- After Republican Protest, Oregon's Climate Plan Dies
- Mars Colonization Possible Through Sperm Bank In Space, Study Suggests
- Robots To Take 20 Million Jobs, Worsening Inequality, Study Finds
- US Tech Companies Sidestep a Trump Ban, To Keep Selling To Huawei
- Smartphones and Fitness Trackers Are Being Used To Gauge Employee Performance
- Lightyear One Debuts As the First Long-Range Solar-Powered Electric Car
- YouTube Looks To Demonetization As Punishments For Major Creators, But It Doesn't Work
- Two-Thirds of American Employees Regret Their College Degrees
- Spotify Wants a Refund On Overpaid Royalties To US Songwriters, Report Says
- San Francisco Becomes First US City To Ban Sale of E-Cigarettes
- Ex-Chair of FCC Broadband Committee Gets Five Years In Prison For Fraud
- US Government Announces Nationwide Crackdown on Robocallers
- New Silex Malware is Bricking IoT Devices, Has Scary Plans
- Toys 'R' Us, Back From the Dead, Will Open US Stores in 2019
- Oracle Dyn DNS Services Shutting Down in 2020
After Republican Protest, Oregon's Climate Plan Dies
climate change bill that would cap carbon emissions and make polluters pay for their greenhouse gas production is dead, Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, announced on the state Senate floor Tuesday morning. "As a walkout by Republican senators over the cap-and-trade bill entered its sixth day -- and in an apparent attempt to bring them back -- Courtney
gave assurances that the bill would die in the Senate chamber," reports NPR. From the report:
Republican Sen. Cliff Bentz said Tuesday morning he had only just heard of Courtney's announcement and that he had questions about its meaning. "The question becomes, 'What are they trying to do?' " said Bentz, who is believed to be staying in Idaho while the boycott plays out. "Are they trying to make some sort of arrangement? If they are suggesting they don't have the votes, what's the procedure they're going to use to kill the bill?" Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend, Ore., echoed that confusion. "We need clarification. What does that mean?" Knopp said. "Does it mean it's dead until the 2020 session? Is the governor going to take it up in a special session?" Meanwhile, senators who backed the bill appeared livid and declined to speak to reporters on the floor. All 11 Republican senators fled the state last week to avoid voting on the bill. Gov. Kate Brown ordered the Oregon State Police to find the Senate Republicans and bring them back to the Capital in Salem for a vote, but none of the Republicans had been found.
The New York Times explains what this fight is really about, what's actually in the bill, and how Oregon's bill compares to other state climate policies. Here's an excerpt from the report:
Senate Republicans say the legislation would have a devastating effect on farmers, dairies and the state's struggling logging industry, among others. More than that, Republicans say, the bill represents an existential threat to rural life, and they want the residents of Oregon to decide on the proposal, not the Democrats who control the state's capital.
The highly debated bill would make Oregon one of several states to impose an emissions-trading program, a market-based approach to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would place limits on the amount of carbon dioxide that businesses could lawfully emit. By 2050, for instance, the bill would mandate an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels. Some businesses would be required to buy credits for every ton of greenhouse gas they produce. Those credits would then be purchased at special auctions and traded among businesses. Over time, the state would make fewer credits available, ultimately forcing companies to pollute less. The plan, commonly known as cap-and-trade, is modeled after a California law. It is far more extensive than most. Oregon would become just the second state, after California, to require that businesses in every sector of the economy pay for the planet-warming greenhouse gases that they emit.
Mars Colonization Possible Through Sperm Bank In Space, Study Suggests
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
All-female astronaut crews could reproduce in space without the help of accompanying men, new research suggests. The study found that frozen samples of sperm exposed to microgravity retained similar characteristics to sperm samples kept on the ground, raising hopes that a sperm bank could one day be set up in space to help populate new worlds. This could prove interesting for female astronauts, amid reports that future missions to Mars may involve women-only space crews. Findings from the small preliminary study, involving sperm from 10 healthy donors, suggest that "the possibility of creating a human sperm bank outside of Earth" exists, according to the researchers.
One group of sperm samples used in the study had been exposed to microgravity with the help of a small aerobatic aircraft. The samples then underwent fertility screenings and were analyzed for concentration, motility and DNA fragmentation. No significant differences were detected between samples that had been given a ride and those that had stayed on the ground.
