By BeauHD from Slashdot's party-pooper department
The CEO of Party City cited a global helium shortage as he announced on Thursday that the retail chain will close 45 of its 870 stores this year. The shortage has been hitting party supply stores particularly hard for months, CNBC reported last month. Miami Herald reports: Party City CEO James Harrison said in February that the company was already missing its revenue "in large part due to helium supply pressures," according to CNBC, which reports that the company has experimented with "decorative air-filled balloons -- in lieu of the real thing. The company didn't say which stores will close this year.
"The problem is, helium is being used up faster than it can be produced these days," Anders Bylund, an analyst at Motley Fool, said in an investing note. "Helium shortages fluctuate over time and across geographical markets, but anywhere between 50 and 200 of Party City's 850 stores don't have any helium in their tanks at any given time." Bylund added: "Helium may be the second most plentiful element in the universe, but it's also one of the lightest and doesn't form molecules easily with heavier atoms. Hence, the helium we use ends up floating into space, never to be seen again. There is no economically efficient way to manufacture the gas, so the bulk of the worldwide helium supply is a byproduct of natural gas extraction."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's seamless-transitions department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: At the I/O 2019 developer conference earlier this week, Google launched a new technology called Portals that aims to provide a new way of loading and navigating through web pages. According to Google, Portals will work with the help of a new HTML tag named . This tag works similarly to classic tags, allowing web developers to embed remote content in their pages. Google says portals allow users to navigate inside the content they are embedding --something that iframes do not allow for security reasons. Furthermore, portals can also overwrite the main URL address bar, meaning they are useful as a navigation system, and more than embedding content -- the most common way in which iframes are used today.
For example, engineers hope that when a user is navigating a news site, when they reach the bottom of a story, related links for other stories are embedded as portals, which the user can click and seamlessly transition to a new page. The advantage over using Portals over classic links is that the content inside portals can be pre-loaded while the user scrolls through a page, and be ready to expand into a new page without having the user wait for it to load. In a demo, you can see that Portals allow users to watch/listen to embedded content and then transition seamlessly to its origin page, where they could leave comments or open other media.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
The loss of the U.K.'s financial power and expertise as a result of Brexit is likely to exacerbate the European Union's lag in the global technological arms race, according to Anders Borg, a former Swedish finance minister and senior adviser at artificial intelligence company Ipsoft. From a report: "Brexit entails several layers of problems," Borg said in an interview in Stockholm. "Technological development is being driven by the financial sector and, to a large extent, Europe's financial sector is London. So it's not the British financial system that is now being put on hold, it's Europe's." Britain is home to a third of artificial-intelligence startups in Europe, according to a report by MMC Ventures in association with Barclays, which dubs the country "the powerhouse" of European AI. Europe is already slipping behind China and the U.S., which invest much more in AI systems, Borg said. Another key issue involves 5G, which provides the additional bandwidth needed to carry the vast amounts of data necessary for AI development. The networks will form the "backbone" of the new digital economy, Borg said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-the-good-fight department
An anonymous reader writes: In 1989, just a few months after the web became a reality, a computer worm infected thousands of computers across the world, including those of NASA. Late last month -- 30 years after the "WANK worm" struck NASA -- the agency released an internal report that the agency wrote at the time, thanks to a journalist and a security researcher who have embarked on a project to use the Freedom of Information Act to get documents on historical hacking incidents. The project is called "Hacking History," and the people behind it are freelance journalists Emma Best, and security researcher (and former NSA hacker) Emily Crose. The two are crowdfunding to raise money to cover the costs of the FOIA requests via the document requesting platform MuckRock.
