By BeauHD from Slashdot's cost-of-convenience department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: The study, in JAMA Internal Medicine, tracked diet and health over eight years in more than 44,000 French men and women. Their average age was 58 at the start. About 29 percent of their energy intake was ultraprocessed foods. Such foods include instant noodles and soups, breakfast cereals, energy bars and drinks, chicken nuggets and many other ready-made meals and packaged snacks containing numerous ingredients and manufactured using industrial processes. There were 602 deaths over the course of the study, mostly from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Even after adjusting for many health, socioeconomic and behavioral characteristics, including scores on a scale of compliance with a healthy diet, the study found that for every 10 percent increase in ultraprocessed food consumption, there was a 14 percent increase in the risk of death (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The authors suggest that high-temperature processing may form contaminants, that additives may be carcinogenic, and that the packaging of prepared foods can lead to contamination.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's read-the-fine-print department
Zorro shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Apple's plan to create a subscription service for news is running into resistance from major publishers over the tech giant's proposed financial terms (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to people familiar with the situation, complicating an initiative that is part of the company's efforts to offset slowing iPhone sales. In its pitch to some news organizations, the Cupertino, Calif., company has said it would keep about half of the subscription revenue from the service, the people said. The service, described by industry executives as a "Netflix for news," would allow users to read an unlimited amount of content from participating publishers for a monthly fee. It is expected to launch later this year as a paid tier of the Apple News app, the people said. The rest of the revenue would go into a pool that would be divided among publishers according to the amount of time users spend engaged with their articles, the people said. Representatives from Apple have told publishers that the subscription service could be priced at about $10 a month, similar to Apple's streaming music service, but the final price could change, some of the people said.
Another concern for some publishers is that they likely wouldn't get access to subscriber data, including credit-card information and email addresses, the people said. Credit-card information and email addresses are crucial for news organizations that seek to build their own customer databases and market their products to readers. Digital subscriptions are powering growth at big publishers including the Times, whose basic monthly subscription costs $15, the Post, which charges $10, and the Journal, which charges $39. Some of those companies are skeptical about giving up too much control to Apple, or cannibalizing their existing subscriptions to sign up lower-revenue Apple users, according to people familiar with the matter.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's long-rumored-layoffs department
On an earnings call this afternoon, publisher Activision Blizzard said that it would be eliminating 8% of its staff. "In 2018, Activision Blizzard had roughly 9,600 employees, which would mean nearly 800 people are now out of work," reports Kotaku. "This afternoon, the mega-publisher began notifying those who are being laid off across its various organizations, which include Activision, Blizzard, and King." From the report: On the earnings call, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told investors that the company had "once again achieved record results in 2018" but that the company would be consolidating and restructuring because of missed expectations for 2018 and lowered expectations for 2019. The company said it would be cutting mainly non-game-development departments and bolstering its development staff for franchises like Call of Duty and Diablo. Development sources from across the industry told Kotaku this afternoon that the layoffs have affected Activision publishing, Blizzard, King, and some of Activision's studios, including High Moon. At Blizzard, the layoffs appear to only have affected non-game-development departments, such as publishing and esports, both of which were expected to be hit hard. "Over the last few years, many of our non-development teams expanded to support various needs," Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in a note to staff. "Currently staffing levels on some teams are out of proportion with our current release slate. This means we need to scale down some areas of our organization. I'm sorry to share that we will be parting ways with some of our colleagues in the U.S. today. In our regional offices, we anticipate similar evaluations, subject to local requirements."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's short-of-funds department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday the state will not complete a $77.3 billion planned high-speed rail project, but will finish a smaller section of the line. "The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency," Newsom said in his first State of the State Address Tuesday to lawmakers. "Right now, there simply isn't a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to (Los Angeles). I wish there were," he said. Newsom said the state will complete a 110-mile (177 km) high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. In March 2018, the state forecast the costs had jumped by $13 billion to $77 billion and warned that the costs could be as much as $98.1 billion.