Robots To Take 20 Million Jobs, Worsening Inequality, Study Finds
A new study by Oxford Economics, a private British-based research and consulting firm, says robots are
expected to take over some 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide by 2030, extending a trend of worsening social inequality while boosting overall economic output. "The forecast set to be released Wednesday highlights growing concerns that automation and robots, while offering economic benefits, are disproportionately killing low-skill jobs and aggravating social and economic stress," reports France 24. From the report:
Robots have already taken over millions of manufacturing jobs and are now gaining in services, helped by advances in computer vision, speech recognition and machine learning, the study noted. In lower-skilled regions, job losses will be twice as high as those in higher-skilled regions, even in the same country, the study concluded. According to the latest study, the current wave of "robotization" is likely ultimately to boost productivity and economic growth, generating roughly as many new jobs as it destroys. At the high end of the forecast, the researchers see a $5 trillion "robotics dividend" for the global economy by 2030 from higher productivity.
US Tech Companies Sidestep a Trump Ban, To Keep Selling To Huawei
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times:
A number of the United States' biggest chip makers have sold millions of dollars of products to Huawei despite a Trump administration ban (alternative source) on the sale of American technology to the Chinese telecommunications giant, according to four people with knowledge of the sales. Since the Commerce Department enacted the ban in May, American companies including Intel and Micron have found ways to sell technology to Huawei, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to disclose the sales. The components began to flow to Huawei about three weeks ago, the people said. Goods produced by American companies overseas are not always considered American-made, and the suppliers are taking advantage of this. The sales will help Huawei continue to sell products such as smartphones and servers.
Smartphones and Fitness Trackers Are Being Used To Gauge Employee Performance
A new system to assess the performance of employees is claimed to be more objective and thus more accurate
by utilizing smartphones and fitness trackers. New Atlas reports:
The passive system incorporates an app known as PhoneAgent, which was developed by Prof. Andrew Campbell at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College. Using the smartphone's own sensors, that app continuously monitors factors such as the worker's phone usage, physical activity level, geographical location, and the ambient light levels of their environment. PhoneAgent is also Bluetooth-linked to a fitness bracelet worn by the employee, which transmits data including their heart functions, sleep quality, stress levels, and calorie consumption. Additionally, Bluetooth locational beacons in the person's home and workplace monitor how much time they spend at each place, and how often they leave their workstation.
All of the phone, bracelet and beacon data is transmitted to a cloud-based server, where it's processed via machine-learning algorithms that were "trained" on the habits of people already known to be high- or low-level performers. When tested on 750 workers across the U.S. over a one-year period, the system was reportedly able to distinguish between individuals' performance levels (in a variety of industries) with an accuracy of 80 percent. That number should rise as the system is developed further.
Lightyear One Debuts As the First Long-Range Solar-Powered Electric Car
The new Lightyear One is a prototype electric car from a Netherlands startup that
gets all it needs to run from the sun. It features a sleek, driver-friendly design and also boasts a range of 450 miles on a single charge. TechCrunch reports:
The startup says that it has already sold "over a hundred vehicles" even though this isn't yet ready to hit the road, but Lightyear is aiming to begin production by 2021, with reservations available for 500 additional units for the initial release. You do have to pay around $136,000 USD to secure a reservation, however.
Lightyear One isn't just a plug-in electric with some solar sells on the roof: Instead it's designed from the ground up to maximize performance from a smaller-than-typical battery that can directly grab sun from a roof and hood covered with 16 square feet of solar cells, embedded in safety glass designed with passenger wellbeing in mind. The car can also take power directly from regular outlets and existing charging stations for a quick top-up, and again because it's optimized to be lightweight and power efficient, you can actually get around 250 miles on just one night of charging from a standard (European) 230V outlet.
YouTube Looks To Demonetization As Punishments For Major Creators, But It Doesn't Work
YouTube is looking to send a message to content creators who step out of line
by disabling ads on videos that infringe on the site's policies. The punishment is meant to revoke a key source of income, presenting a strong incentive for users to change their behavior. But, as Julia Alexander writes via The Verge, many creators make money through other platforms, rendering YouTube's punishment largely ineffective. From the report:
Selling merchandise and subscriptions through other platforms isn't just a way for creators to make more money, it's also a way for creators to insulate themselves from YouTube's ever-mercurial rules and algorithms. And it means that if a creator's ads are cut off for whatever reason, they'll still have a source of revenue. Taking away a channel's ability to run ads is supposed to send a message that YouTube is punishing creators who severely step out of line. The company stated as much in a June 5th blog post, reiterating that channels repeatedly brushing up "against our hate speech policies will be suspended from the YouTube Partner program, meaning they can't run ads on their channel." Creators also won't be able to use alternative monetization techniques like Super Chat or channel memberships, according to YouTube.
