Victims of Mystery Attacks In Cuba Left With Anomalies In Brain Tissue
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
American victims of mysterious attacks in Cuba have abnormalities in their brains' white matter, according to new medical testing reported by the Associated Press. But, so far, it's unclear how or if the white-matter anomalies seen in the victims relate to their symptoms. White matter is made up of dense nerve fibers that connect neurons in different areas of the brain, forming networks. It gets its name from the light-colored electrical insulation, myelin, that coats the fibers. Overall, the tissue is essential for rapidly transmitting brain signals critical for learning and cognitive function.
In August, U.S. authorities first acknowledged that American diplomats and their spouses stationed in Havana, Cuba, had been the targets of puzzling attacks for months. The attacks were carried out by unknown agents and for unknown reasons, using a completely baffling weaponry. The attacks were sometimes marked by bizarrely targeted and piercing noises or vibrations, but other times they were completely imperceptible. Victims complained of a range of symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, headaches, balance problems, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nosebleeds, difficulty concentrating and recalling words, permanent hearing loss, and speech and vision problems. Doctors have also identified mild brain injuries, including swelling and concussion. U.S. officials now report that 24 Americans were injured in the attacks but wouldn't comment on how many showed abnormalities in their white matter.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit That Claims Google Paid Female Employees Less Than Male Colleagues
A California judge has
rejected a class action claim against Google for alleged gender inequity. In September, three female Google employees
filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the search giant "engaged in systemic and pervasive pay and promotion discrimination." They sought class action status on behalf of women who have worked at Google in California for the past four years. CNN reports:
This week, a judge rejected their request to make the suit a class action. A judge ruled that the class was "overbroad," stating that it "does not purport to distinguish between female employees who may have valid claims against Google based upon its alleged conduct from those who do not." Jim Finberg, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said his clients plan to file an amended complaint seeking class action certification. He said it will address the court's ruling and make "clear that Google violates the California Equal Pay Act throughout California and throughout the class period by paying women less than men for substantially equal work in nearly every job classification."
Warrantless Surveillance Can Continue Even If Law Expires, Officials Say
According to a
New York Times report citing American officials, the Trump administration has decided that the National Security Agency and the FBI
can lawfully keep operating their warrantless surveillance program even if Congress fails to extend the law authorizing it before an expiration date of New Year's Eve. The Verge reports:
The White House believes the Patriot Act's surveillance provisions won't expire until four months into 2018. Lawyers point to a one-year certification that was granted on April 26th of last year. If that certification is taken as a legal authorization for the FISA court overall -- as White House lawyers suggest -- then Congress will have another four months to work out the details of reauthorization. There are already several proposals for Patriot Act reauthorization in the Senate, which focus the Section 702 provisions that authorize certain types of NSA surveillance. Some of the proposals would close the backdoor search loophole that allows for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, although a recent House proposal would leave it in place. But with Congress largely focused on tax cuts and the looming debt ceiling fight, it's unlikely the differences could be reconciled before the end of the year.
OSNews reports that the latest version of ReactOS has been released: "ReactOS 0.4.7 has been released, and it contains a ton of fixes, improvements, and new features. Judging by the screenshots, ReactOS 0.4.7 can run Opera, Firefox, and Mozilla all at once, which is good news for those among us who want to use ReactOS on a more daily basis. There's also a new application manager which, as the name implies, makes it easier to install and uninstall applications, similar to how package managers on Linux work. On a lower level, ReactOS can now deal with Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, BtrFS, ReiserFS, FFS, and NFS partitions." General notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. A less technical community changelog for ReactOS 0.4.7 is also available. ISO images are ready at the ReactOS Download page.
