- sending a fresh crew to meet the ship on deployment to relieve the standing crew. Instead, the Baden-Wurttemberg now bears the undesirable distinction of being the first ship the German Navy has ever refused to accept after delivery. In fact, the future of the whole class of German frigates is now in doubt because of the huge number of problems experienced with the first ship during sea trials. So the Baden-Wurttemberg won't be shooting its guns at anything for the foreseeable future (and neither will the Zumwalt for the moment, since the U.S. Navy cancelled orders for their $800,000-per-shot projectiles). System integration issues are a major chunk of the Baden-Wurrenberg's problems. About 90 percent of the ship's systems are so new that they've never been deployed on a warship in fact -- they've never been tested together as part of what the U.S. Navy would call "a system of systems." And all of that new hardware and software have not played well together -- particularly with the ship's command and control computer system, the Atlas Naval Combat System (ANCS). schwit1 adds: "Perhaps most inexcusable, the ship doesn't even float right. It has a permanent list to starboard."

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32 Senators Want To Know If US Regulators Halted Equifax Probe

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Earlier this week, a Reuters report suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had halted its investigation into last year's massive Equifax data breach. Reuters sources said that even basic steps expected in such a probe hadn't been taken and efforts had stalled since Mick Mulvaney took over as head of the CFPB late last year. Now, 31 Democratic senators and one Independent have written a letter to Mulvaney asking if that is indeed the case and if so, why. In their letter, the senators expressed their concern over these reports and reiterated the duty the CFPB has to not only investigate the breach but to bring action against Equifax if deemed necessary. "Consumer reporting agencies and the data they collect play a central role in consumers' access to credit and the fair and competitive pricing of that credit," they wrote. "Therefore, the CFPB has a duty to supervise consumer reporting agencies, investigate how this breach has or will harm consumers and bring enforcement actions as necessary."

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Google’s Parent Company Alphabet Is Buying Chelsea Market For $2 Billion

Alphabet is close to acquiring the iconic Chelsea Market in Midtown Manhattan for over $2 billion. The market totals 1.2 million square feet and sits across the street from the company's New York headquarters, a 2.9 million-square-foot building that it bought for $1.8 billion in 2010. Quartz reports: Google is already the Market's largest tenant, having steadily expanded its footprint to about 400,000 square feet. The tech giant hasn't revealed plans for the property, but according to The Real Deal, the company is expected to maintain the status quo. Alphabet's aggressive expansion in New York follows a growing trend of tech giants taking over cities. With their outsized share of the economy, tech companies are exerting increasing influence over urban infrastructure and development.

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Detroit Quietly Bans Airbnb

A new zoning ordinance that quietly went into effect this week has residents trying to figure out what comes next for Airbnb's presence in Detroit. Many hosts have received notices that the city has outlawed Airbnb for R1 and R2 zoning. Curbed Detroit reports: The new zoning ordinance apparently went through the Planning Commission and City Council in 2017, and went into effect this week. The text added to the amendment states: "Use of a dwelling to accommodate paid overnight guests is prohibited as a home occupation; notwithstanding this regulation, public accommodations, including bed and breakfast inns outside the R1 and R2 Districts, are permitted as provided in Sec. 61-12-46 of this Code." The vast majority of Airbnb units in Detroit are in R1 and R2 districts. These do not include places like lofts, apartments, or larger developments. Airbnb has issued a statement saying: "We're very disappointed by this turn of events. Airbnb has served as an economic engine for middle class Detroiters, many of whom rely on the supplemental income to stay in their homes. We hope that the city listens to our host community and permits home sharing in these residential zones."

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Tesla Burns Through $2 Billion In 2017

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla reported record revenue for 2017, floated by customer deposits of the recently announced Semi truck and Roadster sports car. Despite its optimistic sales numbers, Model 3 production issues and cash flow problems haunt the company, but Tesla insists its on track to meet its production goals of 5,000 cars a week by mid-2018. Tesla reported $3.3 billion in revenue, which was expected, but also posted a $771 million quarterly loss -- its largest quarterly loss ever. The company reported a negative free cash flow of $276.7 million. And it reported a net loss of $2.24 billion in 2017, a significant increase over the $773 million net loss it reported in 2016.

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Attackers Drain CPU Power From Water Utility Plant In Cryptojacking Attack

darthcamaro writes: Apparently YouTube isn't the only site that is draining CPU power with unauthorized cryptocurrency miners. A water utility provider in Europe is literally being drained of its CPU power via an cryptojacking attack that was undetected for three weeks. eWeek reports: "At this point, Radiflow's (the security firm that discovered the cryptocurrency mining malware) investigation indicates that the cryptocurrency mining malware was likely downloaded from a malicious advertising site. As such, the theory that Radiflow CTO Yehonatan Kfir has is that an operator at the water utility was able to open a web browser and clicked on an advertising link that led the mining code being installed on the system. The actual system that first got infected is what is known as a Human Machine Interface (HMI) to the SCADA network and it was running the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Radiflow's CEO, Ilan Barda, noted that many SCADA environments still have Windows XP systems deployed as operators tend to be very slow to update their operating systems." Radiflow doesn't know how much Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency was mined by the malware, but a recent report from Cisco's Talos research group revealed that some of the top un-authorized cryptocurrency campaigns generate over a million dollars per year. The average system would generate nearly $200,000 per year.

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Police In China Are Scanning Travelers With Facial Recognition Glasses

Baron_Yam shares a report from Engadget: Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily. The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based LLVision Technology Co. developed the devices. The company produces wearable video cameras as well and while it sells those to anyone, it's vetting buyers for its facial recognition devices. And, for now, it isn't selling them to consumers. LLVision says that in tests, the system was able to pick out individuals from a database of 10,000 people and it could do so in 100 milliseconds. However, CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that in the real world, accuracy would probably drop due to "environmental noise." Additionally, aside from being portable, another difference between these devices and typical facial recognition systems is that the database used for comparing images is contained in a hand-held device rather than the cloud."

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US Suicides Spiked 10 Percent After Robin Williams’s Death, Study Finds

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: U.S. suicide rates spiked in the months after Robin Williams killed himself in 2014, according to researchers. In the five months after the actor's death there were 10% more suicides than might be expected, or 1,841 extra cases, PLOS One journal reports. The potential risk of copycat incidents after celebrity cases is known to public health bodies. It cannot be known for certain if his death led to the spike but it appeared to be connected, the new study said. Experts say "irresponsible" media coverage of suicides can play a big part in copycat cases. At the time of his death, the Samaritans warned about a large number of news articles giving too much detail about the nature of his suicide, against media guidelines. Guidance from the World Health Organization, the Independent Press Standards Organization's editors' code of practice, the Ofcom broadcasting code and the BBC's editorial guidelines all advise against going into explicit detail about the methods used. However, researchers said there was "substantial evidence" that many media outlets had tended to deviate from these guidelines. For the latest study, they looked at the monthly suicide rates from the U.S. government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between January 1999 and December 2015 to see if there had been a spike. They found there were 18,690 suicides between August and December 2014 compared with the 16,849 cases they would have expected. In the weeks after Williams's death, there was a "drastic" increase in references to suicide and death in news media reports, as well as more posts on an internet suicide forum researchers monitored, the study found. David Fink, one of the study's authors, from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said research had previously shown that suicide rates increased following a high-profile celebrity suicide, but this was a first time such a study had been done within the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Lorna Fraser, from the Samaritans' media advisory service, said: "This study builds on a strong body of research evidence that shows that irresponsible or overly detailed depictions of suicide can have a devastating impact. In the case of celebrities, the potential for someone at risk to make an emotional connection and over-identify with them is greater, in some cases even to interpret their death as affirmation that they could take their own life."

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Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.) The findings were part of a broad privacy and security evaluation, led by Consumer Reports, of smart TVs from top brands that also included LG, Sony, and Vizio. The testing also found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users. Consumers can limit the data collection. But they have to give up a lot of the TVs' functionality -- and know the right buttons to click and settings to look for.

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Key iPhone Source Code Gets Posted On GitHub

Jason Koebler shares a report from Motherboard: An anonymous person posted what experts say is the source code for a core component of the iPhone's operating system on GitHub, which could pave the way for hackers and security researchers to find vulnerabilities in iOS and make iPhone jailbreaks easier to achieve. The code is for "iBoot," which is the part of iOS that is responsible for ensuring a trusted boot of the operating system. It's the program that loads iOS, the very first process that runs when you turn on your iPhone. The code says it's for iOS 9, an older version of the operating system, but portions of it are likely to still be used in iOS 11. Bugs in the boot process are the most valuable ones if reported to Apple through its bounty program, which values them at a max payment of $200,000. "This is the biggest leak in history," Jonathan Levin, the author of a series of books on iOS and Mac OSX internals, told Motherboard in an online chat. "It's a huge deal." Levin, along with a second security researcher familiar with iOS, says the code appears to be the real iBoot code because it aligns with the code he reverse engineered himself.

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Foxconn Unit To Cut Over 10,000 Jobs As Robotics Take Over

According to Nikkei Asian Review, "Foxconn's panel arm Innolux is planning to slash more than 10,000 jobs this year as part of the company's aggressive efforts to increase the use of automation in manufacturing." Honorary Chairman Tuan Hsing-Chien said in a press conference on Tuesday: "We will reduce our total workforce to less than 50,000 people by the end of this year, from some 60,000 staff at the end of 2017." From the report: Innolux is a liquid crystal display-making affiliate of major iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn Technology Group. Tuan is also a technology adviser to Foxconn, Sharp and Innolux. Tuan said up to 75% of production will be fully automated by the end of 2018. Most of Innolux's factories are in Taiwan. Tuan's pledge came a few days after Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said the company would pour in some $342 million to overhaul its manufacturing process by using artificial intelligence.

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Nest Is Done As a Standalone Alphabet Company, Merges With Google

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There's a shakeup at Nest today. Following previous rumors back in November, Google just announced Nest will no longer be a standalone Alphabet company; instead, it will merge with the Google hardware team. The current Nest CEO, Marwan Fawaz, will report to Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh. Google's blog post says the merger will allow it to "combine hardware, software, and services" between the two companies, which are all "built with Google's artificial intelligence and the Assistant at the core." Nest and Google have been growing closer together even without this merger, with Nest getting a spot at the "Made By Google" Pixel 2 launch event to tout Nest and Google Assistant integration. An earlier report from The Wall Street Journal said that Google and Nest already combined their supply chain teams in 2016. While Google has focused on making the "Google" brand well known in the hardware world with the Pixel phones and Google Home, CNET reports that Google won't be dumping the Nest brand.

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Windows 10 Will Soon Get Progressive Web Apps To Boost the Microsoft Store

The next major update to Windows 10 will bring Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the Microsoft Store. PWAs are websites (or web apps) which are implemented as native apps, and delivered just like a normal app through Windows 10's store. According to TechRadar, "The big advantages are that no platform-specific code is required, allowing devs to make apps that run across different platforms, and that PWAs are hosted on the developer's server, so can be updated directly from there (without having to push updates to the app store)." The other benefit for Microsoft is that they will be getting a bunch of new apps in Windows 10's store. From the report: As Microsoft explains in a blog post, these new web apps are built on a raft of nifty technologies -- including Service Worker, Fetch networking, Push notifications and more -- all of which will be enabled when EdgeHTML 17 (the next version of the rendering engine that powers the Edge browser) goes live in Windows 10 in the next big update. PWAs can be grabbed from the Microsoft Store as an AppX file, and will run in their own sandboxed container, without needing the browser to be open at all. As far as the user is concerned, they'll be just like any other app downloaded from the store. Microsoft says it is already experimenting with crawling and indexing PWAs from the web to pick out the quality offerings, which it will draft into the Microsoft Store. The firm has already combed through some 1.5 million web apps to pick out a small selection of PWAs for initial testing. As well as discovering apps via web crawling, developers will also be able to submit their offerings directly to Microsoft for approval.

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EFF Founder John Perry Barlow Has Died At Age 70

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that its founder, John Perry Barlow, has passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. He was 70 years old. From the report: It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow's vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance. Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity's problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: "I knew it's also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls 'turn-key totalitarianism.'" Barlow's lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into "a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth... a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity."

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Reddit Bans ‘Deepfakes’ AI Porn Communities

Reddit has banned the r/deepfakes subreddit that's devoted to making AI-powered porn using celebrities' faces, classifying it as a form of "involuntary pornography." Reddit follows several other platforms that have already banned deepfakes pornography, including Pornhub, which said yesterday that deepfakes imagery counted as nonconsensual pornography. The Verge reports: In a post today, Reddit announced an update to its rules on posting sexual imagery of a person without their consent. The new rule extends a ban on posting photos or video of people who are nude or engaged in sexual acts without the subject's permission, saying that this includes "depictions that have been faked" -- including the sophisticated face-swapped videos that have become especially popular on Reddit over the past month. "Do not post images or video of another person for the specific purpose of faking explicit content or soliciting 'lookalike' pornography." This doesn't affect all AI-based face swapping enthusiasts on Reddit. The subreddit for FakeApp, a program that allows anyone to swap faces in videos, is still online. So is r/SFWdeepfakes, which is devoted to non-pornographic use of the technology. At least one small, specific subreddit devoted to simulated porn for an individual actor also seems to have slipped under the radar. But along with the central deepfakes hub, the main subreddit for posting not-safe-for-work deepfakes has gotten shut down, and so has the community r/YouTubefakes. The subreddit r/CelebFakes, which focused on non-AI-powered photoshopped pornographic images, was initially left online, but removed shortly after the announcement. The site will rely on "first-party reports" to shut down future deepfakes material.

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FDA Declares Popular Alt-Medicine Kratom an Opioid

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: The Food and Drug Administration declared the popular herbal product kratom to be an opioid on Tuesday, opening a new front in its battle to get people to stop using it. New research shows kratom acts in the brain just as opioids do, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. And he said the agency has documented 44 cases in which kratom at least helped kill people -- often otherwise healthy young people. "Taken in total, the scientific evidence we've evaluated about kratom provides a clear picture of the biologic effect of this substance," Gottlieb wrote. "Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids. There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use." The FDA released detailed accounts of several of the deaths. The victims often had mixed kratom with other substances, including chemicals taken out of inhalers and found in over-the-counter cold and flu drugs.