For up-and-coming YouTubers reliant on that revenue, it can pose a huge problem. Many people just entering YouTube's Partner Program, a threshold that signifies a creator can start earning ad revenue, may rely on that advertising money as they start their career. Channels that face day-to-day monetization issues, one of the biggest issues within the community, are struggling to understand what works and what doesn't. But for larger creators, who still keep their ability to reach a huge number of subscribers, the punishment doesn't necessarily accomplish YouTube's goals. "YouTube isn't likely to ban high-profile channels, either," Alexander writes. "If a channel's content is borderline, meaning that it doesn't violate YouTube's rules but is considered harmful, moderators will allow videos to remain up. Demonetizing a channel's videos allows YouTube to appear to have taken a strong action, even if that action isn't always effective."
Two-Thirds of American Employees Regret Their College Degrees
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News:
A college education is still considered a pathway to higher lifetime earnings and gainful employment for Americans. Nevertheless, two-thirds of employees report having regrets when it comes to their advanced degrees, according to a PayScale survey of 248,000 respondents this past spring that was released Tuesday. Student loan debt, which has ballooned to nearly $1.6 trillion nationwide in 2019, was the No. 1 regret among workers with college degrees. About 27% of survey respondents listed student loans as their top misgiving, PayScale said. College debt was followed by chosen area of study (12%) as a top regret for employees, though this varied greatly by major. Other regrets include poor networking, school choice, too many degrees, time spent completing education and academic underachievement. "Those with science, technology, engineering and math majors, who are typically more likely to enjoy higher salaries, reported more satisfaction with their degrees," the report adds. "About 42% of engineering grads and 35% of computer science grads said they had no regrets."
Those with the most regrets include humanities majors, who are least likely to earn higher pay post-graduation. "About 75% of humanities majors said they regretted their college education," report says. "About 73% of graduates who studied social sciences, physical and life sciences, and art also said the same." Somewhere in the middle were 66% of business graduates, 67% of health sciences graduates and 68% of math graduates who said they regretted their education.
Spotify Wants a Refund On Overpaid Royalties To US Songwriters, Report Says
Spotify is reportedly
seeking a refund for overpayments made to songwriters and publishers last year, according to
a report from Music Business Worldwide. CNET reports:
Last year, a royalty rate-setting panel in the U.S., called the Copyright Royalty Board, ruled that a particular kind of royalty paid to songwriters and publishers should rise 44% or more for 2018 through 2022. The board finalized that rate -- called a mechanical royalty -- earlier this year. Then streaming services like Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora appealed the payment increases in March. Now Spotify is saying it paid too much last year and wants a refund, according to Music Business Worldwide.
The CRB rules say the annual streaming royalty rate for US songwriters and publishers between 2018 and 2022 should be set by choosing the highest outcome of three different models, with one model based on a flat fee per subscriber, Consequence of Sound noted. But Spotify's student discount and family plan bundles add a layer of complexity. The Copyright Royalty Board's rules say a family plan is be worth 1.5 subscribers per month and a student plan is equal to half a subscriber per month. The family plan lets six people subscribe for $15 a month, while students pay $5 a month. (A regular subscriber pays $10.) The argument by Spotify seems to be that it didn't take some subscribers into account and overpaid publishers. It's not seeking the 2018 money back immediately, but "offered to extend the recoupment period" until the end of 2019, according to Music Business Worldwide.
San Francisco Becomes First US City To Ban Sale of E-Cigarettes
voted to ban e-cigarettes in the first legislation of its kind in the United States. The Guardian reports:
Supervisors approved a measure banning the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in an effort to curb the rise of youth vaping. The measure will now go for final approval to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who said she will sign the legislation, and stores in the city will be required to remove e-cigarettes from their shelves. After decades of decline in youth cigarette smoking, the rise of vaping has led to a major boost in nicotine use for people under the age of 21.