FCC Chair Ajit Pai Falsely Claims Killing Net Neutrality Will Help Sick and Disabled People
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
One popular claim by the telecom sector is that net neutrality rules are somehow preventing people who are sick or disabled from gaining access to essential medical services they need to survive. Verizon, for example, has been trying to argue since at least 2014 that the FCC's net neutrality rules' ban on paid prioritization (which prevents ISPs from letting deep-pocketed content companies buy their way to a distinct network performance advantage over smaller competitors) harms the hearing impaired. That's much to the chagrin of groups that actually represent those constituents, who have consistently and repeatedly stated that this claim simply isn't true. Comcast lobbyists have also repeated this patently-false claim in their attempt to lift the FCC ban on unfair paid prioritization deals.
The claim that net neutrality rules hurt the sick also popped up in a recent facts-optional fact sheet the agency has been circulating to try and justify the agency's Orwellian-named "Restoring Internet Freedom" net neutrality repeal. In the FCC's current rules, the FCC was careful to distinguish between "Broadband Internet Access Services (BIAS)," which is general internet traffic like browsing, e-mail or app data and "Non-BIAS data services," which are often given prioritized, isolated capacity to ensure lower latency, better speed, and greater reliability. VoIP services, pacemakers, energy meters and all telemedicine applications fall under this category and are exempt from the rules. Despite the fact that the FCC's net neutrality rules clearly exempt medical services from the ban on uncompetitive paid prioritization, FCC boss Ajit Pai has consistently tried to claim otherwise. He did so again last week during a speech in which he attempted to defend his agency from the massive backlash to its assault on net neutrality. "By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization -- such as latency-sensitive telemedicine," Pai said. "By replacing an outright ban with a robust transparency requirement and FTC-led consumer protection, we will enable these services to come into being and help seniors."
AMD Quietly Made Some Radeon RX 560 Graphics Cards Worse
When the Radeon RX 560 launched in April it was the only RX 500-series card with a meaningful under-the-hood tech boost compared to the RX 400-series. The graphics processor in the older RX 460 cards packed 14 compute units and 896 stream processors; the upgraded Radeon RX 560 bumped that to 16 CUs and 1,024 SPs. Now, some -- but not all -- of the Radeon RX 560s you'll find online have specs that match the older 460 cards, and sometimes run at lower clock speeds to boot. AMD's Radeon RX 560 page was also quietly altered to include the new configurations at some point, Heise.de discovered. The last snapshot of the page by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine occurred on July 7 and only lists the full-fat 16 CU version of the card, so the introduction of the nerfed 896 SP model likely occurred some time after that. Sifting through all of the available Radeon RX 560s on Newegg this morning reveals a fairly even split between the two configurations, all of which are being sold under the same RX 560 name. In a statement, AMD acknowledged the existence of 14 Compute Unit (896 stream processors) and 16 Compute Unit (1024 stream processor) versions of the Radeon RX 560. "We introduced the 14CU version this summer to provide AIBs and the market with more RX 500 series options. It's come to our attention that on certain AIB and etail websites there's no clear delineation between the two variants. We're taking immediate steps to remedy this: we're working with all AIB and channel partners to make sure the product descriptions and names clarify the CU count, so that gamers and consumers know exactly what they're buying. We apologize for the confusion this may have caused."
Ask Slashdot: How Do I Explain Copyright To My Kids?
My son paid for a copy of a novel on his iPad. When his school made it against the rules to bring iPads, he wanted to get the same book on his Kindle. I tried to explain that the format of his eBook was not readily convertible to the Kindle. So he tried to go on his schools online library app. He checked it out just fine, but ironically, the offline reading function only works on the now-disallowed iPads. Rather than paying Amazon $7 for a book I already own, and he has already checked out from the library, I found a bootleg PDF online. I tried to explain that he could just read that, but he freaked out. "That's illegal, Dad!" I tried to explain format shifting, and the injustice of the current copyright framework in America. Even when he did his own research, stumbling across EFF's website on fair use, he still would not believe me.
Have any of you fellow Slashdotters figured out a good way to navigate the moral, legal, and technological issues of copyright law, as it relates to the next generation of nerds? Interestingly, my boy seems OK with playing old video games on the Wayback Machine, so I don't think it's a lost cause.
