No Bones About It: People Recognize Objects By Visualizing Their 'Skeletons'
An anonymous reader shares a report from Scientific American:
Humans effortlessly know that a tree is a tree and a dog is a dog no matter the size, color or angle at which they're viewed. In fact, identifying such visual elements is one of the earliest tasks children learn. But researchers have struggled to determine how the brain does this simple evaluation. As deep-learning systems have come to master this ability, scientists have started to ask whether computers analyze data -- and particularly images -- similarly to the human brain. "The way that the human mind, the human visual system, understands shape is a mystery that has baffled people for many generations, partly because it is so intuitive and yet it's very difficult to program" says Jacob Feldman, a psychology professor at Rutgers University.
A paper published in Scientific Reports in June comparing various object recognition models came to the conclusion that people do not evaluate an object like a computer processing pixels, but based on an imagined internal skeleton. In the study, researchers from Emory University, led by associate professor of psychology Stella Lourenco, wanted to know if people judged object similarity based on the objects' skeletons -- an invisible axis below the surface that runs through the middle of the object's shape. The scientists generated 150 unique three-dimensional shapes built around 30 different skeletons and asked participants to determine whether or not two of the objects were the same. Sure enough, the more similar the skeletons were, the more likely participants were to label the objects as the same. The researchers also compared how well other models, such as neural networks (artificial intelligence-based systems) and pixel-based evaluations of the objects, predicted people's decisions. While the other models matched performance on the task relatively well, the skeletal model always won. On the
Rumsfeld Epistemological Scale, AI programers trying to duplicate the functions of the human mind are still dealing with some high-level known-unknowns, and maybe even a few unknown-unknowns.
Most Android Flashlight Apps Request An Absurd Number of Permissions
Out of 937 flashlight apps on the Play Store, Avast Security Evangelist Luis Corrons found that
the vast majority requested a large number of permissions, with the average being of 25 permissions per app. ZDNet reports:
"There might be variables average users are not aware of and that are needed for these apps to work, but if 408 of the apps need just 10 permissions or less, which seems fairly reasonable, how come there are 262 apps that require 50 permissions or more," Corrons said in a report published this week. The Avast researcher said he found 77 flashlight apps that requested more than 50 permissions, which is about a third of the total number of permissions the Android OS supports. The champions were two apps that requested 77 permissions, followed by another three, which requested 76. But while Corrons said that some apps appeared to justify some of the permissions they asked for, these were only an exception to the rule.
Two Mathematicians Solve Old Math Riddle, Possibly the Meaning of Life
pgmrdlm shares a report from Live Science:
In Douglas Adams' sci-fi series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a pair of programmers task the galaxy's largest supercomputer with answering the ultimate question of the meaning of life, the universe and everything. After 7.5 million years of processing, the computer reaches an answer: 42. Only then do the programmers realize that nobody knew the question the program was meant to answer. Now, in this week's most satisfying example of life reflecting art, a pair of mathematicians have used a global network of 500,000 computers to solve a centuries-old math puzzle that just happens to involve that most crucial number: 42.
The question, which goes back to at least 1955 and may have been pondered by Greek thinkers as early as the third century AD, asks, "How can you express every number between 1 and 100 as the sum of three cubes?" Or, put algebraically, how do you solve x^3 + y^3 + z^3 = k, where k equals any whole number from 1 to 100? This deceptively simple stumper is known as a Diophantine equation, named for the ancient mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria, who proposed a similar set of problems about 1,800 years ago. Modern mathematicians who revisited the puzzle in the 1950s quickly found solutions when k equals many of the smaller numbers, but a few particularly stubborn integers soon emerged. The two trickiest numbers, which still had outstanding solutions by the beginning of 2019, were 33 and -- you guessed it -- 42. Using a computer algorithm to look for solutions to the Diophantine equation with x, y and z values that included every number between positive and negative 99 quadrillion, mathematician Andrew Booker, of the University of Bristol in England,
found the solution to 33 after several weeks of computing time.
