Adobe Is Deactivating All Venezuelan Accounts To Comply With US Sanctions
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
Adobe is shutting down service for users in Venezuela in order to comply with a U.S. executive order issued in August that prohibits trade with the country. The company sent out an email to customers in Venezuela today to let them know their accounts would be deactivated, and posted a support document further explaining the decision. In the document, Adobe explains: "The U.S. Government issued Executive Order 13884, the practical effect of which is to prohibit almost all transactions and services between U.S. companies, entities, and individuals in Venezuela. To remain compliant with this order, Adobe is deactivating all accounts in Venezuela."
Users will have until October 28th to download any content stored in their accounts, and will lose access the next day. To make matters worse, customers won't be able to receive refunds for any purchases or outstanding subscriptions, as Adobe says that the executive order calls for "the cessation of all activity with the entities including no sales, service, support, refunds, credits, etc."
Instagram's Following Activity Tab Is Going Away
removing the "Following" tab -- a feed that shows the likes, comments, follows of your friends. "Beginning this week, the heart tab will display only your own activity," reports BuzzFeed News. From the report:
Instagram launched its "Following" tab as an early feature back in 2011, long before its Explore tab debuted. At the time, Following was the best way to discover new content, since it would show you things your friends were liking. But that's no longer true now that Explore has established itself as the primary means of discovering new stuff on Instagram.
Now that Following has disappeared, it's likely few people will notice it's gone. Vishal Shah, Instagram's head of product, told BuzzFeed News it wasn't a feature that people used frequently and that the company suspected many users didn't know it existed. And for those that did, it was often a source of unwelcome surprises. "People didn't always know that their activity is surfacing," Shah said. "So you have a case where it's not serving the use case you built it for, but it's also causing people to be surprised when their activity is showing up." "Simplicity was the driving factor," Shah said of Instagram's decision to remove the Following tab.
Supreme Court Allows Blind People To Sue Retailers If Their Websites Are Not Accessible
The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way Monday for blind people
to sue retailers if their websites are not accessible to these people. "In a potentially far-reaching move, the justices turned down an appeal from Domino's and let stand a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holding that the Americans With Disabilities Act protects access not just to restaurants and stores, but also to the websites and apps of those businesses," reports Los Angeles Times. From the report:
Guillermo Robles, who is blind, filed suit in Los Angeles three years ago and complained he had been unable to order a pizza online because the Domino's website lacked the software that would allow him to communicate. He cited the ADA, which guarantees to persons with a disability "full and equal enjoyment the goods and services ... of any place of public accommodations." Lawyers for Domino's agreed this provision applied to its pizza stores, but not its website.
Last year, however, the 9th Circuit ruled for Robles and said the law applied to its online services as well as the store. "The ADA mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino's, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind," the appeals court said in January. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business groups who said they represented 500,000 restaurants and 300,000 businesses joined in an appeal urging the high court to review the 9th Circuit's decision. They said they feared a "tsunami of litigation," and worried that judges nationwide would see the appeals court's decision as "imposing a nationwide website-accessibility mandate." But without comment or dissent on Monday, the high court said it would not hear the case of Domino's Pizza vs. Robles.
Slashdot Asks: What Did You Like/Dislike About iTunes?
iTunes is officially dead with the
release of macOS Catalina today. Apple
decided to break apart the app into separate Apple Music, Podcasts and TV apps. "Each is better at its individuals task than it was as a section within iTunes, which was teetering on collapse like the Jenga tower of various functions it supports," writes Dieter Bohn
via The Verge.
"In the early days, iTunes was simply a way to get music onto Apple's marquee product, the iPod music player,"
reports Snopes. "Users connected the iPod to a computer, and songs automatically synced -- simplicity unheard of at the time." It was the first service to make songs available for 99 cents apiece, and $9.99 for most albums -- convincing many people to buy music legally than seek out sketchy sites for pirated downloads. "But over time, iTunes software expanded to include podcasts, e-books, audiobooks, movies and TV shows," recalls Snopes. "In the iPhone era, iTunes also made backups and synced voice memos. As the software got bloated to support additional functions, iTunes lost the ease and simplicity that gave it its charm. And with online cloud storage and wireless syncing, it no longer became necessary to connect iPhones to a computer -- and iTunes -- with a cable."
