By msmash from Slashdot's what-the-hell-is-going-on? department
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an unusually strong statement telling Americans to toss any romaine lettuce in any form: whole, chopped, pre-bagged into Caesar salads, combined into spring mix, and so on. The warning covered not just homes but retailers and restaurants, and came with a recommendation to empty any fridge where romaine has been stored, and wash it out with soap and warm water. From a report: The CDC said it was making the recommendation to not eat, serve or sell any romaine lettuce because 32 people in 11 states, plus 18 people in Ontario and Quebec, have been made ill by E. coli O157:H7, which causes very serious illness because it produces a toxin that destroys cells lining the intestines and kidneys. The patients are all infected with the same strain, based on genetic fingerprinting, and the only thing they have in common is that they all ate romaine.
But, the CDC said, "no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified." The agency isn't usually so sweeping in its statements, but with a holiday coming -- one that's centered around eating and that takes people offline into the real world of airports and cars and dinner tables -- it warned against all romaine until the threat can be better defined. The Food and Drug Administration, which does have the power to compel foods to be recalled, is investigating, along with health departments in the 11 states where people have gotten sick.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Google is not complying with European demands that it must make the search for products fairer, rivals say. In an open letter to the EU's Competition Commissioner on Thursday, they wrote: We are writing to you as leading European comparison shopping services (CSSs) to express our collective view that Google's "compliance mechanism" in the Google Search (Comparison Shopping) case does not comply with the European Commission's June 2017 Prohibition Decision. It has now been more than a year since Google introduced its auction-based "remedy", and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by Google's illegal conduct has continued unabated. We therefore respectfully urge you to commence non-compliance proceedings against Google. BBC offers some background: In June 2017, European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager ruled that Google had abused its power by promoting its own shopping service at the top of search results, and demanded that it provide equal treatment to rival comparison sites in future. She issued a record fine of $2.7bn -- the largest penalty the European Commission has ever imposed. She also demanded that Google end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or face further costs. Google is still appealing against the fine, but has come up with a system that it says makes shopping fairer. It changed the shopping box, which is displayed at the top of search results, so that it is no longer populated with just Google Shopping ad results, but gives space to other shopping comparison services, who can bid for advertising slots.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's machine-learning department
CV Compiler is a new web app that uses machine learning to analyze and repair your technical resume, "allowing you to shine to recruiters at Google, Yahoo and Facebook," reports TechCrunch. "The app essentially checks your resume and tells you what to fix and where to submit it," reports TechCrunch. "It's been completely bootstrapped thus far and they're working on new and improved machine learning algorithms while maintaining a library of common CV fixes." From the report: "There are lots of online resume analysis tools, but these services are too generic, meaning they can be used by multiple professionals and the results are poor and very general. After the feedback is received, users are often forced to buy some extra services," said Andrew Stetsenko. "In contrast, the CV Compiler is designed exclusively for tech professionals. The online review technology scans for keywords from the world of programming and how they are used in the resume, relative to the best practices in the industry."
The product was born out of Stetsenko's work at GlossaryTech, a Chrome extension that helps users understand tech terms. He used a great deal of natural language processing and keyword taxonomy in that product and, in turn, moved some of that to his CV service. "We found that many job applications were being rejected without even an interview, because of the resumes. Apparently, 10 seconds is long enough for a recruiter to eliminate many candidates," he said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The first ever "solid state" plane, with no moving parts in its propulsion system, has successfully flown for a distance of 60 meters, proving that heavier-than-air flight is possible without jets or propellers. The flight represents a breakthrough in "ionic wind" technology, which uses a powerful electric field to generate charged nitrogen ions, which are then expelled from the back of the aircraft, generating thrust. Steven Barrett, an aeronautics professor at MIT and the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, said the inspiration for the project came straight from the science fiction of his childhood.