Since his search turned up no solutions for 42, Booker enlisted the help of Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician Andrew Sutherland, who helped him book some time with a worldwide computer network called
Charity Engine. "Using this crowdsourced supercomputer and 1 million hours of processing time, Booker and Sutherland finally found an answer to the Diophantine equation where k equals 42," reports Live Science. The answer: (-80538738812075974)^3 + (80435758145817515)^3 + (12602123297335631)^3 = 42.
Taylor Swift Reportedly Threatened To Sue Microsoft Over Racist Twitter Bot
When an artificially intelligent chatbot that used Twitter to learn how to talk unsurprisingly turned into a bigot bot, Taylor Swift reportedly
threatened legal action because the bot's name was Tay. Microsoft would probably rather forget the experiment where Twitter trolls took advantage of the chatbot's programming and
taught it to be racist in 2016, but a new book is sharing unreleased details that show Microsoft had more to worry about than just the bot's racist remarks. Digital Trends reports:
Tay was a social media chatbot geared toward teens first launched in China before adapting the three-letter moniker when moving to the U.S. The bot, however, was programmed to learn how to talk based on Twitter conversations. In less than a day, the automatic responses the chatbot tweeted had Tay siding with Hitler, promoting genocide, and just generally hating everybody. Microsoft immediately removed the account and apologized.
When the bot was reprogrammed, Tay was relaunched as Zo. But in the book Tools and Weapons by Microsoft president Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne, Microsoft's communications director, the executives have finally revealed why -- another Tay, Taylor Swift. According to The Guardian, the singer's lawyer threatened legal action over the chatbot's name before the bot broke bad. The singer claimed the name violated both federal and state laws. Rather than get in a legal battle with the singer, Smith writes, the company instead started considering new names.
It's Not 'X', It's 'Cross' -- the PlayStation Joypad Revelation That's Caused an Outrage
An anonymous reader shares a report:
A fortnight ago, Twitter user @drip133 asked a seemingly innocent question above a photo of the joypad: "Do you say 'x' or 'cross' button?" There were hundreds of contradictory responses, which became increasingly furious as the week wore on. Some insisted that because the other buttons are named after shapes -- Triangle, Square and Circle -- logically, the "X" button must be called "Cross"; others pointed out that as 'X' was the common usage, this was the only acceptable pronunciation. [...] Then, in a shock move, Sony itself became involved. On 5 September, the official Twitter feed of PlayStation UK stated: "Triangle. Circle. Cross. Square. If Cross is called X (it's not), then what are you calling Circle?" The scrap is a rare event in the world of video games as console manufacturers usually name buttons after numbers, unambiguous letters of the alphabet or colours. The groundbreaking Nintendo Entertainment System pad, for example, went with A, B, while the SNES added X and Y (a configuration also used by Sega and Microsoft), and in this context, it's clear that "X" is X.
Years ago, in an interview with the now defunct video game website 1UP, Sony designer Teiyu Goto explained how the buttons came to be named: "We wanted something simple to remember, which is why we went with icons or symbols, and I came up with the triangle-circle-X-square combination immediately afterward. I gave each symbol a meaning and a colour. The triangle refers to viewpoint; I had it represent one's head or direction and made it green. Square refers to a piece of paper; I had it represent menus or documents and made it pink. The circle and X represent 'yes' or 'no' decision-making and I made them red and blue respectively." Sadly, this doesn't really help because in the quote he has characterised the "X" button with an "X" symbol and who knows whether that was actually him or the journalist who wrote the piece.