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Senate Cryptocurrency Hearing Strikes a Cautiously Optimistic Tone

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In a hearing today before the Senate Banking Committee, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo opened up about what the near-term U.S. regulatory fate of cryptocurrency might look like. In a week of plunging prices and bad news, the hearing struck a tone that coin watchers could reasonably interpret as surprisingly optimistic. Over the course of the open hearing, Clayton and Giancarlo traded testimony over what can be regulated, what should be regulated and how, while offering a broader outlook on the long-term future of virtual currency markets and blockchain tech. The testimony drew a useful distinction among three pillars of the virtual currency ecosystem (for lack of a better unifying term): cryptocurrencies, "a replacement for dollars;" ICOs, "like a stock offering;" and distributed ledger technologies, or the technical framework generally known as blockchain. Throughout the hearing, on the SEC side, Clayton struck a relatively solemn tone focused on ICO fraud concerns, while the CFTC's Giancarlo came across as genuinely enthusiastic and curious about the emerging market. When asked about the intrinsic value of cryptocurrency, Clayton said: "There are a lot of smart people who think there's something to the value of cryptocurrency and the international exchange and I'm not seeing those benefits manifesting themselves in the market yet. I look at this from the perspective of Main Street investors and they should understand that." On ICOs as a security: "I believe every ICO I've seen is a security... You can call it a coin but if it functions as a security, it is a security... Those who engage in semantic gymnastics or elaborate re-structuring exercises in an effort to avoid having a coin be a security are squarely in the crosshairs of our enforcement provision."

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Pornhub Is Banning AI-Generated ‘Deepfakes’ Porn Videos

On Tuesday, Pornhub told Motherboard that it considers deepfakes to be nonconsensual porn and that it will ban these videos. "Deepfakes" is a community originally named after a Redditor who enjoys face-swapping celebrity faces onto porn performers' bodies using a machine learning algorithm. Motherboard reports: "We do not tolerate any nonconsensual content on the site and we remove all said content as soon as we are made aware of it," a spokesperson told me in an email. "Nonconsensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person's consent or permission." Pornhub previously told Mashable that it has removed deepfakes that are flagged by users. Pornhub's position on deepfakes is similar to statements made by Discord and Gfycat, and in line with its existing terms of service, which prohibit content that "impersonates another person or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person."

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Scientists Create a New Form of Matter: Superionic Water Ice

According to The New York Times, scientists created a new form of water that simultaneously acts like a solid and liquid. "The substance, which consists of a fluid of hydrogen ions running through a lattice of oxygen, was formed by compressing water between two diamonds and then zapping it with a laser," reports Science Magazine. "That caused pressures to spike to more than a million times those of Earth's atmosphere and temperatures to rise to thousands of degrees, conditions scientists had predicted may lead to the formation of superionic ice. This kind of water doesn't exist naturally on Earth, the scientists report in Nature Physics, but it may be present in the mantles of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus."

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Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why. "On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages -- distinct from Republican pages -- share more junk news than all the other audiences put together." The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.

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Facebook Hired a Full-Time Pollster To Monitor Zuckerberg’s Approval Ratings

According to The Verge, Facebook hired a full-time pollster to track Mark Zuckerberg's approval ratings last year as the young CEO was making his 50-state tour across the country. The pollster, Tavis McGinn, reportedly "decided to leave the company after only six months after coming to believe that Facebook had a negative effect on the world." From the report: It was April, and Facebook was caught up in the fallout of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. After initially discounting the possibility that fake news had contributed to Donald Trump's victory, Facebook acknowledged that Russia-linked groups had spent more than $100,000 on political advertising. Zuckerberg undertook a nationwide listening tour modeled after a modern political campaign. McGinn would fill another role common to political campaigns: leading an ongoing poll operation dedicated to tracking minute changes in Zuckerberg's public perception. "It was a very unusual role," McGinn says. "It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they've even heard of him. That's especially important outside of the United States." McGinn tracked a wide range of questions related to Zuckerberg's public perception. "Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark's speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It's a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you're constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark's doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?" Facebook worked to develop an understanding of Zuckerberg's perception that went beyond simple "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down" metrics, McGinn says. "If Mark gives a speech and he's talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it's looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States," he says. "It's very advanced research."

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What Apple’s Battery Health ‘Fix’ Looks Like

Apple has released new battery health features in iOS 11.3 beta 2, which was seeded to developers today. BGR reports what those battery health functions look like, and how to disable power management if you're using an older iPhone: The feature is contained within a new "Battery Health" menu, which is under the "Battery" tab on iOS 11.3. The page only really has two fields: Maximum Capacity, which shows what percentage of the original charge your battery can still hold; and Peak Performance Capacity, which tells you if your phone's performance is being throttled due to the battery. Right now, there are no options to change anything within the menu. Maximum Capacity should be at 100% for newer phones, and it should fall down to around 80% over the course of about two years of normal use. A Redditor on the iOSBeta forum uploaded a photo of his iPhone 7, which is sitting at 87% capacity. That device still shows peak performance. On older devices with a worse battery, the phone will show that reduced Maximum Capacity, as well as detail any performance slowdowns due to the decreased battery capacity. On devices that have weaker batteries, the Peak Performance Capability will change to read "This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power. Performance management has been applied to help prevent this from happening again." A small blue hyperlink then says "Disable," which lets you manually turn off your iPhone's performance management.

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SpaceX Successfully Lands Two Falcon Heavy Boosters Simultaneously After Rocket Launch [Update]

After nearly a decade of development, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. After reaching orbit, the two side boosters simultaneously landed at Landing Zone One. We do not know the status of the central core of the rocket, which was destined to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship roughly 8:19 minutes into the flight. According to Space.com, the Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to launch since NASA's Saturn V -- the iconic vessel that, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust, accomplished the definitive Apollo-era feat of putting astronauts on the moon. Elon Musk says that Falcon Heavy is "twice as powerful as any other booster operating today." As for the payload, it includes a Tesla Roadster electric car. "The Falcon Heavy will send the vehicle around the sun in an elliptical orbit that will extend farther than Mars' orbit," reports Space.com. UPDATE: SpaceX has confirmed The Verge's reporting that the middle core of SpaceX's Heavy Rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land. "The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour," reports The Verge. "Two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. It's a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight."

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Apple Homepod Review: Locked In

On Tuesday, the review embargo lifted for full reviews of Apple's new HomePod smart speaker. The Verge's Niley Patel shared his thoughts on Apple's new HomePod in video and written form. Patel found that while it offers best-in-class sound for the price, Siri is frustratingly limited and the voice controls only work with Apple Music. Furthermore, Siri can't tell different voices apart, therefore raising some privacy concerns as anyone can come up to the speaker and ask Siri to send and read text messages and other private information aloud. Here's an excerpt from the report: The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company's answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it's entirely focused on sound quality, but it's entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character during the Super Bowl instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up. And while it's true that the HomePod sounds incredible -- it sounds far better than any other speaker in its price range -- it also demands that you live entirely inside Apple's ecosystem in a way that even Apple's other products do not. The question is: is beautiful sound quality worth locking yourself even more tightly into a walled garden? As for technical specifications, the HomePod comes in at 6.8 inches high, 5.6 inches wide, and weights 5.5 pounds. It features a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier, six-microphone array, internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction, direct and ambient audio beamforming, and transparent studio-level dynamic processing.

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FCC Report Claims Broken Broadband Market Has Been Fixed By Killing Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The FCC has released a new report falsely claiming that the agency's attack on net neutrality is already paying huge dividends when it comes to sector investment and competition. Unfortunately for the FCC, the data the agency is relying on to "prove" this claim comes from before current FCC boss Ajit Pai even took office and doesn't remotely support that conclusion. The Trump FCC's latest broadband deployment report [concludes] that "advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion." That claim comes despite the fact that this same data also shows that two thirds of U.S. homes lack access to 25 Mbps broadband from more than one ISP, resulting in numerous broadband monopolies in markets nationwide. An accompanying press release goes on to claim that "steps taken last year have restored progress by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, promoting competition, and restoring the longstanding bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework for broadband that had been reversed by the Title II Order." The FCC has repeatedly tried to claim that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules devastated sector investment -- despite the fact this is easily disproved by ISP earnings reports, SEC filings, and numerous CEO statements to investors. That hasn't stopped this FCC from repeating this claim anyway, apparently hoping that repetition forges reality. "The problem: these deployments aren't new, and industry watchers note that they all technically began under the oversight of the previous FCC," Motherboard concludes. "All of the examples provided by the agency cite deployments that predominantly occurred in 2017 as the result of obligations attached to mergers or subsidies under the previous Tom Wheeler-run FCC."

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Female Uber Drivers Get Paid Less Than Men, Says Study

According to a new study by Uber and Stanford economists, male Uber drivers get paid 7 percent more than their female counterparts in the U.S. "That's surprising, because Uber's driver assignments and pay are gender-blind, meaning a driver's gender isn't considered when matching riders or assigning fares," reports Recode. "Rather, pay has to do with trip length, distance and whether it's happening during surge-price hours or not." From the report: There are more male drivers -- women make up 27 percent of Uber drivers in the U.S. -- and male drivers tend to work longer hours. However, on an hourly rate, women still make less, according to the data, which measured trips by 1.8 million drivers from 2015 to 2017. According to the study, discrimination on the customer side isn't the reason for the pay gap, either. So why are female Uber drivers paid less than men? The study points to three reasons that make the gap disappear: When and where: The times and places female Uber drivers work seem to be less profitable. That could be fewer overnight shifts, shifts with shorter wait times or surge-price shifts than men. Driver experience: Drivers who've been with Uber longer get paid more, on account of knowing which routes and times tend to pay more. In general, men work for Uber longer than women so they are more experienced. The attrition rate after six months is 77 percent for women and 65 percent for men. Speed: Male Uber drivers conduct more trips per hour than women, meaning they're actually driving faster, according to the data. More trips mean more money. About 50 percent of the earnings gap is explained away by differences in driving speed.

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SpaceX Successfully Lands Two Falcon Heavy Boosters Simultaneously After Rocket Launch

After nearly a decade of development, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has successfully launched from pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida today. After reaching orbit, the two side boosters simultaneously landed at Landing Zone One. We do not know the status of the central core of the rocket, which was destined to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship roughly 8:19 minutes into the flight. We will update this story once we learn more.

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Senator Warns YouTube Algorithm May Be Open To Manipulation By ‘Bad Actors’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has warned that YouTube's powerful recommendation algorithm may be "optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content" or susceptible to "manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities." Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, made the stark warning after an investigation by the Guardian found that the Google-owned video platform was systematically promoting divisive and conspiratorial videos that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election. "Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see," Warner said. "I've been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content." He added: "At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities." YouTube's algorithm determines which videos to promote in the "Up next" column beside the video player. The Guardian found that "the algorithm was six times more likely to recommend videos that was damaging to Clinton than Trump, and also tended to amplify wild conspiracy theories about the former secretary of state."

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US Startups Don’t Want To Go Public Anymore

According to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economics, the number of American firms listed publicly in the U.S. has dropped more than half. In 1997, more than 7,500 American firms were listed publicly in the U.S. Nearly two decades later, in 2016, the number had dropped to 3,618 firms. Quartz reports: The crux of the issue is that U.S. startups are increasingly shunning stock market boards. That could have worrying implications for America's long-term economic prospects. One big reason young companies are shying away from IPOs is that public listings don't offer much benefit to promising startups, say the paper's authors, economists Craig Doidge, Kathleen Kahle, Andrew Karolyi, and Rene Stulz. In fact, going public can hurt them. The upside of public listing is that it lets companies raise huge sums of capital, issue more shares, issue debt with relative ease, and use equity to fund acquisitions. But because of the ways the American economy has evolved, those advantages are less important than they once were. When industry powered U.S. growth, companies grew by spending on capital investments like factories and machinery. Back in 1975, firms once spent six times more on capital investments than they did on research and development. But as the U.S. shifted toward a services and knowledge-based economy, intangible investments became increasingly important. In 2002, R&D expenditures for the average firm surpassed capital expenditures for the first time. It's stayed that way since; nowadays, average R&D spending is roughly twice that of capital expenditures. The problem is, two features of public listings -- disclosure and accounting standards -- make things tough on companies with more intangible assets. U.S. securities law requires companies to disclose their activities in detail. But startups are wary of sharing information that might benefit their competitors.

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Scientists May Have Discovered the First Planets Outside the Milky Way

Using data from a NASA X-ray laboratory in space, Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, detected a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The planets range in size from Earth's moon to the massive Jupiter. From the report: There are few methods to determine the existence of distant planets. They are so far away that no telescope can observe them, Dai told The Washington Post. So Dai and postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras relied on a scientific principle to make the discovery: Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein's theory suggests light bends when tugged by the force of gravity. In this case, the light is coming from a quasar -- the nucleus of a galaxy with a swirling black hole -- that emits powerful radiation in the distance. Between that quasar and the space-based laboratory is the galaxy of newly discovered planets. The gravitational force of the galaxy bends the light heading toward the Milky Way, illuminating the galaxy in an effect called microlensing. In that way, the galaxy acts as a magnifying glass of sorts, bringing a previously unseen celestial body into X-ray view. In a university news release, Guerras had a less formal way to describe the complicated process: "This is very cool science."

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New York’s $6 Billion Plan For Offshore Wind Shows That Oil Drilling Really Is On the Way Out

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan earlier this month to develop $6 billion of offshore wind projects off the southern coast of Long Island by 2028 and predicted that the industry would bring 5,000 jobs to the state. The plan calls for developing 2.4 gigawatts -- enough to power 1.2 million homes -- by 2030. It's all part of New York's Clean Energy Standard, which requires 50% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources like solar and wind. The move comes as President Donald Trump earlier this month announced a five-year plan to open up areas of the East Coast to offshore drilling. "While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow," Cuomo said in a statement. Cuomo has asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for an exemption from the drilling plan, saying in an open letter that the plan "undermines New York's efforts to combat climate change by shifting from greenhouse gas emitting fossil energy sources to renewable sources, such as offshore wind." The report identifies a 1 million acre site approximately 20 miles south of Long Island that would best support the wind turbines, and "ensure that, for the vast majority of the time, turbines would have no discernible or visible impact from the casual viewer on the shore." The report also notes that New Jersey announced a similar plan last Wednesday to develop 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity off its coast.