What did you like or dislike about iTunes? When you look back at the media player, what are you reminded of?
Automatic License Plate Readers Are Making Getaway Cars Extinct
An anonymous reader shares a report:
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Total Choice Credit Union in Laplace, Louisiana was robbed. At approximately 3:06 pm, a man in his early thirties walked in wearing jeans, a white shirt, sunglasses, and a brown dreadlock wig, according to a now-unsealed complaint filed last month in US federal court. He passed a handwritten note to one of the tellers which read: "ROBBERY. I DON'T WANT TO (HURT) OR (KILL) YOU OR ANYONE IN HERE SO I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU (FIVE SECONDS) TO (EMPTY) YOUR (REGISTER)." The teller handed over more than $7,000 to the thief, who fled on foot. Investigators canvassed the area for nearby surveillance cameras that might have picked up any clues. They found one with footage of an "older model white single-cab pickup truck stopped in the area directly behind the bank," a minute or two before the robbery went down. That's when cops turned to a tool that has rendered the concept of a getaway car all but obsolete -- the national network of automated license plate readers. These are fixed cameras with sensors that can be found in on utility poles, streetlights, overpasses, in police cars, even within traffic cones and digital speed display signs that show drivers how fast they're going.
The technology, known as ALPR, can clock roughly 2,000 plates a minute, on vehicles traveling up to 120 mph. Each license plate is photographed and the date, time, and location are recorded. Law enforcement can access a target's movements in real time, or mine the data later to track a suspect's daily patterns. ALPR systems cast an incredibly wide net that has made it far easier for cops to catch criminals. The method has also drawn harsh criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and privacy advocates as "a technology deployed with too few rules," and "a form of mass surveillance." There are few accurate estimates of the exact number of ALPRs across the US, which is a hodgepodge of local, state, and federal and tribal license plate readers.
Getting a New Mobile Number in China Will Soon Involve a Facial-Recognition Test
China is taking every measure it can to verify the identities of its over 850 million mobile internet users. From a report:
From Dec. 1, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a Sept. 27 statement. MIIT said the step was part of its efforts to "safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace" and to control phone and internet fraud. In addition to the facial-recognition test, phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others, and encouraged to check if numbers are registered under their name without their consent.
Linus Torvalds Isn't Worried About Microsoft Taking Over Linux
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
At the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference, I talked to Linus Torvalds and several other of the Linux kernel's top programmers. They universally agreed Microsoft wants to control Linux, but they're not worried about it. That's because Linux, by its very nature and its GPL2 open-source licensing, can't be controlled by any single third-party. Torvalds said: "The whole anti-Microsoft thing was sometimes funny as a joke, but not really. Today, they're actually much friendlier. I talk to Microsoft engineers at various conferences, and I feel like, yes, they have changed, and the engineers are happy. And they're like really happy working on Linux. So I completely dismissed all the anti-Microsoft stuff."
But that doesn't mean the Microsoft leopard can't change its spots. Sure, he hears, "This is the old Microsoft, and they're just biding their time." But, Torvalds said, "I don't think that's true. I mean, there will be tension. But that's true with any company that comes into Linux; they have their own objectives. And they want to do things their way because they have a reason for it." So, with Linux, "Microsoft tends to be mainly about Azure and doing all the stuff to make Linux work well for them," he explained. Torvalds emphasized this is normal: "I mean, that's just being part of the community." James Bottomley, an IBM Research Distinguished Engineer and top Linux kernel developer, sees Microsoft as going through the same process as all other corporate Linux supporters: "This is a thread that runs through Linux. You can't work on the kernel to your own proprietary advantage. A lot of companies, as they came in with the proprietary business model, assumed they could. They have to be persuaded that, if you want something in Linux, that will assist your business -- absolutely fine. But it has to go through an open development process. And if someone else finds it useful, you end up cooperating or collaborating with them to produce this feature." That means, to get things done, even Microsoft is "eventually forced to collaborate with others."