Objects Can Now Change Colors Like a Chameleon
The color-changing capabilities of chameleons have long bewildered willing observers. While humans can't yet camouflage much beyond a green outfit to match grass, inanimate objects are another story. From a report:
A team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has brought us closer to this chameleon reality, by way of a new system that uses reprogrammable ink to let objects change colors when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) and visible light sources. Dubbed "PhotoChromeleon," the system uses a mix of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto the surface of any object to change its color -- a fully reversible process that can be repeated infinitely. PhotoChromeleon can be used to customize anything from a phone case to a car, or shoes that need an update. The color remains, even when used in natural environments. "This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste," says CSAIL postdoc Yuhua Jin, the lead author on a new paper about the project. "Users could personalize their belongings and appearance on a daily basis, without the need to buy the same object multiple times in different colors and styles."
PhotoChromeleon builds off of the team's previous system, "ColorMod," which uses a 3-D printer to fabricate items that can change their color. Frustrated by some of the limitations of this project, such as small color scheme and low-resolution results, the team decided to investigate potential updates. With ColorMod, each pixel on an object needed to be printed, so the resolution of each tiny little square was somewhat grainy. As far as colors, each pixel of the object could only have two states: transparent and its own color. So, a blue dye could only go from blue to transparent when activated, and a yellow dye could only show yellow. But with PhotoChromeleon's ink, you can create anything from a zebra pattern to a sweeping landscape to multicolored fire flames, with a larger host of colors.
Trump Calls On FDA To Ban All Flavored Vapes After Mystery Lung Illness
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
In a surprise meeting on Wednesday, President Donald Trump pushed to ban all non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Trump discussed the proposal during a meeting at the White House after discussing the move with advisers like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Norman Sharpless, Bloomberg reported. "Not only is it a problem overall, but really specifically with respect for children," Trump told reporters. He continued, "We may very well have to do something very, very strong about it."
Secretary Azar said the FDA would soon issue regulatory guidance to remove flavored vaping products from the market. The secretary cited statistics showing five million children using e-cigarettes of some kind, a number he found "alarming." In December, the US Surgeon General declared underage vaping "an epidemic," laying the groundwork for future regulatory action. Last week, federal officials announced that
over 450 people across the country had grown sick with deadly lung illnesses that have been linked to e-cigarette use.
Open-Source Database Scylla Gains DynamoDB Compatibility
Four years ago, ScyllaDB introduced Scylla -- a new open-source NoSQL database, compatible with the popular Cassandra but 10 times faster. Today, the project announced support for the DynamoDB API as well. This will allow applications that use Amazon's DynamoDB to be migrated to other public or private clouds -- running on Scylla instead of DynamoDB. Beyond the added choice, large users may also see their cloud bills drastically reduced by moving to Scylla: ScyllaDB reported in the past that the total cost of running Scylla is only one seventh the cost of DynamoDB.
Apple's iPhone 11 Pro Is Triggering 'Fear of Holes' Or Trypophobia In Some
dryriver shares a report from the BBC:
People with a fear of small holes have claimed the design of Apple's iPhone 11 Pro is triggering their phobia. At its unveiling on Tuesday, many found their attention drawn to its "ultra-wide" rear camera, with three high-powered lenses packed closely together. The lenses sit alongside the handset's torch and "audio zoom" microphone. And hundreds of smartphone users now claim the new design has triggered their "trypophobia," an aversion to the sight of clusters of small holes. The term "trypophobia" was first coined in 2005 in online forum Reddit and it has since become widely talked about on social media.
American Horror Story actress Sarah Paulson and model Kendall Jenner are among those who say they have the condition. Vision scientist Dr Geoff Cole, at the University of Essex, was part of the first full scientific study of trypophobia, working with his colleague, Prof Arnold Wilkins. "We have all got it, it's just a matter of degree," Dr Cole told BBC News earlier this year. The response to seeing small holes can be very extreme, their study suggests. Dr Cole and Prof Wilkins reported testimonies from some people who vomited and others who said they could not go to work for several days. "It can be quite disabling," Prof Wilkins added.