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Man Sues T-Mobile For Allegedly Failing To Stop Hackers From Stealing His Cryptocurrency

Over the weekend, a lawsuit was filed against T-Mobile claiming that the company's lack of security allowed hackers to enter his wireless account last fall and steal cryptocoins worth thousands of dollars. "Carlos Tapang of Washington state accuses T-Mobile of having 'improperly allowed wrongdoers to access' his wireless account on November 7th last year," reports The Verge. "The hackers then cancelled his number and transferred it to an AT&T account under their control. 'T-Mobile was unable to contain this security breach until the next day,' when it finally got the number back from AT&T, Tapang alleges in the suit, first spotted by Law360." From the report: After gaining control of his phone number, the hackers were able to change the password on one of Tapang's cryptocurrency accounts and steal 1,000 OmiseGo (OMG) tokens and 19.6 BitConnect coins, Tapang claims. The hackers then exchanged the coins for 2.875 Bitcoin and transferred it out of his account, the suit states. On November 7th, the price of Bitcoin was $7,118.80, so had the hackers cashed out then, they would have netted a profit of $20,466.55. Tapang goes on to say, "After the incident, BTC price reached more than $17,000.00 per coin," but given the volatility of bitcoin prices, the hackers may not have benefited from the soar. The suit alleges T-Mobile is at fault partly because the carrier said it would add a PIN code to Tapang's account prior to the incident, but didn't actually implement it. Tapang also states that hackers are able to call T-Mobile's customer support multiple times to gain access to customer accounts, until they're able to get an agent on the line that would grant them access without requiring further identity verification. The complaint also lists several anonymous internet users who have posted about similar security breaches to their own T-Mobile accounts.

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What We Learned From Day 1 of the Uber and Alphabet Trial

Recode highlights the presentations each side gave on Day 1 in the Waymo v. Uber trial: Alphabet's self-driving arm, Waymo, and Uber gave their opening statements in front of a jury on Monday, commencing the courtroom phase of what has already been a messy legal battle. The day was entirely about opening arguments, but both Uber's and Waymo's strategy centers largely on one thing: Our opponent stooped to the levels they did because they were afraid we would beat them. Uber claims Waymo's lawsuit is baseless and is only suing because they were upset they were losing top talent at a time when competing companies began gaining ground. Waymo claims Uber was worried about getting beat in the self-driving car race so it stole Waymo's trade secrets when it hired one of its former executives. If Uber loses the case, it could have to pay out millions of dollars in damages and potentially stall its self-driving efforts. For Waymo, losing the case will have largely reputational risks. Alphabet rarely, if ever, sues over any issues with people or other companies, which means this litigation carries a lot of weight. Uber as the defense doesn't have to prove anything, just cast enough doubt on Waymo's claims. Waymo has to prove both motivation on the part of Uber to intentionally steal trade secrets, and that the information Uber stole was proprietary. "That was quite the story," Uber attorney Bill Carmody said in his opening statement. "I want to tell you right up front. It didn't happen, there's no conspiracy, there's no cheating, period end of story." It'll be up to the jury to determine if Waymo has presented enough evidence to prove that not only did Uber steal trade secrets, that the company was using them in their current self-driving technology. Painting Waymo as a company that was growing increasingly concerned over losing top engineers to Uber -- in addition to harboring personal grievances against Levandowski -- could help the ride-hail company convince the jury that Waymo had ulterior motives with its lawsuit. Recode has a detailed list in their report of all the evidence Uber and Waymo presented against one another, as well as their strategies going forward.

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New Jersey Governor Signs Net Neutrality Order

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: New Jersey on Monday became the latest state to implement its own net neutrality rules following the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of the Obama-era consumer protections. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order prohibiting all internet service providers that do business with the state from blocking, throttling or favoring web content. "We may not agree with everything we see online, but that does not give us a justifiable reason to block the free, uninterrupted, and indiscriminate flow of information," Murphy said in a statement. "And, it certainly doesn't give certain companies or individuals a right to pay their way to the front of the line. "While New Jersey cannot unilaterally regulate net neutrality back into law or cement it as a state regulation, we can exercise our power as a consumer to make our preferences known," he added. Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey's attorney general, also announced on Monday that the state would be the 22nd to join a lawsuit against the FCC.

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Android Oreo Passes 1 Percent Adoption After 5 Months, Nougat Finally Takes First Place

According to Google's Platform Versions page, Android 8.0 Oreo mobile operating system finally has 1.1 percent adoption. Like Android Nougat before it, Android Oreo took five months to pass the 1 percent adoption mark. VentureBeat reports: On the bright side, Nougat this month has passed Marshmallow, meaning the second newest Android version is now the most widely used. The latest version of Android typically takes more than a year to become the most-used release, and so far it doesn't look like Oreo's story will be any different. Google's Platform Versions tool uses data gathered from the Google Play Store app, which requires Android 2.2 and above. This means devices running older versions are not included, nor are devices that don't have Google Play installed (such as many Android phones and tablets in China, Amazon's Fire line, and so on). Also, Android versions that have less than 0.1 percent adoption, such as Android 3.0 Honeycomb and Android 2.2 Froyo, are not listed. The two next-oldest Android versions are thus set to drop off the list sometime this year. The Android adoption order now stands as follows: Nougat in first place, Marshmallow in second place, Lollipop in third, KitKat in fourth, Jelly Bean in fifth, Oreo in sixth, ICS in seventh, and Gingerbread in last. All eyes are now on Oreo to see how slowly it can climb the ranks.

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Samsung Billionaire Gets Off Easy

Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung chief found guilty of bribery and embezzlement, was freed from prison after an appeals court reduced and suspended his five-year prison sentence. Gizmodo reports: Lee had pleaded not guilty to all charges and spent nearly a year in jail, CNN reported, before the appeals court reduced his sentence to two and a half years and suspended it for four. The court reportedly found him guilty of one bribery charge, but not of hiding money offshore. It also overturned another bribery charge. It's important to understand that Samsung has a tight grip on the country's economy. Known as a "chaebol," or a (usually family-owned) business conglomerate, Samsung contributes to a little over one-fifth of the country's exports. Its businesses make up about 15 percent of the country's total economy. It is extremely rare for leaders of the country's chaebols to be justly punished for their crimes -- most convicted are ultimately pardoned or granted a commutation. Lee's father, Lee Kun-hee, has been pardoned twice for similar charges.

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Google Enables Pixel Visual Core For Better Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp Photos

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google's Pixel Visual Core, the hidden image-processing chip inside the Pixel 2 family of phones, is getting an update today that lets it work its machine learning magic in third-party apps. Already enabled via Android 8.1 for the Pixel 2's main camera app, the Visual Core is now going to be operational within any other camera app that employs the relevant Google APIs. That means your Instagram photography and Snapchat Stories will get the benefit of the same improvements in processing speed and efficiency. I have been using a Google Pixel 2 XL since before the Android 8.1 update that initially flipped the Visual Core to being active, and I can't say I've noticed a huge difference in the speed or operation of the camera. It was sterling before 8.1, and it's been the same since. But the way Google explains it, the Visual Core is likely to be more helpful and impressive in third-party apps because it will allow the company to run its proprietary HDR+ algorithm in those other apps: "Pixel Visual Core is built to do heavy-lifting image processing while using less power, which saves battery. That means we're able to use that additional computing power to improve the quality of your pictures by running the HDR+ algorithm."

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Uber Study Says Self-Driving Trucks Will Result In More Truck Drivers, Not Less

_Sharp'r_ writes: According to a new study by Uber's Advanced Technology Group, widespread adoption of self-driving trucks would happen primarily on long-haul routes. The increase in efficiency would lead to more goods being trucked, causing enough additional local delivery routes driven by humans to overall increase the need for truck drivers. Driver contracts may need to be updated to pay for more time spent waiting/delivering instead of physically driving. "Uber does not believe that self-driving trucks will be doing 'dock to dock' runs for a very long time," reports The Atlantic. "They see a future in which self-driving trucks drive highway miles between what they call transfer hubs, where human drivers will take over for the last miles through complex urban and industrial terrain." As for how Uber came to this conclusion, they created a model of the industry's labor market based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. "Then, they created scenarios that looked at a range of self-driving-truck adoption rates and how often those autonomous trucks would be on the road in comparison to human-driven vehicles," reports The Atlantic. Uber also calculated the utilization rate of the self-driving trucks. "Basically, if the self-driving trucks are used far more efficiently, it would drive down the cost of freight, which would stimulate demand, leading to more business," reports The Atlantic. "And, if more freight is out on the roads, and humans are required to run it around local areas, then there will be a greater, not lesser, need for truck drivers."

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Gut Microbes Combine To Cause Colon Cancer, Study Suggests

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Two types of bacteria commonly found in the gut work together to fuel the growth of colon tumors, researchers reported on Thursday. Their study, published in the journal Science, describes what may be a hidden cause of colon cancer, the third most common cancer in the United States. The research also adds to growing evidence that gut bacteria modify the body's immune system in unexpected and sometimes deadly ways. The findings suggest that certain preventive strategies may be effective in the future, like looking for the bacteria in the colons of people getting colonoscopies. If the microbes are present, the patients might warrant more frequent screening; eventually people at high risk for colon cancer may be vaccinated against at least one of the bacterial strains. Two types of bacteria, Bacteroides fragilis and a strain of E. coli, can pierce a mucus shield that lines the colon and normally blocks invaders from entering, the researchers found. Once past the protective layer, the bacteria grow into a long, thin film, covering the intestinal lining with colonies of the microbes. E. coli then releases a toxin that damages DNA of colon cells, while B. fragilis produces another poison that both damages DNA and inflames the cells. Together they enhance the growth of tumors. Not everyone carries the two types of bacteria in their colon. Those who do seem to pick up microbes in childhood, where they simply become part of the diverse mass of bacteria in the intestinal tract -- the so-called microbiome.

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India Rejects Cryptocurrency, But It Isn’t Giving Up On Blockchain

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: A budget speech given by India's finance minister led to numerous reports that India was banning the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum within the country. While Arun Jaitley noted in a speech that the Indian government does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender, his slightly ambiguous language resulted in something of a misunderstanding. Now the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has spoken out in an attempt to clarify the issue, and allay fears that Bitcoin et al are on the verge of being banned. At first glance, Jaitley's speech certainly seemed to imply that the Indian government wants to forbid the use of cryptocurrencies. In reality, he merely voiced concern about how cryptocurrencies were being used, and announced vague plans to introduce regulation to stop their use for illegal purposes. Delivering his speech, Jaitley said: "Distributed ledger system or the block chain technology allows organization of any chain of records or transactions without the need of intermediaries. The Government does not consider crypto-currencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system. The Government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy."

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NIH Study Links Cellphone Radiation To Cancer In Male Rats

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: New studies from the National Institutes of Health -- specifically the National Toxicology Program -- find that cell phone radiation is potentially linked with certain forms of cancer, but they're far from conclusive. The results are complex and the studies have yet to be peer-reviewed, but some of the findings are clearly important enough to warrant public discussion. An early, partial version of this study teasing these effects appeared in 2016, but these are the full (draft) reports complete with data. Both papers note that "studies published to date have not demonstrated consistently increased incidences of tumors at any site associate with exposure to cell phone RFR [radio frequency radiation] in rats or mice." But the researchers felt that "based on the designs of the existing studies, it is difficult to definitively conclude that these negative results clearly indicate that cell phone RFR is not carcinogenic." The studies exposed mice and rats to both 900 MHz and 1900 Mhz wavelength radio waves (each frequency being its own experiment) for about 9 hours per day, at various strengths ranging from 1 to 10 watts per kilogram. For comparison, the general limit the FCC imposes for exposure is 0.08 W/kg; the absolute maximum allowed, for the extremities of people with occupational exposures, is 20 W/kg for no longer than 6 minutes. So they were really blasting these mice. The rodents were examined for various health effects after various durations, from 28 days to 2 years. At 1900 MHz: Equivocal evidence of carcinogenicity in lung, liver and other organ tissues in both male and female mice.

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As Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Steps Down, the Future of Some Products Is In Question

After six years with the company, Sony CEO Kaz Hirai will step down from his post on April 1, 2018. He will remain with the company as chairman, and the CEO seat will be filled by current CFO Kenichiro Yoshida. Samuel Axon reports via Ars Technica of the reputation his successor has built for making touch cuts to get back in the black: Hirai is perhaps best known to the general public for his role in the PlayStation business, which is where the majority of his background with the company lies. He was involved in developing the PlayStation's software lineup in the late '90s, and Hirai famously unveiled the PlayStation 3 before he became CEO. That unveiling might better be described as infamous: he announced the console's launch models at the extremely steep prices of $499 and $599, leading to shock and ire in the gaming community. The cheaper of those two was almost a non-starter, lacking Wi-Fi and adequate hard drive storage. That memorable blunder aside, investors in Sony have enjoyed significant gains in the six years since Hirai became CEO -- though the company has only been regaining partial ground since it fell a long way from its peak back in 2000. He has kept Sony's efforts diversified across several markets and products, from computers to Hollywood movies. But much of the company's success under Hirai can be attributed to two things: the PlayStation division (whose profits rose by 70 percent over the holidays) and image sensors that Sony produces and sells to other companies for inclusion in various devices. Other divisions, like mobile, were de-emphasized as Hirai and Yoshida worked together to get Sony's house in order. [...] In other words, Yoshida made his mark on Sony by helping Hirai make tough calls to make major cuts to get the company on the right track. That effort is ongoing, so expect continuing changes with regards to both Sony's tech and entertainment products.

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Cloudflare Is Liable For Pirate Sites and Has No Safe Harbor, Publisher Says

After dragging Cloudflare to court and accusing the web services company of various types of copyright and trademark infringement, noting that several customers used Cloudflare's servers to distribute pirated content, adult publisher ALS Scan told the California District Court this week that the company should be held liable for copyright infringements committed by its customers. According to TorrentFreak, "The company requests a partial summary judgement, claiming that the CDN provider assists pirates and doesn't qualify for safe harbor protection." From the report: "The evidence is undisputed," ALS writes. "Cloudflare materially assists website operators in reproduction, distribution and display of copyrighted works, including infringing copies of ALS works. Cloudflare also masks information about pirate sites and their hosts." ALS anticipates that Cloudflare may argue that the company or its clients are protected by the DMCA's safe harbor provision, but contests this claim. The publisher notes that none of the customers registered the required paperwork at the U.S. Copyright Office. "Cloudflare may say that the Cloudflare Customer Sites are themselves service providers entitled to DMCA protections, however, none have qualified for safe harbors by submitting the required notices to the U.S. Copyright Office. Cloudflare may say that the Cloudflare Customer Sites are themselves service providers entitled to DMCA protections, however, none have qualified for safe harbors by submitting the required notices to the U.S. Copyright Office." Cloudflare itself has no safe harbor protection either, they argue, because it operates differently than a service provider as defined in the DMCA. It's a "smart system" which also modifies content, instead of a "dumb pipe," they claim. In addition, the CDN provider is accused of failing to implement a reasonable policy that will terminate repeat offenders. "Cloudflare has no available safe harbors. Even if any safe harbors apply, Cloudflare has lost such safe harbors for failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy including termination of repeat infringers," ALS writes. ALS now asks the court to issue a partial summary judgment ruling that Cloudflare is liable for contributory copyright infringement. If this motion is granted, a trial would only be needed to establish the damages amount.