In the last few years, hackers and the cybersecurity industry have gone mainstream, earning headlines in major newspapers, becoming key plotlines in Hollywood movies, and even getting a hit TV show. But it hasn't always been this way. For decades, infosec and hacking was a niche industry that got very little news coverage and very little public attention. As a result, the ancient and not so ancient history of hacking has a lot of holes. Now, the two women are trying to fill in those gaps in hacker history, like missing pieces of a puzzle, sending FOIA requests to several US government agencies, including the FBI.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's perspective department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited an Apple Store in Orlando, Florida to meet with 16-year-old Liam Rosenfeld, one of 350 scholarship winners who will be attending Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference next month. Echoing comments he shared with the Orlando Sentinel, Cook told TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino that it is "pretty impressive" what Rosenfeld is accomplishing with code at such a young age, serving as a perfect example of why he believes coding education should begin in the early grades of school. "I don't think a four year degree is necessary to be proficient at coding," says Cook. "I think that's an old, traditional view. What we found out is that if we can get coding in in the early grades and have a progression of difficulty over the tenure of somebody's high school years, by the time you graduate kids like Liam, as an example of this, they're already writing apps that could be put on the App Store."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
Ivan Mehta, writing for The Next Web: Last year, Netflix reportedly published a whopping 1,500 hours of original content. And with the launch of streaming services from Apple and Disney, the on-demand video market is getting very competitive. Media houses and companies are already looking towards the next solution for producing content to keep up with the trend: AI avatars. Here's one sample: Last year in November, Chinese state-run media company Xinhua debuted an AI anchor that looked exactly like its real-life counterpart Zhang Zhao. The company said that the avatar speaks both in Mandarin and English. Xinhua said at that time that AI anchors are now officially a part of their team; aiming to provide "authoritative, timely and accurate news" round the clock, through its apps and social channels like WeChat. A report from Tencent news published in February stated that the first batch of AI Anchors has produced more than 3,400 news reports, with a cumulative time of more than 10,000 minutes. It even debuted a female AI anchor named Xin Xiaomeng in February. These numbers indicate that at this rate, AI anchors can outwork their human counterparts very soon.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's missing-links department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Last October, researchers studied population data from more than a million Swedish residents and found that people who had their appendix removed were slightly less likely to develop Parkinson's. But other research has shown that there were no clear link between the two events. So Gregory Cooper and his team at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio decided to look with an even bigger microscope. They studied the electronic health records of more than 62 million Americans. Contrary to the October study, though, they spotted an increased risk of Parkinson's among those who had their appendix removed, roughly three times higher. And while Parkinson's starts becoming much more common in old age, a consistent added risk from appendix removal was even seen in those who developed it younger and across different ethnicities. "This is the largest study to date that's looked at this," Cooper told Gizmodo by phone this week. "And it's the most generalizable to the overall population, we think."
Cooper went on to say that this doesn't mean people shouldn't get an appendectomy if they need it: "Even with that threefold risk, it was still less than 1 percent of individuals who had an appendectomy and went on to develop Parkinson's. So in the grand scheme of things, it's a very low risk, and it shouldn't dissuade anyone from getting an appendectomy."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's target-acquired department
Zorro shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: The U.S. government has developed a specially designed, secret missile for pinpoint airstrikes that kill terrorist leaders with no explosion (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), drastically reducing damage and minimizing the chances of civilian casualties. Both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have used the weapon while closely guarding its existence. A modified version of the well-known Hellfire missile, the weapon carries an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it is designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal through the tops of cars and buildings to kill its target without harming individuals and property close by.
To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky, the officials said. But this variant of the Hellfire missile, designated as the R9X, also comes equipped with a different kind of payload: a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks. The R9X is known colloquially to the small community of individuals who are familiar with its use as "the flying Ginsu," for the blades that can cut through buildings or car roofs and kill the target. The nickname is a reference to the popular knives sold on TV infomercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s that showed them cutting through both tree branches and tomatoes. The weapon has also been referred to as the Ninja bomb.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's business-of-panic-and-paranoia department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: Violent crime in the U.S. is at its lowest rate in decades. But you wouldn't know that from a crop of increasingly popular social media apps that are forming around crime. Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen, and Amazon Ring's Neighbors -- all of which allow users to view local crime in real time and discuss it with people nearby -- are some of the most downloaded social and news apps in the U.S., according to rankings from the App Store and Google Play.
Nextdoor was the ninth most-downloaded lifestyle app in the U.S. on iPhones at the end of April, according to App Annie, a mobile data and analytics provider; that's up from No. 27 a year ago in the social networking category. (Nextdoor changed its app category from social to lifestyle on April 30; on April 29 it was ranked 14th in social, according to App Annie.) Amazon Ring's Neighbors is the 36th most-downloaded social app. When it launched last year, it was 115th. Citizen, which considers itself a news app, was the seventh most-downloaded news app on iOS at the end of April, up from ninth last year and 29th in 2017. These apps have become popular because of -- and have aggravated -- the false sense that danger is on the rise. Americans seem to think crime is getting worse, according to data from both Gallup and Pew Research Center. In fact, crime has fallen steeply in the last 25 years according to both the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. David Ewoldsen, professor of media and information at Michigan State University, says these apps foment fear around crime, which feeds into existing biases and racism and largely reinforces stereotypes around skin color. As Steven Renderos, senior campaigns director at the Center for Media Justice, put it, "These apps are not the definitive guides to crime in a neighborhood -- it is merely a reflection of people's own bias, which criminalizes people of color, the unhoused, and other marginalized communities."
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