Ex-Chair of FCC Broadband Committee Gets Five Years In Prison For Fraud
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
The former head of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) was sentenced to five years in prison for defrauding investors. Elizabeth Ann Pierce was CEO of Quintillion, an Alaskan telecom company, when she lied to two investment firms in New York in order to raise $270 million to build a fiber network. She also defrauded two individual investors out of $365,000 and used a large chunk of that money for personal expenses. Pierce, 55, pleaded guilty and last week was given the five-year prison sentence in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced. Pierce was also "ordered to forfeit $896,698.00 and all of her interests in Quintillion and a property in Texas." She will also be subject to a restitution order to compensate her victims "at a later date." Pierce landed the top sot on Pai's broadband advisory committee in April 2017. "But she left Quintillion in July 2017 as her scheme unraveled, and she resigned from the FCC advisory panel," reports Ars. "Pai appointed a new chair for his committee two months later; he thanked Pierce for her service, saying she did 'an excellent job' chairing the committee and 'wish[ed] her all the best in her future endeavors.'"
According to Berman's announcement, Pierce forged contracts in order to raise $270 million from investors.
US Government Announces Nationwide Crackdown on Robocallers
The US government announced a
nationwide crackdown on illegal robocalls on Tuesday, targeting companies and individuals who have collectively placed over 1 billion unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services, according to the Federal Trade Commission. From a report:
The crackdown involves nearly 100 cases, five of which are criminal enforcement actions. They were brought by the FTC, Justice Department, 15 states and a slew of local authorities. It marks the latest effort by regulators to battle back the tide of unwanted and illegal calls from telemarketers and scammers. Some of those targeted by the action were a major source of robocalls. Derek Jason Bartoli, a Florida man who allegedly developed, sold and used a form of software that allows millions of calls to be placed in quick succession, was responsible for 57 million calls to US phone numbers over six months in 2017, according to a federal complaint. [...] The joint action includes the states of Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
New Silex Malware is Bricking IoT Devices, Has Scary Plans
A new strain of malware is
wiping the firmware of IoT devices in attacks reminiscent of the old BrickerBot malware that
destroyed millions of devices back in 2017. From a report:
Named Silex, this malware began operating earlier today, about three-four hours before this article's publication. The malware had bricked around 350 devices when this reporter began investigating its operations, and the number quickly spiked to 2,000 wiped devices by the time we published, an hour later. Attacks are still ongoing, and according to an interview with the malware's creator, they are about to intensify in the coming days. According to Akamai researcher Larry Cashdollar, who first spotted the malware earlier today, Silex works by trashing an IoT device's storage, dropping firewall rules, removing the network configuration, and then halting the device. It's as destructive as it can get without actually frying the IoT device's circuits. To recover, victims must manually reinstall the device's firmware, a task too complicated for the majority of device owners.
Toys 'R' Us, Back From the Dead, Will Open US Stores in 2019
Maybe American kids will only have to live through one Christmas without Toys "R" Us. About a year
after shuttering U.S. operations, the remnant of the defunct toy chain is
set to return this holiday season by opening about a half dozen U.S. stores and an e-commerce site, according to a report. From the report:
Richard Barry, a former Toys "R" Us executive who is now CEO of new entity Tru Kids, has been pitching his vision to reincarnate the chain to toymakers, including at an industry conference this week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren't public. The stores are slated to be about 10,000-square feet, roughly a third of the size of the brand's big-box outlets that closed last year, the people said. The locations will also have more experiences, like play areas. The startup costs could be minimized with a consignment inventory model in which toymakers ship goods but don't get paid until consumers buy them, some of the people said.
Oracle Dyn DNS Services Shutting Down in 2020
Oracle has sent the following email to customers of DYN service:
Since Oracle acquired Dyn in 2016 (and subsequently acquired Zenedge), the engineering teams have been working diligently to integrate Dyn;s products and network into the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. With the completion of this upgrade to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Oracle is announcing the end-of-life for the free Standard DNS service in favor of the enhanced, paid subscription version on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure platform. On May 31, 2020, the 'EOL Date', the Standard DNS will be retired and will no longer be available. The following capabilities are not currently supported in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure DNS: Webhop (HTTP redirect), Dynamic DNS, Zone transfer to external nameservers, and DNSSEC.