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Snopes Quits Fact-Checking Partnership With Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cut-ties department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Snopes, a fact-checking organization, announced on Friday its decision to end its partnership with Facebook, which has been ramping its efforts to curb misinformation on its services since the 2016 U.S. election. Facebook and Snopes had been working together since December 2016 to fact check content on the social network. The company in 2017 paid Snopes as much as $100,000 for the work, according to Snopes. "At this time we are evaluating the ramifications and costs of providing third-party fact-checking services, and we want to determine with certainty that our efforts to aid any particular platform are a net positive for our online community, publication, and staff," Snopes said in a statement. Snopes said it has not closed the door on working with the company again, but it encouraged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to meet "with fact-checkers as part of his recently announced series of public discussions" in 2019. The partnership is ending weeks after a report by The Guardian, in which multiple former Snopes employees criticized Facebook's efforts to stop fake content on its services.

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Americans Are Lining Up To Work For Amazon For $15 an Hour
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
One of the most important takeaways from Amazon's 2018 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings report, released Jan. 31, had little to do with the usual financial results. Amazon disclosed in the report that it received a record 850,000 work applications for hourly jobs in the US in October 2018 after announcing it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour starting Nov. 1. From a report: The company said that was more than double its previous record for job applications received in a single month. Amazon said the new $15 minimum affects more than 250,000 employees in the US and 17,000 employees in the UK (where the increase was 10.50 pound in the London area and 9.50 pound everywhere else), plus more than 200,000 workers who were hired for the holiday season. As of Dec. 31, Amazon had 647,500 full- and part-time employees, up 14% from the same period a year earlier.

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Robot Combines Vision and Touch To Learn the Game of Jenga
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's advances-in-robotics department:
In the basement of MIT's Building 3, a robot is carefully contemplating its next move. It gently pokes at a tower of blocks, looking for the best block to extract without toppling the tower, in a solitary, slow-moving, yet surprisingly agile game of Jenga. From a report: The robot, developed by MIT engineers, is equipped with a soft-pronged gripper, a force-sensing wrist cuff, and an external camera, all of which it uses to see and feel the tower and its individual blocks. As the robot carefully pushes against a block, a computer takes in visual and tactile feedback from its camera and cuff, and compares these measurements to moves that the robot previously made. It also considers the outcomes of those moves -- specifically, whether a block, in a certain configuration and pushed with a certain amount of force, was successfully extracted or not. In real-time, the robot then "learns" whether to keep pushing or move to a new block, in order to keep the tower from falling.

Details of the Jenga-playing robot are published in the journal Science Robotics. Alberto Rodriguez, the Walter Henry Gale Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, says the robot demonstrates something that's been tricky to attain in previous systems: the ability to quickly learn the best way to carry out a task, not just from visual cues, as it is commonly studied today, but also from tactile, physical interactions.

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Apple Will Store Russian User Data Locally, Possibly Decrypt on Request: Report
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
After resisting local government's mandates for years, Apple appears to have agreed to store Russian citizens' data within the country, a report says. From a report: According to a Foreign Policy report, Russia's telecommunications and media agency Roskomnadzor has confirmed that Apple will comply with the local data storage law, which appears to have major implications for the company's privacy initiatives. Apple's obligations in Russia would at least parallel ones in China, which required it turn over Chinese citizens' iCloud data to a partially government-operated data center last year. In addition to processing and storing Russian citizens' data on servers physically within Russia, Apple will apparently need to decrypt and produce user data for the country's security services as requested.

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New Net Neutrality Bill Headed To Congress
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said today he would "soon" introduce a bill to permanently reinstate the net neutrality rules that were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission, led by chairman Ajit Pai, in 2017. From a report: Markey's announcement comes as a federal court is set to hear oral arguments over the FCC's repeal of net neutrality regulations in 2017. Markey, who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has previously introduced a bill that would permanently reinstate net neutrality as a member of the House of Representatives, although the measure ultimately failed.

It's unclear when the bill would be formally introduced, but Markey said it was imminent. "We will soon lay down a legislative marker in the Senate in support of net neutrality to show the American people that we are on their side in overwhelming supporting a free and open internet." Further reading: Net Neutrality Repeal at Stake as Key Court Case Starts: Oral arguments are set to begin Friday in the most prominent lawsuit challenging the federal government's repeal of broadband access rules known as net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission approved the rules in 2015 to ensure internet users equal and open access to all websites and services. The commission, under new leadership, rolled the rules back in 2017. The plaintiffs in the suit to be argued Friday, led by the internet company Mozilla and supported by 22 state attorneys general, say the commission lacked a sound legal reason for scrapping the regulations. The government is expected to argue that the rules were repealed because of the burden they imposed on broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast.