In the prototype plane, wires at the leading edge of the wing have 600 watts of electrical power pumped through them at 40,000 volts. This is enough to induce "electron cascades", ultimately charging air molecules near the wire. Those charged molecules then flow along the electrical field towards a second wire at the back of the wing, bumping into neutral air molecules on the way, and imparting energy to them. Those neutral air molecules then stream out of the back of the plane, providing thrust. The end result is a propulsion system that is entirely electrically powered, almost silent, and with a thrust-to-power ratio comparable to that achieved by conventional systems such as jet engines. "I was a big fan of Star Trek, and at that point I thought that the future looked like it should be planes that fly silently, with no moving parts -- and maybe have a blue glow," said Barrett. "But certainly no propellers or turbines or anything like that. So I started looking into what physics might make flight with no moving parts possible, and came across a concept known as the ionic wind, which was first investigated in the 1920s."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's hands-free department
Last year, a study from the BrainGate consortium reported that a brain-computer interface (BCI) enabled a paralyzed man to type up to eight words per minute via thoughts alone. Now, according to new results from a BrainGate2 clinical trial, the same BCI was used to help three participants operate an off-the-shelf tablet. IEEE Spectrum reports: All three participants suffer from weakness or loss of movement in their arms due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease) or spinal cord injury. Each received the brain implant, an array of microelectrodes, as part of the BrainGate2 clinical trial. For this particular study, decoded neural signals from the implant were routed through an industry-standard Human Interface Device protocol, providing a virtual mouse. That "mouse" was paired to a Google Nexus 9 tablet via Bluetooth.
Each participant was asked to try out seven common apps on the tablet: email, chat, web browser, video sharing, music streaming, a weather program and a news aggregator. The researchers also asked the users if they wanted any additional apps, and subsequently added the keyboard app, grocery shopping on Amazon, and a calculator. The participants made up to 22 point-and-click selections per minute and typed up to 30 characters per minute in email and text programs. What's more, all three participants really enjoyed using the tablet.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cut-costs department
Foxconn, Apple's biggest assembler of iPhones, is planning to cut $2.9 billion from expenses in 2019 as it faces "a very difficult and competitive year." According to Bloomberg, citing an internal company memo, "The iPhone business will need to reduce expenses by [about $900 million] next year and the company plans to eliminate about 10 percent of non-technical staff." For reference, Foxconn's spending in the past 12 months is about $6.7 billion. From the report: Foxconn assembles everything from iPhones and laptop computers to Sony PlayStations at factories in China and around the world. Foxconn has been hit by a slowing smartphone market, while trade tensions with the U.S. add to global uncertainty. The company will conduct an in-depth review of managers with an annual compensation of more than $150,000, according to the memo. Other cuts include a planned [$433 million] reduction in expenses at Foxconn Industrial Internet Co., its Shanghai-listed offshoot. "The review being carried out by our team this year is no different than similar exercises carried out in past years to ensure that we enter into each new year with teams and budgets that are aligned with the current and anticipated needs of our customers, our global operations and the market and economic challenges of the next year or two," Foxconn said in a statement to Bloomberg.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-apples department
A new study conducted by Indian University researchers found that "relatively few accounts are responsible for a large share of the traffic that carries misinformation," with just 6 percent of Twitter accounts identified as bots responsible for 31 percent of "low-credibility" content. "Bots amplify the reach of low-credibility content, to the point that it is statistically indistinguishable from that of fact-checking articles," researchers wrote. NBC News reports: The study analyzed 14 million tweets that linked to more than 400,000 articles from May 2016 until the end of March 2017. Of those articles, 389,569 were from "low credibility sources" that had been repeatedly flagged by fact-checking organizations for containing misinformation, as well as 15,053 articles that originated from "fact-checking sources." Of that sample, over 13.6 million tweets linked to "low-credibility sources" and around 1.1 million tweets linked to known fact-checking sources, leading researchers to attribute greater virality with "fake news." To achieve maximum exposure, the study found that "social bots" used two methods to manipulate users into trusting the linked article's validity.