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Tesla Will Sell Solar Panels, Powerwalls At Home Depot

Tesla is bringing photovaltaic panels and Powerwall batteries to U.S. retail giant Home Depot. According to Bloomberg, "The tech pioneer is beginning to roll out Tesla-branded selling spaces at 800 of the retailer's locations. The areas, which will be outfitted during the first half of this year, are staffed by Tesla employees and can demonstrate its solar panels and Powerwall battery." From the report: Lowe's -- the second-largest U.S. home-improvement chain, after Home Depot -- has also been in discussions with Tesla about selling its solar products, said people familiar with the situation. At some point, Home Depot may also offer Tesla's much-anticipated solar roof, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. [The products] will be highlighted in high-profile displays, which are 12 feet tall and 7 feet wide. Some locations will be fitted with visual demonstrations that show how the products work.

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Bicyclist Protests Net Neutrality By Slowing Traffic Outside the FCC Building

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A protester opposed to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) net neutrality repeal slowed traffic to a crawl outside the FCC Monday as a demonstration against the repeal. A video released Monday shows Rob Bliss, video director for the website Seriously.TV, setting up traffic cones to block all but one lane for cars, then riding a bike slowly in the lane. Bliss wore a sign encouraging drivers to upgrade to "priority access membership" for $5 a month, which would allow them to drive at normal speeds. The protest was meant to mimic what critics say will be the effect of the net neutrality repeal, which will allow internet service providers to favor certain content or require content providers to pay for faster speeds.

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Chrome OS Is Almost Ready To Replace Android On Tablets

Several news features rolling out to Chromebooks paint a picture of the future of Chrome OS as the rightful replacement for Android tablet software. Those include a new split-screen feature for multitasking while in tablet mode, and a screenshot feature borrowed from Android. The Verge reports: As it stands now, Chrome OS is very close to taking up the mantle there, and features like this push it ever closer to becoming the hybrid OS for all types of Google-powered screens. This has been in the works for quite a while as Google's Chrome and Android teams have coordinated closely to ensure the influx of low-cost, hybrid computing devices like 2-in-1 Chromebooks get the best of both worlds. There is, of course, Android app compatibility on Chrome OS, an initiative that first arrived somewhat half-baked last year and has taken months to fully jell as Google worked out the kinks. For instance, just last month Google added the ability for Android apps on Chromebooks run in the background. In July of last year, Google also began embarking on a touch-focused redesign of Chrome OS to make the software more functional in tablet mode. We're likely not getting the full-blown merging of the two divisions and their respective platforms anytime soon, or perhaps ever, as Google has played with the idea for years without ever seeming to decide that one platform should supersede the other. In essence, however, Android remains Google's dominant mobile OS, while Chrome OS has been taking on more responsibility as Chromebooks have steadily become more capable and tablet-like.

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Microsoft Is Now Selling a Surface Laptop With An Intel Core m3 Processor For $799

Microsoft has begun offering a lower specced Surface laptop running Windows 10 S and an Intel Core m3 processor. It's priced at $799, compared to the standard model's $999 price, and is only available in the platinum color configuration. Windows Central reports: The Intel Core m3 spec is paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB Storage. This is definitely not a high-end model of the Surface Laptop, but it's still a premium one, with the same Alcantara fabric and high-quality display found on other Surface Laptop SKUs. Microsoft offers an Intel Core m3 model of the Surface Pro priced at $799 also, however that SKU doesn't come bundled with a keyboard or pen. At least with the Surface Laptop, you're getting a keyboard and trackpad in the box, so perhaps the Intel Core m3 Laptop is going to be the better choice for many. If you're looking for a straight laptop by Microsoft, that is. Some other specs include a 2256 x 1504 resolution display, Intel HD graphics 615, 720p webcam with Windows Hello face-authentication, Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium, one full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack and Surface Connect port. The device measures in a 12.13 inches x 8.79 inches x 0.57 inches and weighs 2.76 pounds.

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YouTube Will Put Disclaimers On State-Funded Broadcasts To Fight Propaganda

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: YouTube's latest strategy to fight the spread of misinformation involves putting a disclaimer on videos from certain news sources. The online video website announced it will start labeling videos posted by state-funded broadcasters to alert viewers that the content is, in some part, funded by a government source. YouTube will begin labeling videos today, and the policy extends to outlets including the US's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Russian government broadcaster RT. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, PBS videos will now have the label "publicly funded American broadcaster," while RT will have this disclaimer: "RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian government." The new policy is YouTube's way of informing viewers about where the content they're watching is coming from, a piece of information often hidden or left unsought by the viewers themselves. "The principle here is to provide more information to our users, and let our users make the judgment themselves, as opposed to us being in the business of providing any sort of editorial judgment on any of these things ourselves," YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan told the WSJ.

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DuckDuckGo CEO: ‘Google and Facebook Are Watching Our Every Move Online. It’s Time To Make Them Stop’

An anonymous reader shares a report from CNBC, written by Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo: You may know that hidden trackers lurk on most websites you visit, soaking up your personal information. What you may not realize, though, is 76 percent of websites now contain hidden Google trackers, and 24 percent have hidden Facebook trackers, according to the Princeton Web Transparency & Accountability Project. The next highest is Twitter with 12 percent. It is likely that Google or Facebook are watching you on many sites you visit, in addition to tracking you when using their products. As a result, these two companies have amassed huge data profiles on each person, which can include your interests, purchases, search, browsing and location history, and much more. They then make your sensitive data profile available for invasive targeted advertising that can follow you around the Internet. [...] So how do we move forward from here? Don't be fooled by claims of self-regulation, as any useful long-term reforms of Google and Facebook's data privacy practices fundamentally oppose their core business models: hyper-targeted advertising based on more and more intrusive personal surveillance. Change must come from the outside. Unfortunately, we've seen relatively little from Washington. Congress and federal agencies need to take a fresh look at what can be done to curb these data monopolies. They first need to demand more algorithmic and privacy policy transparency, so people can truly understand the extent of how their personal information is being collected, processed and used by these companies. Only then can informed consent be possible. They also need to legislate that people own their own data, enabling real opt-outs. Finally, they need to restrict how data can be combined including being more aggressive at blocking acquisitions that further consolidate data power, which will pave the way for more competition in digital advertising. Until we see such meaningful changes, consumers should vote with their feet.

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New Zero-Day Vulnerability Found In Adobe Flash Player

GBHackers On Cyber Security and an anonymous Slashdot reader have shared a story about a new zero-day vulnerability found in Adobe's Flash Player. Bleeping Computer reports: South Korean authorities have issued a warning regarding a brand new Flash zero-day deployed in the wild. According to a security alert issued by the South Korean Computer Emergency Response Team (KR-CERT), the zero-day affects Flash Player installs 28.0.0.137 and earlier. Flash 28.0.0.137 is the current Flash version number. "An attacker can persuade users to open Microsoft Office documents, web pages, spam e-mails, etc. that contain Flash files that distribute the malicious [Flash] code," KR-CERT said. The malicious code is believed to be a Flash SWF file embedded in MS Word documents. Simon Choi, a security researcher with Hauri Inc., a South Korean security firm, says the zero-day has been made and deployed by North Korean threat actors and used since mid-November 2017. Choi says attackers are trying to infect South Koreans researching North Korea. Adobe said it plans to patch this zero-day on Monday, February 5.

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LG Settles Bootloop Lawsuit With $425 Cash Or a $700 Rebate Toward a New LG Phone

Early last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed against LG over bootloop issues affecting their G4 and V10 smartphones. Now, according to a settlement website set up by the law firm Girard Gibbs, members of the lawsuit have received a settlement offer. The only catch is that the settlement is only for plaintiffs of the initial case. Android Police reports: LG is offering plaintiffs either $425 as a cash settlement or a $700 rebate toward the purchase of a new LG phone. That's pretty generous, and it's clear that's going to help offset some of the anger LG's created with this whole incident. If you're one of the plaintiffs, you don't have to mail in your broken phone or anything, you just get the settlement offer, straight up. Members of the class will be contacted shortly with instructions on how to take advantage of the settlement. Payments will be distributed beginning in March.

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NFL Players With Long and Short Careers Have Similar Death Risk, Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared 2,933 athletes who played in the National Football League for an average of five years to 879 "replacement players" who filled in for three games during a mid-1980s strike, finding no statistically significant difference in rates of death from all causes. Critics said the research had several flaws and pointed to a study released last year that found 99 percent of deceased former NFL players whose brains were analyzed post-mortem showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease linked to repeated hits to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia. The latest study found that the leading cause of death among the NFL career players was cardiometabolic disease, which entails greater risk of heart attack and stroke, followed by transportation injuries and unintentional injuries. "This new study seems to support other previous studies that have not shown an increase in mortality among NFL players when compared to similar cohorts," an NFL spokeswoman said. "As with all new research on this topic, we will look at it closely to see what we can learn to better enhance the well-being of our current and former players," the spokeswoman said.

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How DIY Rebels Are Working To Replace Tech Giants

mspohr shares an excerpt from an "interesting article about groups working to make a safer internet": Balkan and Kalbag form one small part of a fragmented rebellion whose prime movers tend to be located a long way from Silicon Valley. These people often talk in withering terms about Big Tech titans such as Mark Zuckerberg, and pay glowing tribute to Edward Snowden. Their politics vary, but they all have a deep dislike of large concentrations of power and a belief in the kind of egalitarian, pluralistic ideas they say the internet initially embodied. What they are doing could be seen as the online world's equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant -- as well as governments whose surveillance programs have fueled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralized internet. Balkan energetically travels the world, delivering TED-esque talks with such titles as "Free is a Lie" and "Avoiding Digital Feudalism." [David Irvine, computer engineer and founder of MaidSafe, has devised an alternative to the "modern internet" he calls the Safe network]: the acronym stands for "Safe Access for Everyone." In this model, rather than being stored on distant servers, people's data -- files, documents, social-media interactions -- will be broken into fragments, encrypted and scattered around other people's computers and smartphones, meaning that hacking and data theft will become impossible. Thanks to a system of self-authentication in which a Safe user's encrypted information would only be put back together and unlocked on their own devices, there will be no centrally held passwords. No one will leave data trails, so there will be nothing for big online companies to harvest. The financial lubricant, Irvine says, will be a cryptocurrency called Safecoin: users will pay to store data on the network, and also be rewarded for storing other people's (encrypted) information on their devices. Software developers, meanwhile, will be rewarded with Safecoin according to the popularity of their apps. There is a community of around 7,000 interested people already working on services that will work on the Safe network, including alternatives to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

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Apple Begins Selling Refurbished iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Models

Apple today has added refurbished iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models to its online store for the first time in the United States. MacRumors reports: iPhone 7 models are available in all three storage capacities, including 32GB for $499, 128GB for $589, and 256GB for $679, reflecting savings of 10 percent off Apple's current prices for brand new models. All five colors are currently in stock, including Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. iPhone 7 Plus models with 32GB or 128GB of storage are available for $599 and $689 respectively, which is also 10 percent off. There are no 256GB models in stock. Available colors include Black, Gold, and Rose Gold. Apple says all refurbished iPhone models are thoroughly inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged with a new white box and all manuals and accessories. Apple also installs a new battery and replaces the outer shell, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between a refurbished and brand new iPhone. Any refurbished iPhone model comes with Apple's standard one-year warranty effective on the date the device is delivered. The warranty can be extended to up to two years from the original purchase date with AppleCare+, at a cost of $129 for the iPhone 7 and $149 for the iPhone 7 Plus in the United States.

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Amazon Patents Wristbands Designed To Track and Steer Employees’ Movements

New submitter hyperclocker shares a report from NY Daily News: Amazon workplace employees may soon be guided by their wrists. The tech company this week received two patents for a wristband designed to guide warehouse workers' movements with the use of vibrations. The concept relies on ultrasonic sound pulses or radio transmissions to detect the position of an employee's hand in relation to a series of inventory bins, GeekWire reported. Upon receiving product orders, warehouse workers are required to retrieve the requested item from such bins or shelves and pack it in a delivery box before moving on to the next order. If a worker's hands begin to move toward the wrong direction, the proposed "haptic feedback system" would cause the wristband to buzz and direct their hand in the correct direction. The wristbands, according to the patent documents, were designed as a means to keep track of products within Amazon warehouses as well as up day-to-day productivity. The proposed tech, however, could also provide Amazon management with a new means of workplace surveillance that would alert them to staffers who are wasting time or breaking for too long.

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Twitter Can’t Be Blamed For 2015 ISIS-Linked Killings, Court Rules

A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled yesterday that Twitter is not legally responsible for the deaths of two Americans in an ISIS-linked attack in Jordan, even though the Islamic State may have used its access to Twitter to spread its message of terrorism and recruit new members. The decision upholds a 2016 ruling on the same case, which was filed by the families of the victims of the terrorist attack. SFGate reports: "Without Twitter, the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the suit said. The Americans, Lloyd Fields Jr. and James Creach, were former police officers working for U.S. companies training law enforcement officers in Jordan. They were among five people shot to death in November 2015 by a Jordanian police captain, later identified as a member of an Islamic State terror cell. Islamic State said it was responsible for killing the "American crusaders." As an example of the Twitter activity, the women's lawyers showed a snapshot of an undated tweet, allegedly from Islamic State, that declared "there is no life without jihad." As of December 2014, the suit said, the terror group had 70,000 Twitter accounts, of which 79 were "official" Islamic State accounts. Only recently, the lawyers said, had Twitter changed its rules to prohibit threats of violence or terrorism and ordered the suspension of accounts promoting terrorism. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the suit failed to show a direct connection between Islamic State's use of Twitter and the fatal attack. "At most, the (suit) establishes that Twitter's alleged provision of material support to ISIS facilitated the organization's growth and ability to plan and execute terrorist acts," Judge Milan Smith said in the 3-0 ruling, which upheld a federal judge's dismissal of the suit earlier.

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Ask Slashdot: Which Tech Company Do You Respect Most?

dryriver writes: On Slashdot, we often discuss the missteps and non consumer-friendly behavior of various tech companies. This company forced people into a subscription payment model. That tech company doesn't respect people's privacy. Yet another tech company failed to fix a dangerous exploit quickly, protect people's cloud data properly, or innovate and improve where innovation and improvement was badly needed. Here's a question to the contrary: Of all the tech companies you know well and follow -- small, medium, or large -- which are the ones that you respect the most, and why? Which are the companies that still -- or newly -- create great tech in a landscape dotted with profiteers? Also, what is your personal criteria for judging whether a tech company is "good," "neutral," or "bad?"