EU Urges Internet Companies To Do More To Remove Extremist Content
Internet groups such as Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter need to do more to stem the proliferation of extremist content on their platforms, the European Commission said after a meeting on Wednesday. From a report:
Social media companies have significantly boosted their resources to take down violent and extremist content as soon as possible in response to growing political pressure from European governments, particularly those hit by militant attacks in recent years. But Julian King, EU security commissioner, said that while a lot of progress had been made, additional efforts were needed. "We are not there yet. We are two years down the road of this journey: to reach our final destination we now need to speed up our work," King said in his closing speech at the third meeting of the EU Internet Forum, which brings together the Commission, EU member states, law enforcement and technology companies. The EU has said it will come forward with legislation next year if it is not satisfied with progress made by tech companies in removing extremist content, while a German online hate speech law comes into effect on Jan. 1.
Apple Issues Security Updates for MacOS, iOS, TvOS, WatchOS, and Safari
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer:
Over the course of the last four days, Apple has released updates to address security issues for several products, such as macOS High Sierra, Safari, watchOS, tvOS, and iOS. The most relevant security update is the one to macOS, as it also permanently fixes the bug that allowed attackers to access macOS root accounts without having to type a password. Apple issued a patch for the bug the next day after it was discovered, but because the patch was delivered as an out-of-band update that did not alter the macOS version number, when users from older macOS versions updated to 10.13.1 (the vulnerable version), the bug was still present. With today's update, the patch for the bug -- now known as "IAmRoot" (CVE-2017-13872) -- has received a permanent fix. All users who upgrade to macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 are safe.
NiceHash Hacked, $62 Million of Bitcoin May Be Stolen
Chir breaks the news to us that the NiceHash crypto-mining marketplace has been hacked. The crypto mining pool
broke the news on Reddit, where users suggest that as many as 4,736.42 BTC -- an amount worth more than $62 million at current prices -- has been stolen. The NiceHash team is urging users to change their online passwords as a result of the breach and theft.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Boosts CPU and GPU Performance, Delivers 4K HDR Capture, 3x Faster AI Processing
Qualcomm provided a deep-dive view today of its Snapdragon 845 mobile processor platform that it recently announced, highlighting key advancements in what the company is referring to as a completely new silicon design. The new chip now employs a Kyro 385 CPU with four high performance cores at 2.8GHz (25 percent faster than the previous gen Snapdragon 835) and four "efficiency" cores operating at 1.7GHz. The new chip also includes the new Spectra 280 image signal processor (ISP). Compared to its predecessor, the image signal processor (ISP) in the Snapdragon 845 promises a 64x uplift in the ability to capture high dynamic range (HDR) color information for 4K HDR video capture and playback. The chip's new Adreno 630 GPU promises a 30 percent boost in gaming performance compared to its predecessor, along with room-scale VR/AR experiences that support 6 degrees of freedom along with simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM. Finally, the new SoC platform incorporates Qualcomm's second-generation gigabit LTE modem: the Snapdragon X20. This Cat 18 modem supports peak download speeds of 1.2Gbps along with 5x carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and Dual SIM-Dual VoLTE. Qualcomm says that the first Snapdragon 845 processors will begin shipping in production devices in early 2018.
AI Can Beat Humans Only One Game At a Time
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Despite all of the potential for artificial intelligence to solve our most vexing problems, it's still in a primitive state, according to a new report by Stanford University. But a separate paper, this one by Alphabet's DeepMind, suggests again that it has made some of its best progress in the narrow realm of games. Why it matters: Those advances are important, but life isn't a game. AI progress outside of these areas has been harder to define and track. "The most important thing for AI is to go from exceptional promise to use in actual everyday life," Martial Hebert, director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, tells Axios.