Bottomley concluded: "So it doesn't matter if Microsoft has a competing agenda to Red Hat or IBM or anybody else. Developers are still expected to work together in the Linux kernel with a transparent agenda."
The Privacy Trade-Offs of Cheap Android Smartphones
Fast Company highlights some of the "
privacy nightmares" surrounding low-cost Android smartphones, which can be very attractive for those on a tight budget. One example is the MYA2 MyPhone:
According to an analysis by the advocacy group Privacy International, a $17 Android smartphone called MYA2 MyPhone, which was launched in December 2017, has a host of privacy problems that make its owner vulnerable to hackers and to data-hungry tech companies. First, it comes with an outdated version of Android with known security vulnerabilities that can't be updated or patched. The MYA2 also has apps that can't be updated or deleted, and those apps contain multiple security and privacy flaws. One of those pre-installed apps that can't be removed, Facebook Lite, gets default permission to track everywhere you go, upload all your contacts, and read your phone's calendar. The fact that Facebook Lite can't be removed is especially worrying because the app suffered a major privacy snafu earlier this year when hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users had their passwords exposed.
Philippines-based MyPhone said the specs of the MYA2 limited it to shipping the phone with Android 6.0, and since then it says it has "lost access and support to update the apps we have pre-installed" with the device. Given that the MYA2 phone, like many low-cost Android smartphones, runs outdated versions of the Android OS and can't be updated due to their hardware limitations, users of such phones are limited to relatively light privacy protections compared to what modern OSes, like Android 10, offer today. The MYA2 is just one example of how cheap smartphones leak personal information, provide few if any privacy protections, and are incredibly easy to hack compared to their more expensive counterparts.
Hulu Finally Adds Downloads For Offline Mobile Viewing
Hulu is finally
allowing users to download TV shows and movies to their mobile devices to watch without an internet connection. Variety reports:
The download feature, which has been several years in the works, gives Hulu subscribers on the $11.99 no-commercials plan the ability to download tens of thousands of TV episodes and movies. It's not available to customers who have the entry-level $5.99-per-month package with ads. For now, it's available only on Hulu's iOS app for Apple devices. The company says the feature will be coming to the Android app "soon."
The majority of Hulu's catalog, which includes some 85,000 total TV episodes, is available for offline viewing. That includes most Hulu originals, including full seasons of "The Handmaid's Tale," "Veronica Mars," "Shrill" and "The Act" as well as licensed content including "Family Guy," "Desperate Housewives," "This Is Us," "How I Met Your Mother" and "ER." A Hulu rep would not specify how much content is available to download for offline viewing, or spell out which TV shows or movies aren't included. The reason some content is excluded is that some of Hulu's past deals did not contemplate download rights. According to Hulu, customers can download a maximum of 25 titles across five different devices. Downloads are available for up to 30 days; they will expire two days after a user starts playback. After downloaded content expires, viewers can renew an expired download when they're connected online (assuming the content is still available on Hulu). The move comes nearly three years after Netflix
added the feature , and four years after Amazon Prime Video
added that ability for both iOS and Android apps. Disney Plus, which is
launching on November 12, will also include content downloads.
Hospitals That Are Turning Away Patients Reportedly Pay Ransomware Attackers
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Three Alabama hospitals have paid a ransomware demand to the criminals who waged a crippling malware attack that's forcing the hospitals to turn away all but the most critical patients, the Tuscaloosa News reported. As reported last Tuesday, ransomware shut down the hospitals' computer systems and prevented staff from following many normal procedures. Officials have been diverting non-critical patients to nearby hospitals and have warned that emergency patients may also be relocated once they are stabilized. An updated posted on Saturday said the diversion procedure remained in place. All three hospitals are part of the DCH health system in Alabama. Over the weekend, the Tuscaloosa News said DCH officials made a payment to the people responsible for the ransomware attack. The report didn't say how much officials paid. Saturday's statement from DCH officials said they have obtained a decryption key but didn't say how they obtained it. The statement read in part: "In collaboration with law enforcement and independent IT security experts, we have begun a methodical process of system restoration. We have been using our own DCH backup files to rebuild certain system components, and we have obtained a decryption key from the attacker to restore access to locked systems.