California planned to build a 520-mile system in the first phase that would allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour in the traffic-choked state from Los Angeles to San Francisco and begin full operations by 2033. Newsom said he would not give up entirely on the effort. "Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it," he said. "And by the way, I am not interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
dryriver writes: A lot of people seem to think it's O.K. to buy electronics made in China. We get to buy products considerably cheaper than we otherwise would, and China by all accounts is growing, developing, and modernizing as a nation due to all the cool stuff they now make for the world. There is only one problem with that reasoning. 21st Century China has an atrocious human rights record, and almost all human rights watchdogs report that China is becoming more and more repressive each year. Freedom House put it this way in 2018: "It's worth noting that, in its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era. Modern Chinese sentences are longer, the prospects for early release are far worse, and the Chinese authorities are generally unmoved by pleas for leniency from foreign diplomats." Basically, consumer dollars from around the world are not gradually creating a gentler, freer, more prosperous and more modern China at all. They are making the Chinese Communist Party richer, stronger, bolder and more aggressive and repressive in every respect. To the question: knowing what the human rights situation is in China, and that consumer dollars and euros flowing into the country from abroad is making things worse, not better, is it at all ethical to buy electronics or IT products manufactured in China?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's attack-and-destroy department
Hackers have breached the severs of email provider VFEmail.net and wiped the data from all its US servers, destroying all US customers' data in the process. From a report: The attack took place yesterday, February 11, and was detected after the company's site and webmail client went down without notice. "At this time, the attacker has formatted all the disks on every server," the company said yesterday. "Every VM is lost. Every file server is lost, every backup server is lost. This was more than a multi-password via SSH exploit, and there was no ransom. Just attack and destroy," VFEmail said. The company's staff is now working to recover user emails, but as things stand right now, all data for US customers appears to have been deleted for good and gone into /dev/null.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Video game publisher Ubisoft is working with Mozilla to develop an AI coding assistant called Clever-Commit, head of Ubisoft La Forge Yves Jacquier announced during DICE Summit 2019 on Tuesday. From a report: Clever-Commit reportedly helps programmers evaluate whether or not a code change will introduce a new bug by learning from past bugs and fixes. The prototype, called Commit-Assistant, was tested using data collected during game development, Ubisoft said, and it's already contributing to some major AAA titles. The publisher is also working on integrating it into other brands. "Working with Mozilla on Clever-Commit allows us to support other programming languages and increase the overall performances of the technology. Using this tech in our games and Firefox will allow developers to be more productive as they can spend more time creating the next feature rather than fixing bugs. Ultimately, this will allow us to create even better experiences for our gamers and increase the frequency of our game updates," said Mathieu Nayrolles, technical architect, data scientist, and member of the Technological Group at Ubisoft Montreal.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's oooops department
Reader McGruber writes: The Washington Post has an amusing story about phone scammer Keniel A. Thomas, who made the mistake of calling William H. Webster. Thomas told 90-year-old Webster that he had won $72 million and a new Mercedes Benz in the Mega Millions lottery, but that he needed to send $50,000 in taxes and fees to get his money. Thomas also told Webster he'd done his research on the top winner. "You're a great man," the scammer cajoled. "You was a judge, you was an attorney, you was a basketball player, you were in the U.S. Navy, homeland security. I know everything about you. I even seen your photograph, and I seen your precious wife."