Australian House Committee To Look Into Age Verification For Porn
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
Australia is once again deciding to follow in the tracks of the United Kingdom, with the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs to look into age verification for online pornography and online wagering. The matter was referred to the committee by the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Anne Ruston and Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety, and the Arts, Paul Fletcher. The terms of reference for the inquiry state that it will be looking into age verification under the auspices of protecting children online.
The committee will look into "the potential benefits of further online age verification requirements, including to protect children from potential harm, and business and non-government organizations from reputation, operational and legal risks," the terms state. Potential risks and unintended consequences for age verification will be looked into as well, the terms state, including privacy breaches, freedom of expression, false assurance, and whether adults are pushing into "unregulated/illegal environments or to other legal forms of these activities." The committee will also examine the economic impact of age verification, and the impact on "eSafety resourcing, education, and messaging." The UK's age verification system for online pornography
became mandatory on July 15.
After Payroll Provider Collapses, Banks Drain Employee Accounts
MyPayRollHR, a payroll processing provider with about 4,000 small to mid-sized business customers, suddenly closed late last week. In response, the banking system went haywire and began taking funds from employees at many of these firms. Previously deposited pay was removed from their personal banking accounts, or 'reversed.' Not once, but twice and there are reports that these withdrawals happened continuously. The checking account of one employee of an animal rescue facility was pinged for nearly $1 million. Her account shows a negative $999,193.75.
Expert Predicts 25% of Colleges Will 'Fail' in the Next 20 Years
For the first time in 185 years, there will be no fall semester at Green Mountain College in western Vermont. The college, which closed this year, isn't alone: Southern Vermont College, the College of St. Joseph, and Atlantic Union College, among others, have shuttered their doors, too. The schools fell victim to trends in higher education --
trends that lead one expert to believe that more schools will soon follow. From a report, shared by a reader:
"I think 25% of schools will fail in the next two decades," said Michael Horn, who studies education at Harvard University. "They're going to close, they're going to merge, some will declare some form of bankruptcy to reinvent themselves. It's going to be brutal across American higher education." Part of the problem, Horn explained, is that families had fewer kids after the 2008 recession, meaning that there will be fewer high school graduates and fewer college students. "Fundamentally, these schools' business models are just breaking at the seams," he said.
That's what happened to Green Mountain College. When Robert Allen became president of the school in 2016, he realized "very quickly" that the school had a problem. "I'm a mathematician by training, a financial person," he said. "And I realized that we were going to come up short." The main problem was shrinking enrollment. By last year, just 427 students remained on campus, leaving the school broke. "At Green Mountain College this past year, we didn't have one full paid student," Allen said, adding, "Our published tuition was $36,500, and the average student paid just a little over $12,000." Unable to find a school with which to merge, Allen announced in January that the school's 184th graduation would be its last. "I've had a long professional career, not all of it in education, and it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Allen said. "As you can imagine, many parents were really angry."
A Famous Argument Against Free Will Has Been Debunked
For decades, a landmark brain study fed speculation about whether we control our own actions. It
seems to have made a classic mistake. From a report:
The death of free will began with thousands of finger taps. In 1964, two German scientists monitored the electrical activity of a dozen people's brains. Each day for several months, volunteers came into the scientists' lab at the University of Freiburg to get wires fixed to their scalp from a showerhead-like contraption overhead. The participants sat in a chair, tucked neatly in a metal tollbooth, with only one task: to flex a finger on their right hand at whatever irregular intervals pleased them, over and over, up to 500 times a visit. The purpose of this experiment was to search for signals in the participants' brains that preceded each finger tap. At the time, researchers knew how to measure brain activity that occurred in response to events out in the world -- when a person hears a song, for instance, or looks at a photograph -- but no one had figured out how to isolate the signs of someone's brain actually initiating an action
The experiment's results came in squiggly, dotted lines, a representation of changing brain waves. In the milliseconds leading up to the finger taps, the lines showed an almost undetectably faint uptick: a wave that rose for about a second, like a drumroll of firing neurons, then ended in an abrupt crash. This flurry of neuronal activity, which the scientists called the Bereitschaftspotential, or readiness potential, was like a gift of infinitesimal time travel. For the first time, they could see the brain readying itself to create a voluntary movement. This momentous discovery was the beginning of a lot of trouble in neuroscience. Twenty years later, the American physiologist Benjamin Libet used the Bereitschaftspotential to make the case not only that the brain shows signs of a decision before a person acts, but that, incredibly, the brain's wheels start turning before the person even consciously intends to do something. Suddenly, people's choices -- even a basic finger tap -- appeared to be determined by something outside of their own perceived volition.