We have successfully completed a test decryption of multiple servers, and we are now executing a sequential plan to decrypt, test, and bring systems online one-by-one. This will be a deliberate progression that will prioritize primary operating systems and essential functions for emergency care. DCH has thousands of computer devices in its network, so this process will take time.
We cannot provide a specific timetable at this time, but our teams continue to work around the clock to restore normal hospital operations, as we incrementally bring system components back online across our medical centers. This will require a time-intensive process to complete, as we will continue testing and confirming secure operations as we go."
Monetary Value Estimates of the Air Pollution and Human Health Impacts of Cryptocurrency Mining
Andrew L.Goodkind, Benjamin A. Jones, and Robert P. Berrens,
writing in a paper:
Cryptocurrency mining uses significant amounts of energy as part of the proof-of-work time-stamping scheme to add new blocks to the chain. Expanding upon previously calculated energy use patterns for mining four prominent cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero), we estimate the per coin economic damages of air pollution emissions and associated human mortality and climate impacts of mining these cryptocurrencies in the US and China. Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China. The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China. Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases. For example, in December 2018, our results illustrate a case (for Bitcoin) where the health and climate change "cryptodamages" roughly match each $1 of coin value created. We close with discussion of policy implications.
Apple Hides Taiwan Flag in Hong Kong
iPhone users in Hong Kong have noticed a change in the latest version of iOS:
the Flag for Taiwan emoji is missing. From a report:
Previously restricted on Chinese iOS devices, all other regions of the world have continued to enjoy access to all flags in the iOS emoji font, until now. The change, first discovered by iOS Developer Hiraku Wang, means that users with an iOS device region set to Hong Kong will see one less flag on the emoji keyboard than if the region is set to anywhere else in the world (other than China mainland, which also hides this flag). Notably, the emoji Flag: Taiwan is still supported by iOS in Hong Kong. As of iOS 13.1.2, released last week, this is now hidden from the emoji keyboard but remains available by other means. Apple's Hong Kong approach differs from the complete ban on the emoji in China. Any iPhone purchased in China, or purchased elsewhere with the region set to China mainland, replaces the flag of Taiwan with a missing character tofu so it cannot be used or displayed in any app, even via copy and paste.
Can Vegetarianism Stop Climate Change?
meat doesn't have as big of an impact on the environment as you've been told. From a report:
Eating meat is bad for the climate -- or at least that was one of the main conclusions highlighted in a flood of news reports based on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's August report, Climate Change and Land. Before you give up your animal protein of choice in an effort to save the planet, let's crunch some numbers to see just how much livestock raising and meat consumption contribute to U.S. emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture is responsible for about 10 percent of America's total annual greenhouse gas emissions of 6.5 billion carbon dioxide equivalent metric tons. That breaks down to 302 million tons from nitrogen dioxide, largely in the form of fertilizer; 170 million tons from the methane expelled in ruminant livestock flatulence; 65 million tons from managing livestock manure; 60 million tons of direct emissions from farming; and 40 million tons from agriculture-related electricity use. Calculations focusing on agriculture ignore 90 percent of emissions that Americans contribute to the atmosphere.