"First, bots are particularly active in amplifying content in the very early spreading moments, before an article goes 'viral,'" researchers wrote. "Second, bots target influential users through replies and mentions." Users struggled to differentiate bots from other human users, as humans "have retweeted bots who post low-credibility content almost as much as they retweet other humans," according to the researchers. The researchers noted that social media platforms have moved to address the spread of misinformation by bots, but said "their effectiveness is hard to evaluate."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Google's top news executive has refused to rule out shutting down Google News in EU countries, as the search engine faces a battle with Brussels over plans to charge a "link tax" for using news stories. The Guardian reports: Richard Gingras, the search engine's vice-president of news, said while "it's not desirable to shut down services" the company was deeply concerned about the current proposals, which are designed to compensate struggling news publishers if snippets of their articles appear in search results. He told the Guardian that the future of Google News could depend on whether the EU was willing to alter the phrasing of the legislation. "We can't make a decision until we see the final language," he said. He pointed out the last time a government attempted to charge Google for links, in 2014 in Spain, the company responded by shutting down Google News in the country. Spain passed a law requiring aggregation sites to pay for news links, in a bid to prop up struggling print news outlets. Google responded by closing the service for Spanish consumers, which he said prompted a fall in traffic to Spanish news websites. "We would not like to see that happen in Europe," said Gingras. "Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
The way newscasters speak is unmistakeable, with their exaggerated modulations and drawn-out pauses. And now, Amazon has taught Alexa, its voice assistant, to approximate the authoritative intonation. From a report: You can listen to samples of the speaking style here, and the results, well, they speak for themselves. The voice can't be mistaken for a human, but it does incorporates stresses into sentences in the same way you'd expect from a TV or radio newscaster. According to Amazon's own surveys, users prefer it to Alexa's regular speaking style when listening to articles (though getting news from smart speakers still has lots of other problems).
Amazon says the new speaking style is enabled by by the company's development of "neural text-to-speech" technology or NTTS. This is the next generation of speech synthesis, that use machine learning to generate expressive voices more quickly. Currently, Alexa uses concatenative speech synthesis, a method that's been around for decades. This involves breaking up speech samples into distinct sounds (known as phonemes) and then stitching them back together to form new words and sentences.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's cutting-corners department
Gap plans to "quickly" close hundreds of Gap-brand stores that are "dragging down the brand," the company told analysts on Tuesday. From a report: The retailer said Tuesday evening that it still has 775 Gap-branded stores globally, in addition to those under the Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta banners. Gap Inc. has more than 3,000 stores around the world. The namesake brand, however, has been the weakest unit of the company of late. In the fiscal third quarter, sales at Gap stores open for at least 12 months fell 7 percent, while those at Old Navy and Banana Republic were positive.
"There are hundreds of other stores that likely don't fit our vision for the future of Gap brand specialty store, whether in terms of profitability, customer experience, traffic trends," CEO Art Peck said Tuesday evening during a call with analysts. "The range from the very best to the very worst stores is extremely broad." Peck said that should the company "address" the bottom half of its fleet of Gap stores, it could contribute more than $100 million to earnings. He added the company is looking to make decisions about shutting stores "with urgency," including looking at closing some of Gap's "amazing flagships." "There likely will be a cash cost to exit many of these stores, which we will attempt to minimize," Peck told analysts. "But I plan to exit those that do not fit the future vision quickly. I'm going to move thoughtfully but aggressively."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's mark-is-sorry department
Do you trust Mark Zuckerberg? The Washington Post: From the moment the Facebook founder entered the public eye in 2003 for creating a Harvard student hot-or-not rating site, he's been apologizing. So we collected this abbreviated history of his public mea culpas. It reads like a record on repeat. Zuckerberg, who made "move fast and break things" his slogan, says sorry for being naive, and then promises solutions such as privacy "controls," "transparency" and better policy "enforcement." And then he promises it again the next time. You can track his sorries in orange and promises in blue in the timeline by The Washington Post. Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with CNN Business on Tuesday: Zuckerberg resisted growing calls for changes to Facebook's C-suite, reiterated Facebook's potential as a force for good, and pushed back at some of the unrelenting critical coverage of his company after a year of negative headlines about fake news, election meddling and privacy concerns.
"A lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we are going to be real, there is this bigger picture as well, which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering us," Zuckerberg told CNN Business' Laurie Segall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. "There are big issues, and I'm not trying to say that there aren't," he said. "But I do think that sometimes, you can get the flavor from some of the coverage that that's all there is, and I don't think that that's right either."Read Replies (0)