Thomas's research didn't turn up everything. He didn't learn that the man he was calling was the former director of the FBI and the CIA, the only person ever to hold both jobs. And he didn't know that Webster would call him back the next day with the FBI listening in. Thomas was arrested in late 2017, after he landed in New York on a flight from Jamaica. He pleaded guilty in October and faced a prison term of 33 to 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But with Webster and his wife in the courtroom, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday added another 2 years to Thomas's sentence, giving him nearly six years to serve. Howell said that the scam qualified as "organized criminal activity" and that Thomas posed "a threat to a family member of the victim."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
A Beijing-based online education start-up has developed an artificial intelligence-powered maths app that can check children's arithmetic problems through the simple snap of a photo. Based on the image and its internal database, the app automatically checks whether the answers are right or wrong. From a report: Known as Xiaoyuan Kousuan, the free app launched by the Tencent Holdings-backed online education firm Yuanfudao, has gained increasing popularity in China since its launch a year ago and claims to have checked an average of 70 million arithmetic problems per day, saving users around 40,000 hours of time in total. Yuanfudao is also trying to build the country's biggest education-related database generated from the everyday experiences of real students. Using this, the six-year-old company -- which has a long line of big-name investors including Warburg Pincus, IDG Capital and Matrix Partners China -- aims to reinvent how children are taught in China. "By checking nearly 100 million problems every day, we have developed a deep understanding of the kind of mistakes students make when facing certain problems," said Li Xin, co-founder of Yuanfudao -- which means "ape tutor" in Chinese -- in a recent interview. "The data gathered through the app can serve as a pillar for us to provide better online education courses."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-those-keeping-the-count department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung's mobile internet browser, if you ask its users, is pretty great. A lot of folks even say it's better than Chrome. That appreciation has manifested in the app hitting a very exclusive Play Store milestone: Samsung Internet Browser now has more than one billion installs. That impressive figure puts the browser's install base ahead of those of Firefox and Opera combined. Now, there are a couple of caveats here: for one, Samsung's browser comes pre-loaded on Samsung devices, of which each activation counts as an "install." What's more, both Firefox's and Opera's Play Store listings report that each browser has "100,000,000+" installs, which, because of the somewhat silly way figures are reported on Android's app marketplace, means their combined installs total anywhere between 200 million and 999,999,998. Still, though, Samsung's browser is on more devices than the both of 'em.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's internet-of-crap department
The fleets of electric scooters that have inundated cities are alarming enough as is. Now add cybersercurity concerns to the list: Researchers from the mobile security firm Zimperium are warning that Xiaomi's popular M365 scooter model has a worrying bug. From a report: The flaw could allow an attacker to remotely take over any of the scooters to control crucial things like, ahem, acceleration and braking. Rani Idan, Zimperium's director of software research, says he found and was able to exploit the flaw within hours of assessing the M365's security. His analysis found that the scooters contain three software components: battery management, firmware that coordinates between hardware and software, and a Bluetooth module that lets users communicate with their scooter via a smartphone app. The latter leaves the devices woefully exposed.
Idan quickly found that he could connect to the scooter via Bluetooth without being asked to enter a password or otherwise authenticate. From there, he could go a step further and install firmware on the scooter without the system checking that this new software was an official, trusted Xiaomi update. This means that an attacker could easily put malware on a scooter, giving herself full command over it. "I was able to control any of the scooter features without authentication and install malicious firmware," Idan says. "An attacker could brake suddenly, or accelerate a person into traffic, or whatever the worst case scenario you can imagine."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
The subject under debate was whether the government should subsidize preschools. But the real question was whether a machine called IBM Debater could out-argue a top-ranked human debater. The answer, on Monday night, was no. CNET: Harish Natarajan, the grand finalist at the 2016 World Debating Championships, swayed more among an audience of hundreds toward his point of view than the AI-powered IBM Debater did toward its. Humans, at least those equipped with with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge universities, can still prevail when it comes to the subtleties of knowledge, persuasion and argument. It wasn't a momentous headline victory like we saw when IBM's Deep Blue computers beat the best human chess player in 1997 or Google's AlphaGo vanquish the world's best human players of the ancient game of Go in 2017. But IBM still showed that artificial intelligence can be useful in situations where there's ambiguity and debate, not just a simple score to judge who won a game. "What really struck me is the potential value of IBM Debater when [combined] with a human being," Natarajan said after the debate. IBM's AI was able to dig through mountains of information and offer useful context for that knowledge, he said.Read Replies (0)