Google's DeepMind AI Becomes a Superhuman Chess Player In a Few Hours
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
In a new paper published this week, DeepMind describes how a descendant of the AI program that first conquered the board game Go has taught itself to play a number of other games at a superhuman level. After eight hours of self-play, the program bested the AI that first beat the human world Go champion; and after four hours of training, it beat the current world champion chess-playing program, Stockfish. Then for a victory lap, it trained for just two hours and polished off one of the world's best shogi-playing programs named Elmo (shogi being a Japanese version of chess that's played on a bigger board). One of the key advances here is that the new AI program, named AlphaZero, wasn't specifically designed to play any of these games. In each case, it was given some basic rules (like how knights move in chess, and so on) but was programmed with no other strategies or tactics. It simply got better by playing itself over and over again at an accelerated pace -- a method of training AI known as "reinforcement learning."
Inside Baidu's Bid To Lead the AI Revolution
China's search giant missed mobile: As WeChat and Alibaba deftly transformed their companies to suit mobile, Baidu stayed stuck in browser mode. It can't afford to make that mistake with the AI revolution -- and, as Jessi Hempel writes at Backchannel, it just might have an edge in its bid to come out on top. There's huge governmental support for AI in China, including a plan to make the country the world leader in AI by 2030, and it has double the number of people online than America does -- AKA vast quantities of raw data. Hempel traveled to Beijing to chronicle this tenuous moment in Baidu's history, and has delivered a deep look at Baidu's AI be on AI, speaking with key leaders including CEO Robin Li and COO Qi Lu. She writes that 'Robin Li is doubling down on a future beyond 2017. In that future, Baidu is not a series of products, but rather an engine that belongs inside everything -- an engine that powers Baidu back to dominance in China, and possibly far beyond.'
Steam Ends Support For Bitcoin
Valve is ending support for Steam purchases made with bitcoin, the company said today, citing
"high fees and volatility" in the value of the cryptocurrency. In a statement, it said:
"In the past few months we've seen an increase in the volatility in the value of Bitcoin and a significant increase in the fees to process transactions on the Bitcoin network," Valve said in a post on Steam. "For example, transaction fees that are charged to the customer by the Bitcoin network have skyrocketed this year, topping out at close to $20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin). Unfortunately, Valve has no control over the amount of the fee. These fees result in unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin. The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically."
Facebook and YouTube Are Full of Pirated Video Streams of Live NFL Games
Pirated video streams of televised National Football League games are widespread on Facebook and on Google's YouTube service, CNBC has found. From a report:
Using technology from these internet giants, thousands of football fans were able to watch long segments of many contests free of charge during the league's Week 13 schedule of games last Thursday and Sunday. Dozens of these video streams, pirated from CBS and NBC broadcasts, featured ads from well-known national brands interspersed with game action. This online activity comes as the league struggles with declining ratings that have been blamed variously on player protests during the national anthem and revelations about former players suffering from a brain disease caused by concussions. Yet this illegal distribution of NFL content may also be crimping the league's viewer numbers.
Air Pollution Harm To Unborn Babies May Be Global Health Catastrophe, Warn Doctors
Air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to health, according to a large new study. From a report:
The research was conducted in London, UK, but its implications for many millions of women in cities around the world with far worse air pollution are "something approaching a public health catastrophe," the doctors involved said. Globally, two billion children -- 90% of all children -- are exposed to air pollution above World Health Organization guidelines. A Unicef study also published on Wednesday found that 17 million babies suffer air six times more toxic than the guidelines. The team said that there are no reliable ways for women in cities to avoid chronic exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and called for urgent action from governments to cut pollution from vehicles and other sources.