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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Company Do You Respect Most?

dryriver writes: On Slashdot, we often discuss the missteps and non consumer-friendly behavior of various tech companies. This company forced people into a subscription payment model. That tech company doesn't respect people's privacy. Yet another tech company failed to fix a dangerous exploit quickly, protect people's cloud data properly, or innovate and improve where innovation and improvement was badly needed. Here's a question to the contrary: Of all the tech companies you know well and follow -- small, medium, or large -- which are the ones that you respect the most, and why? Which are the companies that still -- or newly -- create great tech in a landscape dotted with profiteers? Also, what is your personal criteria for judging whether a tech company is "good," "neutral," or "bad?"

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eBay Is Dumping PayPal For Dutch Rival Adyen

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: EBay, one of the world's biggest online marketplaces, announced Wednesday that it's dropping PayPal as its main partner for processing payments in favor of Dutch company Adyen. In 2002, eBay paid $1.5 billion to buy PayPal, an online payments company whose founders include Silicon Valley heavyweights Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. It proved to be a very successful investment. When eBay spun off PayPal in 2015 -- something investors and analysts had urged it to do -- the payments company's market value was close to $50 billion. It's now above $100 billion. Based in Amsterdam, Adyen already works with other big tech companies including Uber and Netflix. It says it handles more than 200 different payment methods and over 150 currencies. The shift will start gradually in North America later this year and eBay expects most marketplace customers around the world to be using the new system in 2021.

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Equifax Releases Credit Locking App That Doesn’t Work

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, the beleaguered credit reporting agency Equifax launched a new service to protect people from the risks of identity theft that the company vastly magnified with a breach of over 145 million people's credit records last year. The service, called Lock & Alert, is fronted by a mobile application and a Web application. It is intended to allow individuals to control access to their credit report on demand. "Lock & Alert allows You to lock and unlock your EIS credit report ('Equifax credit report')," the services' terms of service agreement states. "Locking or unlocking your Equifax credit report usually takes less than a minute." Except when it doesn't. As Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber of the New York Times reported, the new service -- which is different from a "freeze" in some ways that are not clear from a legal and regulatory standpoint -- has not been working for some (and possibly all) mobile app users. The idea of the "lock" is that it can be undone in an instant with a swipe of the screen, without incurring a charge to freeze or unfreeze the report or having to provide a PIN number. But attempts by Siegel Bernard to lock her husband's credit report resulted in application timeouts.

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Twitter Notifies 1.4 Million Users of Interaction With Russian Accounts

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: At least 1.4 million people on Twitter engaged with content created by Russian trolls during the 2016 presidential election, the company revealed on Wednesday. That's more than double the amount that Twitter initially identified -- and perhaps still just a fraction of the full universe of users who may have witnessed Kremlin propaganda over that period. In announcing the new data in a blog post, Twitter also said it had notified all 1.4 million affected users that they saw election disinformation. That fulfilled a pledge that the company previously made to members of Congress who are investigating Russia's tactics on social media. Notified users included those that followed one of the roughly 3,000 accounts belonging to the Internet Research Agency, the troll army tied to the Russian government, as well as users who retweeted, replied, liked or mentioned those IRA accounts in their tweets. But Twitter did not alert users who merely saw Russian troll tweets in their feeds but did not interact with the content. Nor did it reach out to users who saw tweets from the roughly 50,000 Russian bots that tweeted election-related content around November 2016.

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Microsoft’s Cloud Bet Continues To Pay Off In Latest Earnings

In its 2018 financial results, Microsoft reported revenue of $28.9 billion and net income of $7.5 billion. "Revenue has jumped 12 percent year-over-year during the holiday quarter, and the trend of Microsoft's success with the cloud has continued," reports The Verge. "This time around, Azure revenue has increased by a massive 98 percent." From the report: Overall server and cloud services revenue grew 18 percent year-over-year, alongside the massive 98 percent jump in Azure revenue. It's clear Microsoft's future growth and revenue opportunities are with the cloud, so it's no surprise to see the company continually investing there to be competitive with Amazon. Microsoft's Office 365 subscription bet for consumers is also paying off. 29.2 million people are now using Office 365 on the consumer side, with revenue increasing 12 percent year-over-year for Office consumer and cloud. On the commercial side, Office revenue is also up at a 10 percent increase since the same period last year.

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NASA Poised To Topple a Planet-Finding Barrier

schwit1 shares a report from NextBigFuture.com: Babak Saif and Lee Feinberg at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have shown for the first time that they can dynamically detect subatomic- or picometer-sized distortions -- changes that are far smaller than an atom -- across a five-foot segmented telescope mirror and its support structure. Collaborating with Perry Greenfield at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the team now plans to use a next-generation tool and thermal test chamber to further refine their measurements. The measurement feat is good news to scientists studying future missions for finding and characterizing extrasolar Earth-like planets that potentially could support life. To find life, these observatories would have to gather and focus enough light to distinguish the planet's light from that of its much brighter parent star and then be able to dissect that light to discern different atmospheric chemical signatures, such as oxygen and methane. This would require a super-stable observatory whose optical components move or distort no more than 12 picometers, a measurement that is about one-tenth the size of a hydrogen atom.

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Tinder Must Stop Charging Its Older Users More For ‘Plus’ Features, Court Rules

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The online dating service Tinder must change one of its key monetization strategies. A Los Angeles appellate court reversed a lower court's decision on Monday and told Tinder to stop charging older users more money per month for its "Tinder Plus" service. The proposed class-action lawsuit, filed by Tinder user Allan Candelore in February 2016, alleged that Tinder engaged in illegal age discrimination by charging its 30-and-older users $19.99 per month for Tinder Plus while offering younger users either $9.99 or $14.99 monthly subscription rates for the same services. Tinder Plus includes app perks such as additional "super-likes" which are more likely to attract a dater's response. In an initial trial, Tinder's defense argued that the pricing was based on market testing that showed a market-driven reason to offer lower prices to "budget constrained" users. "Nothing in the [original] complaint suggests there is a strong public policy that justifies the alleged discriminatory pricing," Judge Brian Currey wrote in the appeal court's 3-0 ruling. "Accordingly, we swipe left" -- a joke based on the app's popular "swipe to reject" gesture -- and reverse." That reversal hinges largely on California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1959 and protects "equal access to public accommodations and prohibits discrimination by business establishments." The ruling noted that some business-led discrimination is allowed by California state law, but it agreed with Candelore's argument that Tinder's age-targeted pricing is not.

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Google Fiber’s Wireless Internet Service Is Leaving Boston

Webpass, the wireless home broadband company that Google Fiber acquired in 2016, is exiting the Boston market. The Verge received a reader tip on the situation and a quick look around revealed that Boston is no longer listed as a current Webpass market on the company's website. From the report: "As with any acquisition, we've spent some time evaluating the Webpass business. As a result of our analysis, we've made the decision to wind down Webpass operations in Boston," an Access spokesperson said by email. "We'll work with customers and partners to minimize disruption, and there will be no immediate impacts to their Webpass service. We continue to see strong subscriber response across the rest of the Webpass portfolio, including successful launches in Denver and Seattle in 2017." Before this move, Boston was one of 8 cities served by Webpass, which delivers up-to-gigabit internet speeds for residential and commercial buildings by using point to point wireless. That number has dropped to 7, and old Google search results for Webpass service in Massachusetts now redirect to the main homepage. Webpass internet service is available exclusively in apartment units and condo buildings. It originally came to Boston in 2015 and the company has (or at least had) an office in the city.

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Nintendo Switch Outsells Wii U In 10 Months

In less than a year, the Nintendo Switch has earned the designation of the fastest-selling U.S. console of all time. It has outsold the company's previous flagship Wii U just 10 months after its introduction. "Altogether, Nintendo has sold more than 14.86 million Switch units since its debut in March of 2017," reports Variety. "The company sold around 12.5 million Wii U's between 2012 and 2017." From the report: For Nintendo, this is a remarkable turn-around reminiscent of the introduction of the original Wii back in 2006. In fact, earlier this month, news broke that the Switch had become the fastest-selling game console in the U.S. to date, handily outselling original Wii with 4.8 million vs. 4 million units moved over a ten-month span after each device's introduction to U.S. consumers. Nintendo sold 7.23 million Switch units during the holiday quarter alone. The company adjusted its financial guidance for Q1 in light of continued demand for the device upwards by 33%, and now expects to bring in an operating profit of 160 billion yen ($1.47 billion), as well as revenue of around 1 trillion yen ($9.38 billion).

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Xerox Cedes Control To Fujifilm, Ending Its Independence

mikeebbbd writes: According to Bloomberg, "Xerox, a once-iconic American innovator that became synonymous with office copy machines, is ceding control to Japan's Fujifilm in a deal that creates an $18 billion company." Essentially, it's merging with Fujifilm; a former joint venture operating in the Asian-Pacific area essentially will become the parent company... So much for the company that actually invented the modern graphical user interface later popularized by Apple and Microsoft. "The agreement marks the end of independence for a U.S. company whose roots trace back to the start of the 20th century," reports Bloomberg. "The joint venture will cut 10,000 jobs in Asia as part of the restructuring as the Japanese company struggles with an 'increasingly severe' market environment." While the new company will have a combined revenue of $18 billion, Xerox was acquired by Fujifilm for $6.1 billion.

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White House Seeks 72 Percent Cut To Clean Energy Research

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Trump administration has made it very clear that it is pro fossil fuels and has little interest in pushing programs the promote renewable energy. Now, the Washington Post reports that the president's proposed 2019 budget slashes funds for Energy Department programs focused on energy efficiency. While the proposal is just a jumping off point, the fact that it seeks to cut such funding by 72 percent underscores where the administration's interests lie and in which direction its policies will continue to go. The draft budget documents viewed by Washington Post staff showed that the president is looking to cut the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget to $575.5 million, down from the current $2.04 billion level. Included in the budget cuts are funds for programs researching fuel efficient vehicles, bioenergy technologies, solar energy technology and electric car technologies. Additionally, the draft budget proposal seeks to cut jobs, dropping staff levels from 680 down to 450. One EERE employee told the Washington Post, "It shows that we've made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped." The report notes that the Energy Department had requested less extreme spending cuts, but the Office of Management and Budget pushed for the more substantial ones found in the draft proposal. It's also worth noting that the proposal could still be changed before being released in February.

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SpaceX Successfully Launches Satellite Into Orbit On a Used Falcon 9 Rocket

Darrell Etherington reports via TechCrunch: SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket loaded with a geocommunications satellite commissioned by the Government of Luxembourg. The satellite, created by Orbital STK and to be operated by SES, will support humanitarian and military operations for Luxembourg, among other communications functions. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, a day after its initial planned launch. The original window wasn't viable due to weather, but the rocket launched as planned at the opening of its backup date with favorable weather conditions today. This launch today didn't include a recovery attempt of the Falcon 9 first stage booster used during the launch. The booster used was a reflown rocket, however, having been used May last year during a mission for a different client.

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GDC Rescinds Award For Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell After Criticisms of Sexually Inappropriate Behavior

The organizers of the Game Developers Choice Awards announced today that they have rescinded the Pioneer Award for Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, and announced the award will not be given this year entirely. "The decision follows a day of outcry after GDC organizers announced that Bushnell, 74, had been tapped for the GDCA's lifetime achievement honor," reports Polygon. "News accounts and histories over the past several years have documented a history of workplace misconduct and sexist behavior toward women by Bushnell, during Atari's early days." From the report: In a statement this morning, GDC said its awards committee "made the decision not to give out a Pioneer Award for this year's event, following additional feedback from the community. They believe their picks should reflect the values of today's game industry and will dedicate this year's award to honor the pioneering and unheard voices of the past." The Pioneer Award is for "individuals who developed a breakthrough technology, game concept, or gameplay design at a crucial juncture in video game history," according to its official site. Nine have been conferred since 2008, none of them women. Bushnell founded Atari in 1972 and installed the first coin-operated video game, Pong, shortly thereafter. He presided over the company's rise to dominate the early generation of home console gaming before selling it off and founding what is today the Chuck E. Cheese line of restaurants. Bushnell issued a statement on Twitter: "I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that, too. If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation."

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Ford Patents Driverless Police Car That Ambushes Lawbreakers Using AI

Ford has developed a patent for a police car that issues tickets without even pulling you over. The same car could also use artificial intelligence to find good hiding spots to catch traffic violators (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) and identify drivers by scanning license plates, tapping into surveillance cameras and wirelessly accessing government records. The Washington Post reports: The details may sound far-fetched, as if they belong in the science-fiction action flick "Demolition Man" or a new dystopian novel inspired by Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," but these scenarios are grounded in a potential reality. They come from a patent developed by Ford and being reviewed by the U.S. government to create autonomous police cars. Ford's patent application was published this month. Although experts claim autonomous vehicles will make driving safer and more rule-bound, Ford argues in its application that in the future, traffic violations will never disappear entirely. "While autonomous vehicles can and will be programmed to obey traffic laws, a human driver can override that programming to control and operate the vehicle at any time," the patent's application says. "When a vehicle is under the control of a human driver there is a possibility of violation of traffic laws. Thus, there will still be a need to police traffic." The patent application says that autonomous police vehicles don't necessarily replace the need for human police officers for catching traffic scofflaws. Some "routine tasks," such as issuing tickets for failure to stop at a stop sign, can be automated, the patent says, but other tasks that can't be automated will be left to people. The application, which was filed in July 2016 and includes elaborate diagrams depicting the autonomous police car interacting with its environment, says officers could be inside the vehicle at all times and reclaim control of the car when necessary. But the application also shows how an autonomous police vehicle could be able to carry out many tasks we associate with human officers.

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Tesla Pushes Even More States To Upend Auto Dealer-Friendly Laws

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Tesla is now pressing ahead with lobbying efforts that would allow it to expand its direct dealerships in two more states: Nebraska and Wisconsin. For now, more than 20 states already allow the California automaker to sell its own vehicles, while others have set up a system that at least partially bans manufacturers from direct sales and effectively protects auto dealers. Those states include Texas, Michigan, West Virginia, and Utah, among others. Last year, court rulings and changes in the law in Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, and other states have paved the way for Tesla to sell directly to the public. In Nebraska, the new bill under consideration is known as LB 830. It has been met with opposition from existing dealers who are concerned that other manufacturers like GM or Ford will want a similar arrangement. Similarly, in Wisconsin, SB 605 would carve out an exception in state law for a "manufacturer [whose] motor vehicles... are propelled solely by electric power."

