By BeauHD from Slashdot's doing-business-but-at-what-cost department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Chinese journalists and netizens recently found that Apple Music's Chinese streaming service censored a song by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung that references the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, an extremely politically sensitive topic for the Chinese Communist Party. The incident's 30th anniversary is coming up in June. Sophie Richardson, the China Director at Human Rights Watch, called the reported move "spectacularly craven." The Tiananmen protests are emblematic of a larger pro-democracy movement in China that was snuffed out by the Beijing government. Thousands of protesters were killed, but the exact numbers have themselves been censored by Chinese government officials.
Apple Music has also reportedly censored Anthony Wong and Denise Ho, two pro-democracy singers. After being noticed by Chinese netizens, the removals were reported by the Hong Kong Free Press and The Stand, two Hong Kong-based news outlets. Taiwan News also reported the censorship of Cheung's "Ren Jian Dao." The music remains available on Apple Music's North American products. "By removing a song referring the Tiananmen Massacre, @apple is actively participating in the Chinese Communist Party's agenda of scrubbing the colossal violations it has committed against the Chinese people from collective memory and rewriting history," tweeted Yaqiu Wang, a Chinese researcher with Human Rights Watch.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shaking-things-up department
Udacity, the $1 billion online education startup, has laid off about 20 percent of its workforce and is restructuring its operations as the company's co-founder Sebastian Thrun seeks to bring costs in line with revenue without curbing growth, TechCrunch has learned. From the report: The objective is to do more than simply keep the company afloat, Thrun told TechCrunch in a phone interview. Instead, Thrun says these measures will allow Udacity from a money-losing operation to a "break-even or profitable company by next quarter and then moving forward." The 75 employees, including a handful of people in leadership positions, were laid off earlier today as part of a broader plan to restructure operations at Udacity. The startup now employs 300 full-time equivalent employees. It also employs about 60 contractors.
Udacity, which specializes in "nanodegrees" on a range of technical subjects that include AI, deep learning, digital marketing, VR and computer vision, has been struggling for months now, due in part to runaway costs and other inefficiencies. The company grew in 2017, with revenue increasing 100 percent year-over-year thanks to some popular programs like its self-driving car and deep learning nanodegrees, and the culmination of a previous turnaround plan architected by former CMO Shernaz Daver. New programming was added in 2018, but the volume slowed. Those degrees that were added lacked the popularity of some of its other degrees. Meanwhile, costs expanded and their employee ranks swelled.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's working-memory department
A new study has found that electrical brain stimulation can temporarily reverse a decline in memory as a result of aging. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares the findings via a report from The Guardian: The study focused on a part of cognition called working memory, the brain system that holds information for short periods while we are making decisions or performing calculations. Working memory is crucial for a wide variety of tasks, such as recognizing faces, doing arithmetic and navigating a new environment. Working memory is known to steadily decline with age, even in the absence of any form of dementia. One factor in this decline is thought to be a disconnection between two brain networks, known as the prefrontal and temporal regions. In young people, the electrical brain activity in these two regions tends to be rhythmically synchronized, which scientists think allows information to be exchanged between the two brain areas. However, in older people the activity tends to be less tightly synchronized. This may be as result of deterioration of the long-range nerve connections that link up the different parts of the brain.
In the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, 42 people aged 20 -- 29 and 42 people aged 60 -- 76 were assessed in a working memory task. The older group were slower and less accurate on the tests. The scientists then subjected them all to 25 minutes of non-invasive brain stimulation. This aimed to synchronize the two target brain regions by passing gentle pulses of electricity through the scalp and into the brain. After the intervention, working memory in the older adults improved to match the younger group and the effect appeared to last for 50 minutes after the stimulation. Those who had scored worst to start with showed the largest improvements.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's step-in-the-right-direction department
The law would also apply to "behavioral or psychological experiments or studies," such as the ones used by Cambridge Analytica in order to sort users by personality type. Per the bill, any such studies have to get informed consent first, and experimenters would need to make routine disclosures to participants and to the public every 90 days. If enacted, the DETOUR Act would require tech companies to make their own Independent Review Boards, which would be responsible for making sure they comply with the law. The act would also give the FTC one year to make infrastructure to would review tech companies and enforce violations of the law.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-ahead department
Ford and the University of Michigan undertook a study to see just how efficient vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles would be when compared to both internal combustion cars and electric cars. From a report: The study found that these flying electric vehicles, while not suitable for short commutes, could play a "niche role in sustainable mobility for longer trips." Flying cars could also be valuable mobility options for congested cities as part of a ride-share taxi service, according to the study published Tuesday in Nature Communications. "With these VTOLs, there is an opportunity to mutually align the sustainability and business cases," Akshat Kasliwal, one of the authors of the study and a grad student at the School for Environment and Sustainability, said in a statement. "Not only is high passenger occupancy better for emissions, it also favors the economics of flying cars. Further, consumers could be incentivized to share trips, given the significant time savings from flying versus driving." The sustainability study, the first ever conducted for flying cars, comes as the automotive industry at large is focused heavily on autonomous and electric vehicles. Much of this focus is driven by emission regulation and a need to alleviate growing congestion problems in dense urban areas.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system. ProPublica reports: Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa). In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry's profits.
"This could be a disaster. It could be the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the IRS ever being able to create its own program," said Mandi Matlock, a tax attorney who does work for the National Consumer Law Center. Experts have long argued that the IRS has failed to make filing taxes as easy and cheap as it could be. In addition to a free system of online tax preparation and filing, the agency could provide people with pre-filled tax forms containing the salary data the agency already has, as ProPublica first reported on in 2013.Read Replies (0)