Assuming every American adopts a vegan diet and all livestock raising ceases, that change would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by just 3.6 percent. In their 2017 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, agronomists Robin White and Mary Beth Hall reached a similar conclusion, calculating that the total elimination of animal husbandry would reduce U.S. emissions by 2.6 percent. How would going meat-free affect an individual American's emissions? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat consumption in 2019 added up to 220 pounds per capita. Multiplying by emissions per kilogram figures from the Environmental Working Group, a D.C.-based advocacy group generally opposed to crop biotechnology and conventional agriculture, that's the equivalent of 1.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person.
macOS Catalina is Available To Download Today
It's happening a little later in the season than usual,
but Apple's latest version of macOS is available to download today. From a report:
Catalina arrives on the heels of iOS 13, which saw several back-to-back updates after an initially rough launch. For what it's worth, I've been using successive versions of the Catalina beta as my daily driver for months now and can assure you that the latest build is stable enough to safely install. [...] Speaking of games, today also marks the first time that Catalina beta users will have been able to play Apple Arcade games. If you're wondering how the heck you'll play those titles from your Mac, it's worth a reminder that many Arcade games support Xbox and PlayStation controllers.
Also new in this release: As you browse episodes in the podcast app, you'll see avatars for guests and hosts. Apple also says it's made some small usability tweaks to Sidecar, the feature that allows you to use an iPad as a secondary Mac display. You'll also notice more promotional Apple TV+ material in the new TV app, which makes sense -- the streaming service launches November 1st. It'll cost $4.99 a month, but Apple is offering a free year with the purchase of a new Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.
Apple's MacOS Catalina Opens Up To iPad Apps;
Apple Will Permanently Remove Dashboard In macOS Catalina;
Apple Replaces Bash With Zsh as the Default Shell in macOS Catalina; and
Apple Finally Kills iTunes.
FBI Warns About Attacks That Bypass Multi-Factor Authentication
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last month sent a security advisory to private industry partners about the
rising threat of attacks against organizations and their employees that can bypass multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions. From a report:
"The FBI has observed cyber actors circumventing multi-factor authentication through common social engineering and technical attacks," the FBI wrote in a Private Industry Notification (PIN) sent out on September 17. While nowadays there are multiple ways of bypassing MFA protections, the FBI alert specifically warned about SIM swapping, vulnerabilities in online pages handling MFA operations, and the use of transparent proxies like Muraen and NecroBrowser.
US Supreme Court Rejects Amazon Warehouse Worker Wage Appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday
declined to hear Amazon's bid to avoid a lawsuit seeking to ensure that warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant get paid for the time it takes them to go through extensive post-shift security screenings. From a report:
The justices, on the first day of their new term, turned away an appeal by Amazon and a contractor of a lower court ruling reviving the workers' claims under Nevada state law. The decision comes five years after the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case that barred similar claims under federal law. A group of Amazon warehouse workers who package and ship merchandise filed a proposed class action lawsuit in 2010 against the contractor, Integrity Staffing Solutions, which provides some of the hourly employees for Amazon. The workers sought compensation for submitting to what they called mandatory "post-9/11 type of airport security" screenings that are aimed at preventing employee theft. The workers have said the screening takes around 25 minutes to complete. Amazon called the plaintiffs' description of the protocol "grossly inaccurate" in court papers.
The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You
An anonymous reader
shares a column:
Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy. His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett's specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. "Is it the norm?" the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. "No." Time for an update: It's the norm now. For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate -- spanning federal, state and local taxes -- than any other income group, according to newly released data. That's a sharp change from the 1950s and 1960s, when the wealthy paid vastly higher tax rates than the middle class or poor. Since then, taxes that hit the wealthiest the hardest -- like the estate tax and corporate tax -- have plummeted, while tax avoidance has become more common.
US Supreme Court Snubs University of Wisconsin Appeal in Patent Fight With Apple
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday
refused to hear a bid by the University of Wisconsin's patent licensing arm to reinstate its legal victory against Apple in a fight over computer processor technology that the school
claimed the company used without permission in certain iPhones and iPads. From a report:
The justices, on the first day of their new term, declined to review a lower court's 2018 decision to throw out the $506 million in damages that Apple was ordered to pay after a jury in 2015 decided the company infringed the university's patent. The licensing body, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), filed suit in 2014, alleging infringement of a 1998 patent on a "predictor circuit" to help speed the way processors carry out computer program instructions. The patent was developed by computer science professor Gurindar Sohi and three of his students at the university, located in Madison, Wisconsin. WARF, which helps patent and commercialize the university's inventions, claimed that Apple incorporated the technology in its A7, A8 and A8X processors, found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as several versions of the iPad tablet. Apple disputed the claims, saying its processor worked differently based on the specific language spelled out in WARF's patent.