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Mazda Says Its Next-Gen Gasoline Engine Will Run Cleaner Than An Electric Car

schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: Mazda is staking much of its future on the continued existence of the internal-combustion engine, with clever tech like spark-controlled compression ignition set to debut in Mazda's next-generation production-car engine, Skyactiv-X. But the automaker is already thinking even further into the internal-combustion future. Automotive News reports that Mazda is working on a new gas engine, Skyactiv-3, which the automaker says will be as clean as an electric vehicle. Speaking at a tech forum in Tokyo, Mazda powertrain chief Mitsuo Hitomi said that the main goal with Skyactiv-3 is to increase the engine's thermal efficiency to roughly 56 percent. If achieved, that would make the Skyactiv engine the first internal-combustion piston engine to turn the majority of its fuel's energy into power, rather than waste due to friction or heat loss. To date, the most thermally efficient automotive internal combustion engine belongs to Mercedes-AMG's Formula 1 team, with an efficiency of 50 percent; AMG hopes the F1-derived engine in the Project One street-legal supercar will achieve 41-percent thermal efficiency, which would make it the most thermally efficient production-car engine in history. Automotive News says Mazda's 56-percent goal would represent a 27-percent improvement over current Mazda engines. Hitomi didn't provide a timeline for when Skyactiv-3 would reach production, nor did he specify how Mazda hopes to achieve such an improvement. Mazda's claim, that Skyactiv-3 would be cleaner to run than an all-electric vehicle, is a bold one, and requires some unpacking. Mazda bases the assertion on its estimates of "well-to-wheel" emissions, tallying the pollution generated by both fossil fuel production and utility electricity generation to compare Skyactiv-3 and EV emissions. Such analysis reflects the reality that, currently, much electricity is generated through fossil fuels. In regions where electricity comes from wind, solar, or hydroelectric, the EV would clearly win the argument, but that's not the case for many customers today. If Mazda can make a mass-production internal-combustion engine that achieves more than 50 percent thermal efficiency, it will be an incredible feat -- and would likely help guarantee the piston engine's continued survival.

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How To Watch the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ Lunar Eclipse

Stephanie Pappas reports via Live Science how you can watch Wednesday's "Super Blue Blood Moon" eclipse: The eclipse will occur in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when the full moon will pass through the Earth's shadow. Viewers on Earth will see the face of the moon turn a murky red. On the West Coast, totality (the full shading of the moon) will occur at 4:51 a.m. PST until 6:08 a.m. PST. Before that, the moon will enter the outer portion of the Earth's shadow, or penumbra, at 2:51 a.m. PST. The real show will become visible starting at 3:48 a.m. PST, when the moon will be entering the umbra, or central portion of Earth's shadow, and a dark shadow will move over the face of the moon. The moon will leave the umbra at 7:11 a.m. PST. East Coasters can catch the partial lunar eclipse before dawn, but they will miss totality because the moon will have set below the horizon by 7:06 a.m. EST. To see the shadow of the Earth become visible on the moon's face, look up at 6:31 a.m. EST; by 6:48 a.m. EST, the moon will be entering the umbra, or central portion of the shadow, which should make the color change more apparent. For viewers in the Central and Mountain time zones, the moon will set either during the total eclipse or while the satellite is exiting the Earth's shadow. The moon enters the dark umbra at about 5:48 a.m. CST and will hit totality slightly before moonset, at 6:51 a.m. CST. The umbra will appear at 4:48 a.m. MST, and the moon will enter totality at 5:51 a.m. MST. Viewers in the Mountain time zone will also get the chance to see the middle of totality, when the moon is up to 100,000 times fainter than usual, at 6:29 a.m. The eclipse will end slightly before moonset, at 7:07 a.m. MST. Viewers in Alaska and Hawaii will get a full dose of totality, too, but they'll have to be very early birds or night owls. Totality begins at 3:51 a.m. AKST and ends at 5:05 a.m. AKST. Totality hits at 2:51 a.m. HST and will be over by 4:05 a.m. HST.

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Pocket-Sized DNA Reader Used To Scan Entire Human Genome Sequence

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A few years back, a company called Oxford Nanopore announced it was developing a radically different way of sequencing DNA. Its approach involved taking single strands of the double helix and stuffing them through a protein pore. With a small bit of current flowing across the pore, the four bases of DNA each created a distinct (if tiny) change in the voltage as it passed through. These could be used to read the DNA one base at a time as it wiggled through the pore. After several years of slow progress, Oxford Nanopore announced that its sequencing hardware would be as distinctive as its wetware: a USB device that could fit comfortably in a person's hand. As the first devices went out to users, it became clear that the device had some pros and cons. On the plus side, the device was quick and could be used without requiring a large facility to support it. It could also read very long stretches of DNA at once. But the downside was significant: it made lots of mistakes. With a few years of experience, people are now starting to learn to make the most of the devices, as demonstrated by a new paper in which researchers use it to help sequence a human genome. By using the machine's long reads -- in one case, nearly 900,000 bases from one DNA molecule -- the authors were able to get data out of areas of the human genome that resisted characterization before. And they were able to distinguish between the two sets of chromosomes (one from mom, one from dad) and locate areas of epigenetic control in many areas of the genome. In light of all the distinct information it can provide, the machine's error rate is seeming like less of a problem.

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T-Mobile Commits To 100 Percent Renewable Electricity By 2021

T-Mobile said on Monday that it will move to 100 percent renewable electricity by the year 2021. It had also "finalized a contract for wind power from the Solomon Forks Wind Project in Kansas," reports CNBC. "Power generation there is due to begin at the beginning of 2019, and will supplement the energy T-Mobile receives from the Red Dirt Wind Power Project in Oklahoma." From the report: John Legere, T-Mobile's president and CEO, said moving to renewable energy was the right thing to do and smart business. "We expect to cut T-Mobile's energy costs by around $100 million in the next 15 years thanks to this move," he added. T-Mobile has also joined the RE100, a group of global businesses committed to renewable power. Other members of the RE100 include Apple, Facebook and Google.

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Amazon’s Push Into Healthcare Just Cost the Industry $30 Billion In Market Cap

Today, Amazon, along with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan, announced a plan to launch an independent company that will offer healthcare services to the companies' employees at a lower cost. The venture, which will be managed by executives from the firms, will be run more like a non-profit, than a for-profit entity. Even though the plans are vague, the news caused the market value of 10 large, listed health insurance and pharmacy stocks to drop by a combined $30 billion in the first two hours of trading. Quartz reports: "The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," said Amazon's Jeff Bezos in a statement. "Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation." Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, likened America's mushrooming healthcare costs to "a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." How the venture will provide less pricy healthcare to the 1.2 million employees of the participating companies isn't yet clear. The new company will leverage "technology solutions" that provide "simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost." Not much else, including the name of the company, is known.

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Google Play Removed 700,000 Bad Apps In 2017, 70 Percent More Than In 2016

Today, Google announced that it removed more than 700,000 apps that violated Google Play's policies, or 70 percent more apps than the year before. "Google does not share total Google Play app numbers anymore, so we have to rely on third-party estimates to put this 70 percent figure into perspective," reports VentureBeat. "Statista pegs the total number of apps on Google Play at 2.6 million in December 2016 and 3.5 million in December 2017, a 35 percent growth. How many of those were bad apps, however, is anyone's guess." From the report: All we know is that the number of bad apps removed grew faster than the total number of apps in the store, which makes sense if you take into account the next statistic Google revealed today: 99 percent of apps with abusive content were identified and rejected before anyone could install them in 2017. This was possible, Google says, thanks to its implementation of machine learning models and techniques to detect abusive app content and behaviors such as impersonation, inappropriate content, or malware. The company claims that the odds of getting malware is 10x lower via Google Play than if you install apps from outside sources.

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Facebook Users Cry ‘Censorship’ After Being Told Which Russian Troll Pages They Liked

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: As the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference reaches a fever pitch, Facebook rolled out a new News Feed alert Monday night. The bulletin told users who followed pages created by Russian trolls that those pages have been removed. And some of the affected users did not like this. A brief search revealed that numerous people believe that this is an act of censorship by Facebook. Some users argued that they should be allowed to decide what's "true, fake, or otherwise," a challenge that's bound to be a slippery slope in this era of algorithm-based confirmation bias. Others took on a more conspiratorial tone, claiming that Facebook failed to reveal which pages were removed (despite the alert containing a link listing the pages in question). Facebook first released the information in December, creating a help page that showed users if they liked or followed pages and accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, Russia's notorious troll farm, but today's alert seems to have inspired newfound alarm. The fact that Facebook explicitly stated which pages were deleted seems to have done little to reduce the anger over the allegedly clandestine silencing.

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Verizon Drops Plans To Sell Huawei Phones Due To US Government Pressure

Bloomberg reports that Verizon has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei due to pressure from the U.S. government. The decision comes after AT&T walked away from a deal earlier this month to sell Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Bloomberg: Huawei devices still work on both companies' networks, but direct sales would've allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties. The government's renewed concern about Chinese spying is creating a potential roadblock in the race between Verizon and AT&T to offer 5G, the next generation of super-fast mobile service. Huawei is pushing to be among the first to offer 5G-capable phone, but the device may be considered off-limits to U.S. carriers who are beginning to offer the next-generation service this year in a few cities. U.S. security agencies and some lawmakers fear that 5G phones made by companies that may have close ties to the Chinese government could pose a security risk.

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Facebook Is Banning Cryptocurrency, ICO Ads

Facebbook has a new advertising policy pertaining to cryptocurrency, binary options and initial coin offerings. The policy specifically prohibits ads that promote those types of products and services "that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive practices," Facebook Product Management Director Rob Leathern wrote in a blog post today. TechCrunch reports: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, and initial coin offerings have all hit the mainstream, which has promptly resulted in a number of scams. While Facebook says it wants people "to continue to discover and learn" about those products and services, "there are many companies who are advertising binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith," Leathern wrote. Leathern recognizes that the policy is quite broad, but he says that's intentional. The plan is to continue working to better detect deceptive and misleading ads that pertain to cryptocurrencies, ICOs and binary options. Over time, Facebook says it will revisit the policy and its enforcement mechanisms as its signals improve. In the meantime, Facebook is encouraging people to report content that violates this policy.

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US Government Investigates Apple Over iPhone Battery Slowdowns

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Apple about its updates that slowed performance on iPhones with older batteries. Sources speaking to Bloomberg say that the agencies are looking into whether Apple violated securities laws regarding disclosures about its updates that throttled older iPhones. So far, the DOJ and SEC have requested information from Apple. Because the investigation is still early, it's unclear if the agencies will actually take an action against Apple. Apple apologized for not being more clear about its actions after the news of its performance-throttling updates came out, but we've still seen class action lawsuits and now this investigation come out. The good news is that Apple will be more transparent about iPhone battery health and performance in the future, but for now, it'll have to deal with the DOJ and SEC.

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AI May Have Finally Decoded the Mysterious ‘Voynich Manuscript’

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Since its discovery over a hundred years ago, the 240-page Voynich manuscript, filled with seemingly coded language and inscrutable illustrations, of has confounded linguists and cryptographers. Using artificial intelligence, Canadian researchers have taken a huge step forward in unraveling the document's hidden meaning. Named after Wilfrid Voynich, the Polish book dealer who procured the manuscript in 1912, the document is written in an unknown script that encodes an unknown language -- a double-whammy of unknowns that has, until this point, been impossible to interpret. The Voynich manuscript contains hundreds of fragile pages, some missing, with hand-written text going from left to right. Most pages are adorned with illustrations of diagrams, including plants, nude figures, and astronomical symbols. But as for the meaning of the text -- nothing. No clue. For Greg Kondrak, an expert in natural language processing at the University of Alberta, this seemed a perfect task for artificial intelligence. With the help of his grad student Bradley Hauer, the computer scientists have taken a big step in cracking the code, discovering that the text is written in what appears to be the Hebrew language, and with letters arranged in a fixed pattern. To be fair, the researchers still don't know the meaning of the Voynich manuscript, but the stage is now set for other experts to join the investigation. The researchers used an AI to study "the text of the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' as it was written in 380 different languages, looking for patterns," reports Gizmodo. Following this training, the AI analyzed the Voynich gibberish, concluding with a high rate of certainty that the text was written in encoded Hebrew." The researchers then entertained a hypothesis that the script was created with alphagrams, words in which text has been replaced by an alphabetically ordered anagram. "Armed with the knowledge that text was originally coded from Hebrew, the researchers devised an algorithm that could take these anagrams and create real Hebrew words." Finally, "the researchers deciphered the opening phrase of the manuscript" and ran it through Google Translate to convert it into passable English: "She made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people." The study appears in Transactions of the Association of Computational Linguistics .

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Researchers Find More Evidence For the Strange Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: People with high blood sugar stand to experience worse long-term cognitive decline than their healthy peers, even if they're not technically type 2 diabetic, new research suggests. The findings are not the first linking diabetes with impaired cognitive functions, but they're some of the clearest yet showing blood sugar isn't just a marker of our dietary health -- it's also a telling predictor of how our brains may cope as we get older. "Our findings suggest that interventions that delay diabetes onset, as well as management strategies for blood sugar control, might help alleviate the progression of subsequent cognitive decline over the long-term," explain the researchers, led by epidemiologist Wuxiang Xie from Imperial College London. The researchers sourced their data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, an ongoing assessment of the health of a representative sample of the English population aged 50 and older, which began in in 2002. For its analysis, the team tracked 5,189 participants -- 55 percent women, with an average age of 66 years -- assessing their level of cognitive function between 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, spanning several waves of the ELSA study. The findings are reported in the journal Diabetologia.

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MPEG Founder Says the MPEG Business Model Is Broken

theweatherelectric writes: Leonardo Chiariglione, the founder and chairman of MPEG, argues on his blog that the current MPEG business model is broken. He writes, "Thanks to [MPEG's] 'business model' that can be simply described as: produce standards having the best performance as a goal, irrespective of the IPR involved. Because MPEG standards are the best in the market and have an international standard status, manufacturers/service providers get a global market of digital media products, services and applications, and end users can seamless communicate with billions of people and access millions of services. Patent holders who allow use of their patents get hefty royalties with which they can develop new technologies for the next generation of MPEG standards. A virtuous cycle everybody benefits from." But, he argues, the MPEG model is now in crisis because the forthcoming AV1 video format from the Alliance for Open Media means that "everybody realizes that the old MPEG business model is broke, all the investments (collectively hundreds of millions USD) made by the industry for the new video codec [HEVC] will go up in smoke and AOM's royalty free model will spread to other business segments as well." Chiariglione goes on to explain what can be done: "The first action is to introduce what I call 'fractional options.' ISO envisages two forms of licensing: Option 1, i.e. royalty free and Option 2, i.e. FRAND, which is taken to mean 'with undetermined license.' We could introduce fractional options in the sense that a proposer could indicate that the technology be assigned to a specifically identified profile with an 'industry license' (defined outside MPEG) that does not contain monetary values. For instance, one such license could be 'no charge' (i.e. Option 1), another could be targeted to the OTT market etc." "The second action, not meant to be alternative to the first, is to streamline the MPEG standard development process. Within this a first goal is to develop coding tools with 'clear ownership,' unlike today's tools which are often the result of contributions with possibly very different weights. A second goal is not to define profiles in MPEG. A third goal could be to embed in the standard the capability to switch coding tools on and off."