'Bitcoin Could Cost Us Our Clean-Energy Future'
An anonymous reader shares an article:
Bitcoin wasn't intended to be an investment instrument. Its creators envisioned it as a replacement for money itself -- a decentralized, secure, anonymous method for transferring value between people. But what they might not have accounted for is how much of an energy suck the computer network behind bitcoin could one day become. Simply put, bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. What's more, this is just the beginning. Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development, and it's getting worse. Digital financial transactions come with a real-world price: The tremendous growth of cryptocurrencies has created an exponential demand for computing power. As bitcoin grows, the math problems computers must solve to make more bitcoin (a process called "mining") get more and more difficult -- a wrinkle designed to control the currency's supply. Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day. And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers. Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world's 500 fastest supercomputers combined. The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge -- an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year.
The International Space Station is Super Germy
Thousands of species have colonized the International Space Station -- and only one of them is Homo sapiens. From a report:
According to a new study in the journal PeerJ, the interior surfaces of the 17-year-old, 250-mile-high, airtight space station harbor at least 1,000 and perhaps more than 4,000 microbe species (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source ) -- a finding that is actually "reassuring," according to co-author David Coil. "Diversity is generally associated with a healthy ecosystem," said the University of California at Davis microbiologist. A varied population of microscopic inhabitants is probably a signature of a healthy spacecraft, he added. And as humanity considers even longer ventures in space -- such as an 18-month voyage to Mars -- scientists must understand who these microbes are. The samples for Coil's paper were collected in 2014 as part of the citizen science program Project MERCCURI. The initiative, conceived by a group of National Football League and National Basketball Association cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers, involved swabbing down dozens of professional sports stadiums, identifying the microbes in the samples, and sending those species to the ISS to see whether they would thrive. (Bacillus aryabhatti, collected from a practice football field used by the Oakland Raiders, grew fastest.)
Facebook Tops List of Best Places To Work -- Again
From a report:
If you work at Facebook, count yourself pretty lucky. And not just for the free meals, on-site health care or new-parent benefits. But those things probably factor into the social-networking giant being named the best place to work in 2018 by jobs site Glassdoor. And it's probably been a good experience for a while, seeing how this is the third year in a row Facebook has been atop Glassdoor's list of 100 best places to work. If you don't work at Facebook, there might still be hope for you. Glassdoor said there were 40 newcomers on this year's list, including video game maker Blizzard Entertainment (at No. 28 on the list) and wireless carrier T-Mobile (No. 79). There are also three veterans that have made the list every year since it was introduced 10 years ago, including management-consulting firm Bain & Company (No. 2), search giant Google (No. 5) and Apple (No. 84).
Yahoo Sues Mozilla For Breach of Contract -- So Mozilla Counter Sues Yahoo
Mark Wilson writes:
Mozilla and Yahoo have started a legal spat about the deal that existed between the two companies regarding the use of the Yahoo search engine in the Firefox browser. On December 1, Yahoo fired the first shot filing a complaint that alleges Mozilla breached a contract that existed between the two companies by terminating the arrangement early. In a counter complaint, Mozilla says that it was not only justified in terminating the contract early, but that Yahoo Holdings and Oath still have a bill that needs to be settled.
Amazon Prime Video App Launches on Apple TV
Six months after Apple chief executive Tim Cook said Amazon's Prime Video service would be coming to Apple TV, the much anticipated on-demand video streaming service has
arrived on tvOS. Similar to other versions of Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV app allows Prime subscribers to sign into their accounts and watch Amazon Prime exclusive TV series, as well as browse a collection of movies.
'We Could Fund a Universal Basic Income With the Data We Give Away To Facebook and Google'
Tristan Greene reports via The Next Web:
A universal basic income (UBI), wherein government provides a monthly stipend so citizens can afford a home and basic necessities, is something experts believe would directly address the issue of unemployment and poverty, and possibly even eliminate hundreds of other welfare programs. It may also be the only real solution to the impending automation bonanza. According to AI expert Steve Fuller, the problem is, giving people money when they lose jobs won't fix the issue, it's a temporary solution and we need permanent ones. Sounds fair, and he even has some ideas on how to accomplish this end: "We could hold Google and Facebook and all those big multinationals accountable; we could make sure that people, like those who are currently 'voluntarily' contributing their data to pump up companies' profits, are given something that is adequate to support their livelihoods in exchange."