Court Rules That 'Scraping' Public Website Data Isn't Hacking
Scraping public data from a website doesn't constitute "hacking," according to a new court ruling that could dramatically limit abuse of the United States' primary hacking law. From a report:
The ruling comes after a lengthy battle between data analytics firm HiQ Labs and Microsoft owned LinkedIn, which have been at each other's throats for several years over HiQ Labs' practice of scraping the business social networking website's public-facing data, then selling it (fused with other datasets) to a laundry list of employers. In the ruling by The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court shot down LinkedIn's claim that access to this public data violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). In its declaration, the court ruled that to violate the CFAA, somebody would need to actually "circumvent [a] computer's generally applicable rules regarding access permissions, such as username and password requirements," meaning it's not really hacking if you're not bypassing some kind of meaningful authorization system.
GameStop Closing 200 Stores Following Another Quarter of Dismal Sales
close as many 200 stores before the end of 2019 following another quarter of sharply declining sales and a $32 million loss, the company stated. From a report:
In a statement yesterday, the company's chief financial officer attributed the drop in sales to trends "consistent with what we have historically observed towards the end of a hardware cycle." That said, it's yet another quarter with a double-digit decline, down 14.3 percent over the same one last year. For the quarter ending March 2019, GameStop reported a 13.3 sales decline and the company's stock price plunged 40 percent in one day, recovering only slightly since then. James Bell, GameStop's chief financial officer, told investors that the closures will affect between 180 and 200 "underperforming" stores between now and the end of 2019. The company's most recent annual report listed 5,830 locations worldwide, with more than 4,000 of them in the United States and Canada. In yesterday's earnings call, Bell said that the vast majority -- 95 percent -- of stores were profitable. But more closures, in larger numbers than today's news, are expected over the next one to two years, he added.
Google Chrome Now Lets You Send Webpages To Other Devices
Google is starting to make its Chrome 77 browser update available to Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android this week. While there are many visual changes to Chrome this time, Google is
introducing a new send webpage to devices feature. From a report:
You can right-click on a link and a new context menu will appear that simply lets you send links to other devices where you use Chrome. If you're using Chrome on iOS you'll need to have the app open and a small prompt will appear to accept the sent tab. The feature has started showing up on Windows, Android, and iOS versions of Chrome, but it doesn't appear to be enabled in the macOS variant just yet. Chrome has long supported the ability to browse your open and recent tabs across multiple devices, but this send to device feature just makes things a little quicker if you're moving from browsing on a PC or laptop to a phone or vice versa.
SpaceX Confirms It's Almost Ready To Test Its Orbital Starship
SpaceX isn't wasting much time now that Starhopper has completed its hover test. The company has filed an FCC communication permissions request that, as Elon Musk confirmed,
prepares for test-flying the "orbit-class" Starship. From a report:
The vehicle will fly much higher than its stubby predecessor, reaching an altitude of 12.5 miles before it comes back to the same landing pad used during earlier tests. It's not a true orbital test, then, but it's clearly much closer to SpaceX's goals. The FCC filing came days after word from Business Insider (later verified) that the FAA was effectively granting SpaceX permission to expand its Boca Chica launch facility for the sake of Starship launches. The company also hasn't tried to hide its construction work on the orbit-quality vehicle, and Musk has alluded to a September 28th update event that could show off the completed spacecraft. It's poised to launch sometime in October, possibly as soon as the 13th.