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Americans Are Saving Energy Because Fewer People Go Outside

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Americans are saving energy because they don't go outside as much anymore, researchers say. It's a plus for the environment, though in another light (no pun intended), it's just sad. In 2012, Americans spent an extra eight days at home compared to 2003, according to the American Time Use Surveys. Being at home means using more energy by keeping the lights on and watching TV. But it also means less travel, and it means that fewer people are outside operating offices and stores. So overall in 2012, we saved 1,700 trillion British thermal units (BTU) of heat, or 1.8 percent of the national total, according to an analysis published today in the journal Joule. That's about how much energy Kentucky produced in all of 2015. Specifically in 2012, Americans spent one day less traveling and one week less in buildings other than their homes when compared to a decade earlier. The trend of staying indoors is especially strong for those ages 18 to 24: the youths spent 70 percent more time at home than the general population. At the other end of the age spectrum, those 65 and older were the only group that spent more time outside the home compared to 2003. Next, the researchers want to look at energy consumption changes in other countries as a result of lifestyle changes.

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Ethereum Startup Vanishes After Seemingly Making $11, Leaves Message: ‘Penis’

CaptainDork shares a report from Motherboard: An Ethereum startup called Prodeum disappeared from the web on Sunday after raising a grand total of $11 USD from investors in a crowdsale. Shortly after the website disappeared, a message appeared on its homepage: "penis." Prodeum's website now redirects visitors to the Twitter account of a cryptocurrency trader (they did not immediately respond to our request for comment), and its Twitter account has been deactivated. Prodeum is at least the second Ethereum startup to pull up stakes after raising money from people in events called Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs, in which a startup funds their enterprise by taking cryptocurrency from people in exchange for digital tokens. Some ICOs have managed to raise millions of dollars, and the last startup to vanish after conducting an ICO -- Confido, which disappeared from the internet in late 2017 -- made off with roughly $374,000. (A message later appeared on Confido's site stating that it would buy back investors' tokens, but it's unclear if that took place.) Prodeum, by comparison, only seems to have raised $11 based on the Ethereum address that was advertised on Prodeum's site as being the ICO address. (Update: After this article was published the contents of the ICO wallet were sent to another wallet. That wallet contains roughly $100, with the other funds all coming from a single wallet that predates the Prodeum ICO and contains 46 cents.) Prodeum's pitch, according to a cached version of its webpage, was to track vegetables in a supply chain using digital addresses on a blockchain -- a decentralized ledger at the heart of Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As for why the "penis" message was left on its homepage, it may have something to do with the name of the startup. Prodeum is a medication that treats urinary tract infections and other urinary problems...

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World’s Second Largest Meat Processor Invests In Lab-Grown Meat Startup

Tyson Foods, the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, announced it has invested in Silicon Valley startup Memphis Meats, a company that makes lab-grown meat using animal cells. The investment amount was not disclosed, but it follows a slew of other high-profile backers including Cargill Inc., Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Fox Business reports: Last December, Tyson made a similar investment in another meatless startup called Beyond Meat, investing a roughly 5% stake in the company that produces plant-based meat alternatives. Tyson CEO Tom Hayes told FOX Business in March of last year that he sees plant-based protein as a big part of the company's future. "If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world -- and it continues to grow. It's not just hot in the U.S.; it's hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it's animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction," Hayes told FOX Business. Memphis Meats, which debuted its first animal-free meatball in 2016, followed by the world's first chicken strip in 2017, said customers should expect to see these products on store shelves by 2021 or 2022.

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Facebook Will Prioritize Local Stories In Your News Feed

Facebook announced today that it will begin prioritizing local news, bumping it up higher in your feed if you follow a local publisher's Page or if a friend shares a locally-published story. "We are prioritizing local news as part of our emphasis on high-quality news, and with today's update, stories from local news publishers may appear higher in News Feed for followers in publishers' geographic areas," Facebook said in the announcement. Engadget reports: Facebook, which recently announced it would be shifting its News Feed focus away from news and more towards friends' posts, says the local news prioritization will kick off in the U.S., but it plans to expand it to other countries this year. "These efforts to prioritize quality news in News Feed, including this local initiative, are a direct result of the ongoing collaboration with partners," said Facebook. "Our goal is to show more news that connects people to their local communities, and we look forward to improving and expanding these efforts this year."

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Volkswagen Admits To Testing Diesel Fumes On Monkeys

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: In what seems like a John Henry versus the steam shovel-style competition to dig diesel's grave, Volkswagen has admitted to funding (and subsequently cheating on) animal testing to prove the relative safety of diesel exhaust fumes, according to findings by the New York Times. The tests, which were undertaken at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque in 2014, involved as many as 10 monkeys and had them sitting in airtight containers as they breathed exhaust fumes from a diesel-powered Volkswagen Beetle while they watched cartoons for entertainment. The tests went on for 4 hours. "We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals," said a Volkswagen representative in a statement. "We're convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place." The Volkswagen Beetle used in the test was equipped with the same compromised emissions software that could detect when the car was being tested in a lab environment so it was running as cleanly as it could, which I guess proves that Volkswagen will waste no opportunity to be hoisted by its own oil-burning petard.

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There May Not Be An iPhone SE 2 After All

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a research note today that casts doubt on rumors about a second-generation iPhone SE launching in the second quarter of 2018. If there is a successor, customers can expect a minor update that amounts to a run-of-the-mill spec boost and no new features like wireless charging or Face ID. The Verge reports: According to Kuo, between the three phones Apple released last year (iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X) and the three phones rumored to be released this fall, the company may not have enough development resources for an SE follow up as a fourth phone for 2018. That said, Kuo also does acknowledge that a basic processor update could still happen, but it seems that SE fans should keep expectations low. The iPhone SE still fills an interesting place in Apple's lineup. It uses the same design as the iPhone 5, which was released in 2012, with the 2015 internals of an iPhone 6s. This means the current model would get a boost in processor speed -- something that will likely continue to get worse with the presumed release of iOS 12 this fall. But SE is still popular for its low price and smaller size among consumers. Compared to the giant 6-inch-plus phones Apple is rumored to be releasing this year, it could make sense to keep an updated version of the smaller SE around.

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Inside Amazon’s Mini Rainforest Work Space Spheres

Amazon's indoor rainforest-like office space opened today after being in development for seven years. CNBC reports of what can be found inside the Spheres: The Spheres' three glass domes house some 40,000 plants of 400 species. Amazon, famous for its demanding work culture, hopes the Spheres' lush environs will let employees reflect and have chance encounters, spawning new products or plans. The space is more like a greenhouse than a typical office. Instead of enclosed conference rooms or desks, there are walkways and unconventional meeting spaces with chairs. Amazon has invested $3.7 billion on buildings and infrastructure in Seattle from 2010 to summer 2017, a figure that has public officials competing for its "HQ2" salivating. Amazon has said it expects to invest more than $5 billion in construction of HQ2 and to create as many as 50,000 jobs. The Spheres, designed by architecture firm NBBJ, will become part of Amazon's guided campus tours. Members of the public can also visit an exhibit at the Spheres by appointment starting Tuesday.

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Pentagon Reviews GPS Policies After Fitness Trackers Reveal Locations

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Locations and activity of U.S. military bases; jogging and patrol routes of American soldiers -- experts say those details are among the GPS data shared by the exercise tracking company Strava, whose Heat Map reflects more than a billion exercise activities globally. The Pentagon says it's looking at adding new training and policies to address security concerns. "Recent data releases emphasize the need for situational awareness when members of the military share personal information," Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway of the U.S. Marine Corps said in a statement about the implications of the Strava data that has made international headlines. Strava -- which includes an option for keeping users' workout data private -- published the updated Heat Map late last year. The California-based company calls itself "the social network for athletes," saying that its mobile apps and website connect millions of people every day. Using data from fitness trackers such as the Fitbit, Strava's map shows millions of users' runs, walks, and bike trips from 2015 to September of 2017 -- and in some countries, the activities of military and aid personnel are seen in stark contrast, as their outposts shine brightly among the comparative darkness of their surroundings.

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Intel Told Chinese Firms of Meltdown Flaws Before the US Government

According to The Wall Street Journal, Intel initially told a handful of customers about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, including Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Lenovo, before the U.S. government. As a result, the Chinese government could have theoretically exploited the holes to intercept data before patches were available. Engadget reports: An Intel spokesman wouldn't detail who the company had informed, but said that the company couldn't notify everyone (including U.S. officials) in time because Meltdown and Spectre had been revealed early. Lenovo said the information was protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Alibaba has suggested that any accusations of sharing info with the Chinese government was "speculative and baseless," but this doesn't rule out officials intercepting details without Alibaba's knowledge. There's no immediate evidence to suggest that China has taken advantage of the flaws, but that's not the point -- it's that the U.S. government could have helped coordinate disclosures to ensure that enough companies had fixes in place.

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Tesla Employees Say Gigafactory Problems Are Worse Than Known

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla's problems with battery production at the company's Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, are worse than the company has acknowledged and could cause further delays and quality issues for the new Model 3, according to a number of current and former Tesla employees. These problems include Tesla needing to make some of the batteries by hand and borrowing scores of employees from one of its suppliers to help with this manual assembly, said these people. Tesla's future as a mass-market carmaker hinges on automated production of the Model 3, which more than 400,000 people have already reserved, paying $1,000 refundable fees to do so. The company has already delayed production, citing problems at the Gigafactory. On Nov. 1, 2017, CEO Elon Musk assured investors in an earnings call that Tesla was making strides to correct its manufacturing issues and get the Model 3 out. But more than a month later, in mid-December, Tesla was still making its Model 3 batteries partly by hand, according to current engineers and ex-Tesla employees who worked at the Gigafactory in recent months. They say Tesla had to "borrow" scores of employees from Panasonic, which is a partner in the Gigafactory and supplies lithium-ion battery cells, to help with this manual assembly. Tesla is still not close to mass producing batteries for the basic $35,000 model of this electric sedan, sources say.

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Scientists Discover the Oldest Human Fossils Outside Africa

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the oldest fossil of a modern human outside Africa, suggesting that humans first migrated out of the content much earlier than previously believed. NPR reports: The scientists were digging in a cave called Misliya, on the slopes of Mount Carmel on the northern coast of Israel. "The cave is one of a series of prehistoric caves," says Mina Weinstein-Evron of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who led the team. "It's a collapsed cave, but people lived there before it collapsed." The cave had been occupied for several hundred thousand years, she says. All the archaeological evidence suggested that the ancient people who lived in the cave were hunter-gatherers. "They were hunting animals, mainly ungulates, like fallow dear, gazelle, aurochs [an extinct species of wild cattle] and other small animals," says Weinstein-Evron. "They built fireplaces throughout the length of the cave, again and again, in the same place, in the same sort of defined arrangement." Weinstein-Evron says she and her team wanted to find out which species of ancient humans lived in the cave. So, she says, they kept digging. "And among the animal bones and flint tools we found a jawbone, an upper jawbone of an individual," she says. A detailed analysis of the jawbone and the teeth confirmed that it indeed belonged to someone of our species, Homo sapiens. And when they dated the fossil, it turned out to be between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, making it the oldest known such fossil outside the African continent.

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Amateur Astronomer Discovers Long-Dead NASA Satellite Has Come Back To Life

schwit1 shares a report from Behind The Black: In his hunt to locate Zuma, an amateur astronomer has discovered that a long-dead NASA satellite, designed to study the magnetosphere, has come back to life. IMAGE went dead in 2005, and though NASA thought it might come back to life after experiencing a total eclipse in 2007 that would force a reboot, no evidence of life was seen then. It now appears that the satellite came to life sometime between then and 2018, and was chattering away at Earth waiting for a response. NASA is now looking at what it must do to take control of the spacecraft and resume science operations. Zuma is the secret U.S. government payload that was launched by SpaceX earlier this month and reportedly lost. As for why Scott Tilley -- the amateur radio astronomer -- decided to have a look for the present of secret military satellites, Ars Technica reports that he apparently does this semi-regularly as a hobby and, in this case, was inspired by the Zuma satellite.

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Robert Mueller’s Team Reportedly Interviewed Facebook Staff As Part of Russia Probe

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed at least one Facebook employee tasked with helping the Trump campaign's digital operations during the 2016 campaign, Wired reported on Friday. The report, which cited a source familiar with the matter, does not say when the employee was questioned nor does it detail the focus of the interview. Mueller's team has been investigating for months any collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia. During the election, Facebook deployed employees to embed with the Trump campaign to assist its digital operations. The company also worked with Hillary Clinton's campaign team but did not have employees embedded with them. The company has also been scrutinized by Congress for selling more than 3,000 ads to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian "troll farm" alleged to have carried out misinformation operations online during the campaign.

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OnePlus Is Again Sending User Data To a Chinese Company Without User Consent

In October 2017, a researcher caught OnePlus silently collecting all sorts of data from its users. Now, a new report says that there's still a OnePlus app that can grab data from the phone and send it to servers in China without a user's knowledge or express consent. BGR reports: The French security researcher hiding behind the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter detailed OnePlus's data collection practices back in October, and he has now discovered a strange file in the OnePlus clipboard app. A Badword.txt file contains various keywords, including "Chairman, Vice President, Deputy Director, Associate Professor, Deputy Heads, General, Private Message, shipping, Address, email," and others. The file is then duplicated in a zip file called pattern alongside six other .txt files. All these files are apparently used in "in an obfuscated package which seems to be an #Android library from teddymobile." Now, TeddyMobile is a Chinese company that works with plenty of smartphone makers from China. The company seems to be able to recognize words and numbers in text messages. And OnePlus is apparently sending your phone's IMEI number to a TeddyMobile server, too. It looks like the TeddyMobile package might be able to grab all sorts of data from a phone. Even bank numbers are apparently recognized. OnePlus has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company Delivers $600 Flamethrower

Last December, Boring Company CEO Elon Musk promised to sell a Boring Company-branded flamethrower after selling 50,000 Boring Company hats. Well, sure enough, 50,000 hats were sold and Musk is delivering on his promise. The Verge reports: Mark this down as one of the promises Elon delivers on, apparently, because it looks like the Boring Company flamethrower is here. Redditors in a few SpaceX, Boring Company, and Musk-related subreddits noticed earlier this week that the URL "boringcompany.com/flamethrower" started redirecting to a page with a password box. And at least one user was able to guess the original password, too: "flame." (It's since been changed.) Behind that password was a shop page that looks just like the one for The Boring Company's hat. But instead of a $20 cap, they found a preorder prompt for a $600 flamethrower. "Prototype pictured above," the listing reads. "Final production flamethrower will be better."