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Binance Users Can Now Pay for Cryptocurrency With Credit Cards
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange based on trading volume, now lets users spend money they don't have thanks to the additional support for credit cards from Visa and Mastercard. From a report: The exchange announced Thursday that it has partnered with Israel-based payments processing firm Simplex to enable purchases with Visa and MasterCard credit cards. At launch, the exchange is supporting credit card purchase for bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), litecoin (LTC) and XRP. These can then be traded against up to 151 other tokens offered by the exchange. "The crypto industry is still in its early stages and most of the world's money is still in fiat," said Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao. "Building fiat gateways is what we need now to grow the ecosystem, increase adoption and introduce crypto to more users."

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Canada's Telco Bell Tried To Have VPNs Banned During NAFTA Negotiations
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
Telecom company Bell urged the Canadian government to formulate rules that would make some VPN services illegal in the country ahead of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations. The rationale behind the request? It doesn't want people in the country to use VPNs to access the US catalog of some streaming services like Netflix. TechDirt, quotes a paywalled report: "In its submission, Bell argued that Canadians accessing content from a US service with a VPN 'unjustly enriches the US service, which has not paid for the Canadian rights' but nonetheless makes that content available to Canadians. Bell's media arm reportedly spends millions on content for it streaming service, Crave TV, which allows Canadians to stream content from American networks such as HBO and Showtime."

Again though, it's not the VPN doing that. And if you want to stop users from flocking to better content catalogs elsewhere on the continent, you should focus your ire on the things causing that to happen -- like increasingly dated and absurd geo-viewing restrictions, and your own substandard content offerings that fail to adequately match up.

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Ubisoft Apologizes for The Division 2 Email Promising a 'Real Government Shutdown'
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's went-too-far department:
Ubisoft, the game studio behind upcoming title "Tom Clancy's The Division 2", has apologized for an email that made light of the U.S. government shutdown that ended a week ago. From a report: Ubisoft sent out a marketing email for The Division 2 earlier Thursday which prompted a quick retraction. The email was an invitation to the game's private beta, with the subject line: "Come see what a real government shutdown looks like in the Private Beta".

Not long after the email was issued, the publisher sent a retraction. "A marketing email promoting Tom Clancy's The Division 2 was sent in error today. This was a grave breakdown in process and we apologize for this error and the offensive subject line of the email. We recognize the very real impact of the United States government shut down on thousands of people and did not intend to make light of the situation."

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New Site Exposes How Apple Censors Apps in China
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A new website exposes the extent to which Apple cooperates with Chinese government internet censorship, blocking access to Western news sources, information about human rights and religious freedoms, and privacy-enhancing apps that would circumvent the country's pervasive online surveillance regime. The Intercept: The new site, AppleCensorship.com , allows users to check which apps are not accessible to people in China through Apple's app store, indicating those that have been banned. It was created by researchers at GreatFire.org, an organization that monitors Chinese government internet censorship. In late 2017, Apple admitted to U.S. senators that it had removed from its app store in China more than 600 "virtual private network" apps that allow users to evade censorship and online spying. But the company never disclosed which specific apps it removed -- nor did it reveal other services it had pulled from its app store at the behest of China's authoritarian government.

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Firefox Will Soon Warn Users of Software That Performs MitM Attacks
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's better-security department:
The Firefox browser will soon come with a new security feature that will detect and then warn users when a third-party app is performing a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack by hijacking the user's HTTPS traffic. From a report: The new feature is expected to land in Firefox 66, Firefox's current beta version, scheduled for an official release in mid-March. The way this feature works is to show a visual error page when, according to a Mozilla help page, "something on your system or network is intercepting your connection and injecting certificates in a way that is not trusted by Firefox." An error message that reads "MOZILLA_PKIX_ERROR_MITM_DETECTED" will be shown whenever something like the above happens.

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Apple Says It Will Fix The FaceTime Bug That Allows You To Access Someone's iPhone Camera And Microphone Before They Pick Up
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Apple said Friday morning that it had a fix for a bug discovered in Apple's video and audio chat service FaceTime this week, which had allowed callers to access the microphone and front-facing video camera of the person they were calling, even if that person hadn't picked up. The security issue is fixed on its servers, the company said, but the iPhone software update to re-enable the feature for users won't be rolled out until next week. From a report: "We have fixed the Group FaceTime security bug on Apple's servers and we will issue a software update to re-enable the feature for users next week," Apple said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. "We thank the Thompson family for reporting the bug. We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected and all who were concerned about this security issue. We appreciate everyone's patience as we complete this process."

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How Many<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.com Domain Names Are Unused?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Christopher Forno, CTO at Singapore Data Company writes: When looking for .com names, I've been frustrated by how many are already taken but appear to be unused. It can feel like people are registering every pronounceable combination of letters in every major language, and even the unpronounceable short ones. Is there rampant domain speculation, or do I just think of the same names as everyone else? Let's look at the data.