California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees
California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that
requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure. From a report:
The bill passed in a 29 to 11 vote in the State Senate and will apply to app-based companies, despite their efforts to negotiate an exemption. California's governor, Gavin Newsom, endorsed the bill this month and is expected to sign it after it goes through the State Assembly, in what is expected to be a formality. Under the measure, which would go into effect Jan. 1, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company's regular business.
The bill may influence other states. A coalition of labor groups is pushing similar legislation in New York, and bills in Washington State and Oregon that were similar to California's but failed to advance could see renewed momentum. New York City passed a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers last year but did not try to classify them as employees. In California, the legislation will affect at least one million workers who have been on the receiving end of a decades-long trend of outsourcing and franchising work, making employer-worker relationships more arm's-length. Many people have been pushed into contractor status with no access to basic protections like a minimum wage and unemployment insurance. Ride-hailing drivers, food-delivery couriers, janitors, nail salon workers, construction workers and franchise owners could now all be reclassified as employees.
Apple Just Turned Its Extended Warranty For iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch Into a Monthly Subscription
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Apple's extended warranty, AppleCare+, has always covered iOS and Apple Watch devices for a total of two years. But after its iPhone 11 event, the company quietly introduced a new option that basically turns AppleCare+ into a full-on monthly subscription, allowing consumers to continue paying beyond the regular coverage period and keep going for as long as Apple is able to service their product. The change was spotted by 9to5Mac. Apple had already offered monthly installments for AppleCare+, but that was only an alternative to paying a lump sum for the same two-year coverage total. And it seems Apple has now eliminated this payment option. With the new approach, Apple uses the pretty clear wording of "pay monthly until canceled." As 9to5Mac notes, you'd end up paying more through the monthly option for the standard 24 months of coverage than if you just opted to buy that length of time outright. The new subscription is really best for people who plan to hold on to their gadgets for several years.
Google To Run DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) Experiment in Chrome
Google has announced plans to
test the new DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) protocol inside Google Chrome starting with v78, scheduled for release in late October this year. From a report:
The DNS-over-HTTPS protocol works by sending DNS requests to special DoH-compatible DNS resolvers. The benefit comes from the fact that DNS requests are sent via port 443, as encrypted HTTPS traffic, rather than cleartext, via port 53. This hides DoH requests in the unending stream of HTTPS traffic that moves across the web at any moment of the day and prevents third-party observers from tracking users' browsing histories by recording and looking at their unencrypted DNS data. The news that Google is looking into testing DoH in Chrome comes just as Mozilla announced plans over the weekend to gradually enable DoH by default for a small subset of users in the US later this month.
Amazon Probed by US Antitrust Officials Over Marketplace
A team of FTC investigators has begun interviewing small businesses that sell products on Amazon to determine
whether the e-commerce giant is using its market power to hurt competition. From a report:
Several attorneys and at least one economist have been conducting interviews that typically last about 90 minutes and cover a range of topics, according to three merchants. All were asked what percentage of revenue their businesses derive from Amazon versus other online marketplaces like Walmart and EBay, suggesting regulators are skeptical about Amazon's claims that shoppers and suppliers have real alternatives to the Seattle-based company. One merchant, Jaivin Karnani, said he was surprised the FTC returned his call the very next day.
The interviews indicate the agency is in the early stages of a sweeping probe to learn how Amazon works, spot practices that break the law and identify markets dominated by the company. The length of the interviews and the manpower devoted to examining Amazon point to a serious inquiry rather than investigators merely responding to complaints and going through the motions, antitrust experts say.