It's an interesting idea, but difficult to imagine it's implementation. If the government isn't assigning a specific stipend value, we'll have to be compensated individually by companies. One way to do this, is by emulating the old coal mining company scrip scams of early last century. Employees working for companies would be paid in currency only redeemable at the company store. This basically created a system where a company could tax its own workers for profit. Google, for example, could use a system like that and say "opt-in for $10 worth of Google Play music for free," if they wanted to. Which doesn't help pay the bills when machines replace you at work, but at least you'll be able to voice search for your favorite songs. Another idea is to charge companies an automation tax, but again there's concerns as to how this would be implemented. A solution that combines government oversight with a tax on AI companies -- a UBI funded by the dividends of our data -- may be the best option. To be blunt: we should make Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other such AI companies pay for it with a simple data tax.
New Evidence Points To Icy Plate Tectonics On Europa
new research published today in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, Europa
has what it takes to support plate tectonics. "Using computer models, a team lead by Brown University planetary scientist Brandon Johnson was able to demonstrate the physical feasibility of icy plates driving deep into the icy interior in a processes similar to what's seen on Earth," reports Gizmodo. "Excitingly, this same process could be delivering important minerals to the ocean below, heightening the moon's status a potentially habitable world." From the report:
Europa has surface features reminiscent of Earth's mid-ocean ridges. For astronomers, this hinted at geological processes akin to subduction zones, where, on Earth, tectonic plates slide underneath another, sinking deep into the planet's interior. Several years ago, researchers Simon Kattenhorn and Louise Prockter posited this explanation when they noticed that a 20,000 square-kilometer (7,722 square-mile) chunk of ice had mysteriously disappeared from Europa's surface. Their explanation was that Europa's surface, like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, is composed of tectonic plates, and that occasionally a plate of ice will sink beneath the other into warmer layers below. But this observational evidence of extension and spreading needed to be supported by geophysical reality. To that end, Johnson's team ran a computer simulation to see if it was possible for ice to sink in this way.
On our planet, subduction is primarily driven by differences in temperature between a descending slab and the surrounding mantle. Dense crustal material features a negative buoyancy that drives it down into the mantle. The Brown University scientists figured a similar thing happens on Europa, but with ice. In the case of Europa, the researchers surmised that the moon has two frozen layers -- an outer lid of very cold ice that sits above a layer of slightly warmer convecting ice. Their models showed that subduction is indeed possible in this alien environment, but only if the outer shell contains varying amounts of salt. This added ingredient provides the necessary density differences for a slab to conduct.
Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police:
The Chrome Web Store originally launched in 2010, and serves a hub for installing apps, extensions, and themes packaged for Chrome. Over a year ago, Google announced that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. Today, the company sent out an email to developers with additional information, as well as news about future Progressive Web App support. The existing schedule is mostly still in place -- Chrome apps on the Web Store will no longer be discoverable for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. In fact, if you visit the store right now on anything but a Chromebook, the Apps page is gone. Google originally planned to remove app support on all platforms (except Chrome OS) entirely by Q1 2018, but Google has decided to transition to Progressive Web Apps:
"The Chrome team is now working to enable Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to be installed on the desktop. Once this functionality ships (roughly targeting mid-2018), users will be able to install web apps to the desktop and launch them via icons and shortcuts; similar to the way that Chrome Apps can be installed today. In order to enable a more seamless transition from Chrome Apps to the web, Chrome will not fully remove support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac or Linux until after Desktop PWA installability becomes available in 2018. Timelines are still rough, but this will be a number of months later than the originally planned deprecation timeline of 'early 2018.' We also recognize that Desktop PWAs will not replace all Chrome App capabilities. We have been investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs, and will continue to focus on this -- in particular the Sockets, HID and Serial APIs."