There are currently 137 million .com domain names registered. Of these, roughly 1/3 are in use (businesses, personal websites, email, etc.), another 1/3 appear to be unused, and the last 1/3 are used for a variety of speculative purposes. I started by crawling a random sample of the domains from the top-level .com DNS zone file, until reaching 100,000 valid domains. [...] For most categories I've included a random sample of screenshots from that category, excluding redundant ones: Content (31% or ~43 million), Ads (23% or ~31 million), No Web Server (11% or ~16 million), Empty (9.2% or ~13 million), For Sale (7.1% or ~9.8 million), Error (5.7% or ~7.9 million), Parked (4.8% or ~6.5 million), Gambling (3.0% or ~4 million), Mail (2.6% or ~3.5 million), Redirect (1.1% or ~1.6 million), Private (0.64% or ~0.9 million), and Porn (0.59% or ~0.8 million).

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In France, Comic Books Are Serious Business
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
It's a big year for comic book anniversaries. Batman's 80th is this year, and Asterix is turning 60. But at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France, which finished on Sunday, there was a sense that the form's best days may be yet to come -- in the French-speaking world, at least. From a report: "It's a kind of golden age," said Jean-Luc Fromental, a comic book author who also runs a graphic-novel imprint for the publisher Denoel. "There has never been so much talent. There have never been so many interesting books published."

There are now more comic books published annually in France and Belgium than ever before, according to the festival's artistic director, Stephane Beaujean. "The market has risen from 700 books per year in the 1990s to 5,000 this year," he said in an interview. "I don't know any cultural industry which has had that kind of increase." Research by the market research company GfK, released to coincide with the festival, showed that turnover in the comic book industry in those two countries alone reached 510 million euros, or around $580 million, in 2018.

The bumper year in France and Belgium contrasts with a mixed situation worldwide. Comichron, a website that reports on comic book sales in the United States, where the market is worth around $1 billion, says that sales there are declining. But in terms of respect and recognition, comics are on the way up.

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Plants and Animals Sometimes Take Genes From Bacteria, Study Suggests
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's take-what-you-need department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Many genome studies have shown that prokaryotes—bacteria and archaea -- liberally swap genes among species, which influences their evolution. The initial sequencing of the human genome suggested our species, too, has picked up microbial genes. But further work demonstrated that such genes found in vertebrate genomes were often contaminants introduced during sequencing. [...] Debashish Bhattacharya, an evolutionary genomicist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and UD plant biochemist Andreas Weber took a closer look at a possible case of bacteria-to-eukaryote gene transfer that [William Martin, a biologist that concluded that there is no significant ongoing transfer of prokaryotic genes into eukaryotes, has challenged in 2015]. The initial sequencing of genomes from two species of red algae called Cyanidiophyceae had indicated that up to 6% of their DNA had a prokaryotic origin. These so-called extremophiles, which live in acidic hot springs and even inside rock, can't afford to maintain superfluous DNA. They appear to contain only genes needed for survival. "When we find a bacterial gene, we know it has an important function or it wouldn't last" in the genome, Bhattacharya says.

< article continued at Slashdot's take-what-you-need department >

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Nintendo Reportedly Plans Smaller and Cheaper Switch For This Year
Posted by News Fetcher on February 01 '19 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pocket-friendly department:
According to a report from Nikkei, Nintendo is developing a smaller and cheaper version of the Switch focused on portability, and without some of the features in the original console. "A rumor in October suggested Nintendo was developing a new Switch, but instead of improving on the existing model, it's just as likely the company is looking for ways to streamline the system," notes Engadget. From the report: As Ars Technica speculates, the console's plastic dock could be the first thing to go. It's available separately for $90, and there are also cheaper ways to get your Switch to output to a TV (it's relying on a USB-C connection, after all). Nintendo could conceivably move towards a smaller and cheaper screen, and potentially even make the controller a physical part of the console, instead of the removable Joy-Cons. It also wouldn't be out of character for Nintendo to break existing functionality with a console revamp -- the 2DS was a cheaper spin on the 3DS that was still very playable without 3D.

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University of Columbia Researchers Translate Brain Signals Directly Into Speech
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's medical-advances department:
dryriver writes: There is good news for people who have limited or no ability to speak, due to having suffered a stroke for example. Researchers at Columbia University have managed to turn brain signals in the auditory cortex of test subjects into somewhat intelligible speech using a vocoder-like system with audio output cleaned up by neural networks. The findings have been published in the journal Nature. Here's an excerpt from the Zuckerman Institute's press release, which contains example audio of a number sequence being turned into robotic speech: "In a scientific first, Columbia neuroengineers have created a system that translates thought into intelligible, recognizable speech. By monitoring someone's brain activity, the technology can reconstruct the words a person hears with unprecedented clarity. This breakthrough, which harnesses the power of speech synthesizers and artificial intelligence, could lead to new ways for computers to communicate directly with the brain. It also lays the groundwork for helping people who cannot speak, such as those living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or recovering from stroke, regain their ability to communicate with the outside world."