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Crooks Created 28 Fake Ad Agencies To Disguise Massive Malvertising Campaign

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A group of cyber-criminals created 28 fake ad agencies and bought over 1 billion ad views in 2017, which they used to deliver malicious ads that redirected unsuspecting users to tech support scams or sneaky pages peddling malware-laden software updates or software installers. The entire operation -- codenamed Zirconium -- appears to have started in February 2017, when the group started creating the fake ad agencies which later bought ad views from larger ad platforms. These fake ad agencies each had individual websites and even LinkedIn profiles for their fake CEOs. Their sole purpose was to interface with larger advertising platforms, appearing as legitimate businesses. Ad security company Confiant, the one who discovered this entire operation, says ads bought by this group reached 62% of ad-monetized websites on a weekly basis. All in all, Confiant believes that about 2.5 million users who've encountered Zirconium's malicious ads were redirected to a malicious site, with 95% of the victims being based in the U.S.

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Facial Recognition Integrates With IFTTT

Trueface.ai, the stealthy facial recognition startup that's backed by 500 Startups and a slew of angel investors, is integrating with IFTTT to allow developers to start playing around with its technology. TechCrunch reports: Chief executive Shaun Moore tells me that the integration with IFTTT represents the first time that facial recognition technology will be made available to the masses without the need to understand complex code. The company initially started as both a hardware and software vendor, but back in 2017 Moore said that the company stripped out its hardware component and focused on its software. Focusing on digital identification and verification tools, Trueface.ai sells technology that it says can be used to verify a request to open a bank account or for digital document notarization. "We can do that remotely and verify proof of possession and identity," says Moore. The goal, says Moore, is to make facial recognition available to everybody. And IFTTT's integration is one step to make that happen, because it will familiarize product developers and makers with the toolkit, Moore says.

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Montana To FCC: You Can’t Stop Us From Protecting Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Montana governor's office has a message for the Federal Communications Commission and Internet service providers: the state can't be stopped from protecting net neutrality, and ISPs that don't like it don't have to do business with state agencies. Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order to protect net neutrality on Monday. But with questions raised about whether Bullock is exceeding his authority, the governor's legal office prepared a fact sheet that it's distributing to anyone curious about potential legal challenges to the executive order. ISPs are free to violate net neutrality if they only serve non-government customers -- they just can't do so and expect to receive state contracts. "Companies that don't like it don't have to do business with the State -- nothing stops ISPs from selling dumpy Internet plans in Montana if they insist," the fact sheet says. The FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules attempts to preempt states and localities from issuing their own similar rules. But Bullock's executive order doesn't directly require ISPs to follow net neutrality rules. Instead, ISPs that accept contracts to provide Internet service to any state agency must agree to abide by net neutrality principles throughout the state. Bullock's fact sheet is titled, "Why Isn't Montana's Executive Order Preempted?" and it offers numerous answers to that question. "Through the order, the State of Montana acts as a consumer -- not a regulator," the fact sheet says. "Because there's no mandate, and no new regulations, there's certainly no federal preemption. Companies that don't like Montana's proposed contract terms don't have to do business with the State."

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ICE Is About To Start Tracking License Plates Across the US

Presto Vivace shares a report from The Verge: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians. The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. ICE agents would be able to query that database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target's movements. That data could be used to find a given subject's residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot. Presto Vivace adds, "This will not end well."

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$500 Million Worth of Cryptocurrency Stolen From Japanese Exchange

Locke2005 shares a report from CNBC: Hackers stole several hundred million dollars' worth of a lesser-known cryptocurrency from a major Japanese exchange Friday. Coincheck said that around 523 million of the exchange's NEM coins were sent to another account around 3 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET Thursday), according to a Google translate of a Japanese transcript of the Friday press conference from Logmi. The exchange has about 6 percent of yen-bitcoin trading, ranking fourth by market share on CryptoCompare. The stolen NEM coins were worth about 58 billion yen at the time of detection, or roughly $534.8 million, according to the exchange. Coincheck subsequently restricted withdrawals of all currencies, including yen, and trading of cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin. Locke2005 adds, "That, my friends, is the prime reason why speculating in cryptocurrency is a bad idea!"

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Walmart Teams Up With Kobo To Sell EBooks and Audiobooks

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Later this year, you'll be able to buy ebooks and audiobooks straight from Walmart's website. The big box retailer has teamed up with Japanese e-commerce titan Rakuten to launch a business that can take on Amazon's Kindle offerings. Walmart will give its customers in the U.S. an easy way to access to Kobo's library -- Kobo is Rakuten's digital book division -- and its six million titles from tens of thousands of publishers. The company will also start selling Kobo eReaders, which will set you back at least $120, online and in stores sometime this year. Walmart said Kobo's titles will be fully integrated into its website, so the ebook and audiobook versions of the title you're searching for will appear alongside the listing of its physical book. However, you won't be able to access the digital files through random apps. You'll have to use the co-branded apps for iOS, Android and desktop that Walmart and Kobo will release in the future, though you'll of course be able access ebooks through a Kobo e-reader.

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Burger King Makes the Case For Net Neutrality

An anonymous reader writes: By now you've probably seen Burger King's spoof ad on the decision by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality. In the ad, Burger King customers are informed that there are now three "lanes" for ordering Whoppers -- each with substantially different prices and waiting times. The ad has already generated over a million views on Youtube and is lighting up Twitter. One thing I missed the first time is that while the Burger King "counter service" is clearly in on the act, the customers are apparently real; they learn of the cockamamie scheme at the counter in the style of the old TV show Candid Camera. Variety notes that the video "ends with an apparent dig at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai [...] as the Burger King character is shown drinking from an oversized Reese's coffee mug. That is the type of coffee mug that Pai uses at FCC meetings."

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China Is Quickly Switching From Pirating To Streaming

hackingbear shares a report from CNN: Not so long ago, China was an oasis for pirated music and videos. CDs and DVDs were easily copied and sold for cheap at roadside markets. If you had a computer and an internet connection, top selling albums and Hollywood movies were widely available for free online. That's changing fast as new technologies such as the convenient WeChat payment and a long-running crackdown on pirated content mean members of the country's growing, smartphone-wielding middle class are increasingly willing to pay to stream videos and music online. "When you have to spend two-to-three hours digging up pirated content, users are willing to pay a [small] amount of money to get non-pirated content," said Karen Chan, an analyst with research firm Jefferies. Across major Chinese video platforms, the monthly fee is about 20 yuan ($3); streaming music is even cheaper, ranging from 8 to 15 yuan ($1-$2) per month. Compare that with a basic monthly Netflix subscription in the U.S. at $8, or a Spotify one at $10. The rapid spread of digital payment platforms like Tencent's WeChat Pay and Alibaba-affiliated Alipay has also played a role, according to Xue Yu, an analyst with research firm IDC. The platforms created a market of young Chinese consumers comfortable with buying goods and services for a few yuan online, Xue said.

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Microbes May Help Astronauts Transform Human Waste Into Food

A Penn State researcher team has shown that it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimizing pathogen growth. They reported their findings in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research. Phys.Org reports: To test their idea, the researchers used an artificial solid and liquid waste that's commonly used in waste management tests. They created an enclosed, cylindrical system, four feet long by four inches in diameter, in which select microbes came into contact with the waste. The microbes broke down waste using anaerobic digestion, a process similar to the way humans digest food. The team found that methane was readily produced during anaerobic digestion of human waste and could be used to grow a different microbe, Methylococcus capsulatus, which is used as animal feed today. The team concluded that such microbial growth could be used to produce a nutritious food for deep space flight. They reported in Life Sciences in Space Research that they grew M. capsulatus that was 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats, making it a potential source of nutrition for astronauts. Because pathogens are also a concern with growing microbes in an enclosed, humid space, the team studied ways to grow microbes in either an alkaline environment or a high-heat environment. They raised the system's pH to 11 and were surprised to find a strain of the bacteria Halomonas desiderata that could thrive. The team found this bacteria to be 15 percent protein and 7 percent fats. At 158 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills most pathogens, they grew the edible Thermus aquaticus, which consisted of 61 percent protein and 16 percent fats.

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Plastic Pollution Is Killing Coral Reefs, 4-Year Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries -- Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar -- are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," researchers report in the journal Science. Study leader Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral. In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral. Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world's coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.

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Apple Prepares MacOS Users For Discontinuation of 32-Bit App Support

Last year, Apple announced that macOS High Sierra "will be the last macOS release to support 32-bit apps without compromise." Now, in the macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 beta, Apple is notifying users of the impending change, too. "To prepare for a future release of macOS in which 32-bit software will no longer run without compromise, starting in macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, a user is notified on the launch of an app that depends on 32-bit software. The alert appears only once per app," Apple says in the beta release notes. Ars Technica reports: When users attempt to launch a 32-bit app in 10.13.4, it will still launch, but it will do so with a warning message notifying the user that the app will eventually not be compatible with the operating system unless it is updated. This follows the same approach that Apple took with iOS, which completed its sunset of 32-bit app support with iOS 11 last fall. Developers and users curious about how this will play out will be able to look at the similar process in iOS for context. On January 1 of this year, Apple stopped accepting 32-bit app submissions in the Mac App Store. This June, the company will also stop accepting updates for existing 32-bit applications. iOS followed a similar progression, with 32-bit app submissions ending in February of 2015 and acceptance of app updates for 32-bit apps ending in June of 2015.

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Former Employees Say Lyft Staffers Spied On Passengers

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Similar to Uber's "God View" scandal, Lyft staffers have been abusing customer insight software to view the personal contact info and ride history of the startup's passengers. One source that formerly worked with Lyft tells TechCrunch that widespread access to the company's backend let staffers "see pretty much everything including feedback, and yes, pick up and drop off coordinates." When asked if staffers, ranging from core team members to customer service reps, abused this privilege, the source said "Hell yes. I definitely looked at my friends' rider history and looked at what drivers said about them. I never got in trouble." Another supposed employee anonymously reported on workplace app Blind that staffers had access to this private information and that the access was abused. Our source says that the data insights tool logs all usage, so staffers were warned by their peers to be careful when accessing it surreptitiously. For example, some thought that repeatedly searching for the same person might get noticed. But despite Lyft logging the access, enforcement was weak, so team members still abused it. A Lyft spokesperson issued the following statement to TechCrunch: "Maintaining the trust of passengers and drivers is fundamental to Lyft. The specific allegations in this post would be a violation of Lyft's policies and a cause for termination, and have not been raised with our Legal or Executive teams. We are conducting an investigation into the matter. Access to data is restricted to certain teams that need it to do their jobs. For those teams, each query is logged and attributed to a specific individual. We require employees to be trained in our data privacy practices and responsible use policy, which categorically prohibit accessing and using customer data for reasons other than those required by their specific role at the company. Employees are required to sign confidentiality and responsible use agreements that bar them from accessing, using, or disclosing customer data outside the confines of their job responsibilities."

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PSA: Google Chrome Now Lets You Permanently Mute Websites That Autoplay Videos

Google is releasing a new version of Chrome this week and it includes a number of new features, such as an improved ad blocker and Spectre mitigations. The best new feature in Chrome 64 is the ability to permanently mute websites that autoplay videos. This feature was teased for several months, but now it's finally here. The Independent reports: To mute a site that automatically plays videos, users will need click the View Site Information symbol, which may look like a green padlock, on the left-hand edge of the omnibar -- the address bar combined with the Google search box. Then they will need to select Sound. Once the website is muted, it will not automatically play videos with sound again until you unmute it.

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CNN Shutters Casey Neistat’s Video Company Beme, Which It Bought 14 Months Ago For $25 Million

In late November 2016, CNN purchased YouTube star Casey Neistat's video-sharing app Beme for $25 million. The news network purchased the app in a bid to harness Neistat's (at the time) 6 million subscribers, with the hopes of turning the company into an independently operated daily online news show and a core part of CNN's offerings that would appeal to a younger demographic. Today, CNN has shut down Beme because Neistat was unable to figure out a viable strategy due to creative differences and sluggish process. He will be departing from CNN. The Verge reports: "I couldn't find answers. I would sort of disappear, and I would hide, and I would make YouTube videos for my channel because at least I would be able to yield something," Neistat told Buzzfeed News. "I don't think I'm giving CNN what I want to give them, and I don't think they're getting value from me." When CNN bought Beme, it said Neistat's company would focus on "timely and topical video and empowering content creators to use technology to find their voice." Beme currently employs 22 people, and CNN said it would re-employ most of the team, though some would lose their jobs. CNN plans to continue developing tech products developed by Beme, including an unreleased live-news app called Wire.

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The Legislative Fight Over Loot Boxes Expands To Washington State

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The government backlash against video game loot boxes -- the randomized in-game item purchases that some observers and legislators consider a form of gambling -- moved from Hawaii to Washington state earlier this month. That's when a group of three Democratic state senators introduced a bill that would require the state gambling commission to examine loot boxes and determine "whether games and apps containing these mechanisms are considered gambling under Washington law." "What the bill says is, 'Industry, state: sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this,'" Orcas Island Senator and bill coauthor Kevin Ranker told the Tacoma News Tribune. "It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something." The bill text puts specific focus on the question of whether children who "may be more vulnerable to gambling addiction" should be allowed to access games with loot boxes, and on the question of "transparency" around "the odds of receiving each type of virtual item." The latter point took on additional salience last month as Apple required such odds to be posted alongside games with loot boxes. Actual government regulation of loot boxes in Washington is still a ways off, though. Ranker's bill needs to be approved by the full Washington state legislature (which is narrowly held by Democrats) and be signed by the governor before being referred to the gambling commission. At that point, the commission would have until December 1 to form its recommendations for any regulatory and enforcement system the state might set up.

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Study Links Decline In Teenagers’ Happiness To Smartphones

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Press Herald: In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teenagers suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years. Was this sudden reversal a response to an economy that tanked in 2007 and stayed bad well into 2012? Or did it have its roots in a very different watershed event: the 2007 introduction of the smartphone, which put the entire online world at a user's fingertips? In the new study, researchers tried to find it by plumbing a trove of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders' responses to queries on how they felt about life and how they used their time. They found that between 1991 and 2016, adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens -- social media, texting, electronic games, the internet -- were less happy, less satisfied with their lives and had lower self-esteem. TV watching, which declined over the nearly two decades they examined, was similarly linked to lower psychological well-being. By contrast, adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities had higher psychological well-being. They tended to profess greater happiness, higher self-esteem and more satisfaction with their lives. While these patterns emerged in the group as a whole, they were particularly clear among eighth- and 10th-graders, the authors found: "Every non-screen activity was correlated with greater happiness, and every screen activity was correlated with less happiness."

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