Intel Announces Price Cut for 9th Generation F and KF Processors
An anonymous reader shares a report:
One of the interesting developments of Intel's 9th Generation Core processors for desktops, known as the S-series, was that the company decided to release versions of the hardware with the graphics disabled in order to use every chip from the wafer. At the time Intel was criticised on its pricing: it was offering the same processor minus graphics for the same bulk unit cost, with no discount. Today Intel is adjusting its strategy, and pricing these F and KF processors lower than before. Nearly every 9th Generation Core processor for the desktop has a corresponding graphics-free option: the Core i9-9900K has its Core i9-9900KF, the Core i5-9500 has a Core i5-9500F. The difference between these two parts is just a matter of disabled graphics, which means the user can't take advantage of Intel's QuickSync or a display, however most of these processors end up in systems with discrete graphics cards anyway. At the time of launch, Intel priced them identically to the parts that did have graphics, but ultimately retail outlets were selling the K and KF processors at a small discount. Intel's announcement today makes that price difference official.
China and Taiwan Clash Over Wikipedia Edits
Ask Google or Siri: "What is Taiwan?" "A state", they will answer, "in East Asia". But earlier in September, it would have been a "province in the People's Republic of China." From a report:
For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed. The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that - as far as the encyclopedia was concerned -- caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day. "This year is a very crazy year," sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan. "A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked." Wikipedia is a movement as much as a website. Anyone can write or edit entries on Wikipedia, and in almost every country on Earth, communities of "Wikipedians" exist to protect and contribute to it. The largest collection of human knowledge ever amassed, available to everyone online for free, it is arguably the greatest achievement of the digital age. But in the eyes of Lin and her colleagues, it is now under attack.
The edit war over Taiwan was only one of a number that had broken out across Wikipedia's vast, multi-lingual expanse of entries. The Hong Kong protests page had seen 65 changes in the space of a day -- largely over questions of language. Were they protesters? Or rioters? The English entry for the Senkaku islands said they were "islands in East Asia," but earlier this year the Mandarin equivalent had been changed to add "China's inherent territory." The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were changed in Mandarin to describe them as "the June 4th incident" to "quell the counter-revolutionary riots". On the English version, the Dalai Lama is a Tibetan refugee. In Mandarin, he is a Chinese exile. Angry differences of opinion happen all the time on Wikipedia. But to Ms Lin, this was different. "It's control by the [Chinese] Government" she continued. "That's very terrible." BBC Click's investigation has found almost 1,600 tendentious edits across 22 politically sensitive articles. We cannot verify who made each of these edits, why, or whether they reflect a more widespread practice. However, there are indications that they are not all necessarily organic, nor random. Both an official and academics from within China have begun to call for both their government and citizens to systematically correct what they argue are serious anti-Chinese biases endemic across Wikipedia.
Analyst: Strike at GM 'Is Really About the Switch to Electric Cars'
MarketWatch just published an interesting analysis by the head of automotive industry consulting at one of America's top business advisory firms. It argues that a strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at General Motors is really about the future of the electric car:
UAW members' anxieties and uncertainties are actually shared by General Motors (GM) and most other automakers, which know that it's no longer a question of when internal combustion engine cars will be replaced by electric vehicles, but how quickly the changeover will take place. The shift to electric means a fundamental transformation of what workers will do and how many are needed to do it.