Comcast Sues Maine To Stop Law Requiring Sale of Individual TV Channels
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Comcast and several TV network owners have sued the state of Maine to stop a law that requires cable companies to offer a la carte access to TV channels. The complaint in U.S. District Court in Maine was filed Friday by Comcast, Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal, A&E Television Networks, C-Span, CBS Corp., Discovery, Disney, Fox Cable Network Services, New England Sports Network, and Viacom. The companies claim the Maine law -- titled "An Act To Expand Options for Consumers of Cable Television in Purchasing Individual Channels and Programs" -- is preempted by the First Amendment and federal law. The Maine law is scheduled to take effect on September 19 and says that "a cable system operator shall offer subscribers the option of purchasing access to cable channels, or programs on cable channels, individually." The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced. "I submitted this bill on behalf of Maine's hundreds of thousands of cable television subscribers," Representative Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent,
said in testimony when the bill was being debated in March. "For far too long, consumers have been forced to purchase cable TV packages which include dozens of channels the consumer has no interest in watching."
But the current system involving service tiers and bundling "reflect[s] the exercise of First Amendment rights -- both by the programmers who decide how to license their programming to cable operators, and by the cable operators who decide how to provide that programming to the public," the industry lawsuit said. The lawsuit also says that "an array of federal statutory provisions precludes Maine from dictating how cable programming is presented to consumers." The state law "is expressly preempted by several provisions of the Communications Act," including a section that "prohibits state and local authorities from regulating the 'provision or content of cable services, except as expressly provided in' Title VI of the Communications Act," the lawsuit said.
281 Alleged Email Scammers Arrested In Massive Global Sweep
The Department of Justice today
announced the arrest of 281 suspects in connection with email scams and wire transfer fraud. The action is
the biggest of its kind yet against this type of digital scammer, and is a strong symbol of law enforcement's sense of urgency in trying to contain a rapidly growing threat. Wired reports:
You're familiar with crimes like this, even if you don't know them by their proper name of "business email compromise" schemes. It involves the coordinated crafting of compelling scam emails that trick employees or vulnerable individuals into sending money, then using strategic mules to wire the funds back to the perpetrators. Such scams have ballooned in recent years, costing victims tens of billions of dollars over time. The DOJ said the new round of arrests took four months to carry out across 10 countries, and resulted in the seizure of almost $3.7 million.
Tuesday's law enforcement initiative, dubbed Operation reWired, involved extensive international coordination to make 167 arrests in Nigeria, 74 in the United States, 18 in Turkey, and 15 in Ghana. The remainder took place in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. Research and law enforcement investigations have shown that a large proportion of all email scamming originates in West Africa, specifically Nigeria, but the scams have spread, partly because some West African actors have moved around the world. The new arrest of 281 suspects involved global coordination among law enforcement agencies. In the U.S. alone, Operation reWired involved the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury, the State Department, and the Postal Inspection Service.
Jack Ma Steps Down On 20th Birthday of Alibaba
has stepped down from the position of chairman at the company he co-founded exactly 20 years ago. Ma
announced his retirement plans last year, saying at the time he wanted to spend more time focusing on education. ZDNet reports:
Ma bid farewell to Alibaba, sporting a rock star wig and guitar at an employee event Tuesday, according to Reuters. "After tonight I will start a new life," Ma reportedly said at Tuesday's event. "I do believe the world is good, there are so many opportunities, and I love excitement so much, which is why I will retire early."
His retirement was not the end of an era, the former English teacher said when he announced he was stepping down, but "the beginning of an era," adding also at the time, "I love education." CEO Daniel Zhang succeeds Ma as chairman of the board, effective September 10, 2019. Ma stayed on for a year to "ensure a smooth transition of the chairmanship." "I have put a lot of thought and preparation into this succession plan for ten years," Ma wrote in a letter to shareholders and customers in September. "When Alibaba was founded in 1999, our goal was to build a company that could make China and the world proud and one that could cross three centuries to last 102 years. However, we all knew that no one could stay with the company for 102 years. A sustainable Alibaba would have to be built on sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent. No company can rely solely on its founders."