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Scientists Create Super-Thin 'Sheet' That Could Charge Our Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's energy-harvesting department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created super-thin, bendy materials that absorb wireless internet and other electromagnetic waves in the air and turn them into electricity. The lead researcher, Tomas Palacios, said the breakthrough paved the way for energy-harvesting covers ranging from tablecloths to giant wrappers for buildings that extract energy from the environment to power sensors and other electronics. Details have been published in the journal Nature. Palacios and his colleagues connected a bendy antenna to a flexible semiconductor layer only three atoms thick. The antenna picks up wifi and other radio-frequency signals and turns them into an alternating current. This flows into the molybdenum disulphide semiconductor, where it is converted into a direct electrical current. [M]olybdenum disulphide film can be produced in sheets on industrial roll-to-roll machines, meaning they can be made large enough to capture useful amounts of energy.

Ambient wifi signals can fill an office with more than 100 microwatts of power that is ripe to be scavenged by energy-harvesting devices. The MIT system has an efficiency of between 30% and 40%, producing about 40 microwatts when exposed to signals bearing 150 microwatts of power in laboratory tests. "It doesn't sound like much compared with the 60 watts that a computer needs, but you can still do a lot with it," Palacios said. "You can design a wide range of sensors, for environmental monitoring or chemical and biological sensing, which operate at the single microwatt level. Or you could store the electricity in a battery to use later."

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Giving the Humble Stethoscope an AI Upgrade Could Save Millions of Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
the_newsbeagle writes: The stethoscope is a ubiquitous medical tool that has barely changed since it was invented in the early 1800s. But now a team of engineers, doctors, and public health researchers have come together to reinvent the tool using adaptive acoustics and AI. Their motivation is this statistic: Every year, nearly 1 million kids die of pneumonia around the world, with most deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The death toll is highest among children under the age of 5. The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University, designed a smart stethoscope for use by unskilled workers in noisy medical clinics. It uses a dynamic audio filtering system to remove ambient noise and distracting body sounds while not interfering with the subtle sounds from the lungs. And it uses AI to analyze the cleaned-up signal and provide a diagnosis.

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Second China-Bound Apple Car Worker Charged With Data Theft
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's here-we-go-again department:
schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg: An Apple hardware engineer was charged by the U.S. with stealing the iPhone maker's driverless car secrets for a China-based company, the second such case since July amid an unprecedented crackdown by the Trump administration on Chinese corporate espionage. Jizhong Chen was seen by a fellow Apple employee taking photographs Jan. 11 with a wide-angle lens inside a secure work space that houses the company's autonomous car project, about six months after he signed a strict confidentiality oath when he was hired, according to a criminal complaint in federal court in San Jose, California. Prosecutors said Chen admitted to taking the photos and backing up some 2,000 files to his personal hard drive, including manuals and schematics for the project, but didn't tell Apple he had applied for a job with a China-based autonomous vehicle company.

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Tesla Reports Second-Consecutive Profit; CFO Retires Again
Posted by News Fetcher on January 31 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's full-steam-ahead department:
Rei writes: Yesterday, Tesla reported their 4th quarter earnings, representing their second consecutive profit. While earnings per share missed analyst expectations ($1.93 vs. $2.20), revenue beat expectations by around $100 million and free cash flow ($910 million) was more than double the First Call consensus of $395 million. Model 3 margins were maintained at an impressive 20% level despite significant reductions in the average sale price in Q4; labor hours fell by 20% in Q4 and 65% in the second half of 2018 alone. With $3.7 billion in the bank, Tesla is now well positioned to repay its $920 million March convertible bond obligations in cash. Severance costs and an increase in inventory in transit due to shipments to Europe and China are expected to hurt Tesla's profits in Q1, but guidance for Q2 onward in 2019 is strong. Highlights planned for 2019 include introduction of faster V3 Supercharging early in the year, Model Y and pickup unveiling in the middle of the year, base Model 3 unveiling in the middle of the year, and full-vehicle production in the under-construction Shanghai Gigafactory by the end of the year -- the first wholly foreign-owned auto plant in China, which has seen extensive governmental support. Despite a generally positive earnings report and conference call, the atmosphere was soured by the news that Tesla's 11-year Tesla veteran CFO Deepak Ahuja was re-retiring. Having previously retired in 2015, Deepak returned to Tesla in 2017 to replace outgoing CFO Jason Wheeler. Ahuja will remain with the company for several months as CFO and then become a senior advisor, while his protege Zach Kirkhorn fills his role. The market reacted negatively to the news, with Tesla trading down 4.5% premarket.

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