Electric cars have far fewer parts, which means far fewer people are needed to put them together. When one analyst took apart a Chevrolet Bolt and Volkswagen Golf, he found that the Golf had 125 more moving parts than its electric counterpart. What's more, the electric vehicles' parts are often easier to put in place using automated machines. The UAW's own estimates that the move to electrification may cause 35,000 members to lose their jobs may not be the most scientific study ever done, but it's also probably not far off.
GM has attempted to appease the UAW with specific promises, including the construction of an electric battery plant in one of the Ohio cities hit hardest by recent factory closings. But even this tactic has only confirmed the UAW's worst fears: The battery plant won't need as many workers, and GM would prefer to pay them less than what other workers make at plants that require more complicated assembly.
The article concludes that "None of this is anyone's fault. GM is trying to respond to a global trend that it needs to follow in order to stay relevant. The UAW is trying to protect its members."
But he argues that the U.S. is already at risk of falling behind foreign auto-makers, and "it would just make a lot more sense if the people that we need to compete globally were working together as a team, rather than fighting each other."
The 'Ocean Cleanup' Device Is Finally Catching Plastic
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company's report on the Ocean Cleanup's project's
trouble-plagued multimillion-dollar floating boom:
After redesigning the system, it's finally working: the nonprofit announced today that it's successfully catching plastic. The newest prototype, which sailed to the middle of the Pacific Ocean in June, is now capturing large pieces of plastic trash -- and huge "ghost nets" littered by fishing boats, a major hazard for marine life -- along with microplastics as small as 1 millimeter, the team says.
"After beginning this journey seven years ago, this first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades, is within our sights," Boyan Slat, the company's founder, said in a release. The device still needs more tweaking, the team says, to be able to retain plastic for long periods of time. Another redesign will follow. But the team is now one step closer to the ultimate goal of harvesting plastic from the ocean to bring it back to land, where it can be recycled into new products.
Their press release notes that their system "is
using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastic, thereby confirming the most important principle behind the cleanup concept."
Wells Fargo Prediction: American Banks Will Automate Away 200,000 Jobs By 2030
An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo:
Over the next decade, U.S. banks, which are investing $150 billion in technology annually, will use automation to eliminate 200,000 jobs, thus facilitating "the greatest transfer from labor to capital" in the industry's history. The call is coming from inside the house this time, too -- both the projection and the quote come from a recent Wells Fargo report, whose lead author, Mike Mayo, told the Financial Times that he expects the industry to shed 10 percent of all of its jobs. This, Mayo said, will lay the groundwork for, and I quote, "a golden age of banking efficiency." The job cuts are slated to hit front offices, call centers, and branches the hardest, where 20-30 percent of those roles will be on the chopping block. They will be replaced by better ATMs, automated chatbots, and software instruments that take advantage of big data and cloud computing to make investment decisions...
It is not rare that a report forecasts the imminent erosion of an industry's jobs picture, but it is a little rare that a prominent industry analyst for one of said industry's largest companies is so brazen -- even giddy -- about trumpeting the imminent loss of those jobs.... It is the confidence and enthusiasm for this schema that is key, as that is what will transform the report into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the banks buy what Mayo and Wells Fargo are selling, then the report will contribute to an automated arms race between companies to cut staff and purchase enterprise financial software products that is already underway. This is how a lot of corporate automation unfolds.
As a result, we can expect to interact with even more customer service chatbots and automated call menus (whether they work well or not), to see more financial decisions turned over to algorithms, and a continued flood of software products to enter the banking industry. And Wells Fargo certainly won't be the only bank automating here: As the FT notes, Citigroup is planning to eliminate tens of thousands of call center workers, and Deutsche Bank expects to slash half its ~100,000-strong workforce.
Gizmodo argues the report's analysis is "filled with buzzwords and promises of harnessing big data and predictive algorithms that may or may not pan out to be as effective as currently thought."
Nonetheless, they write that the report's author "
has been making the cable TV rounds, touting this incoming golden age of high-tech ultra-streamlined, automated banking, an age in which fleshy humanoid obstructions are finally smoothed out of the picture, making way for a purer, faster flow of capital from customer to banking executive."