- More Than 11,000 Scientists From Around the World Declare a 'Climate Emergency'
- Uber Test Vehicles Involved In 37 Crashes Before Fatal Self-Driving Incident
- Walmart Reaches Settlement With Tesla Over Solar Panel Fires, Drops Lawsuit
- AT&T Users Whose 'Unlimited Data' Was Throttled Get $60 Million In Refunds
- An Energy Breakthrough Could Store Solar Power For Decades
- Facebook Says 100 Software Developers May Have Improperly Accessed User Data
- The Original Google Pixel Will Get One Final Update In December
- T-Mobile Says It Owns Exclusive Rights To the Color Magenta
- One Bitcoin 'Whale' May Have Fueled the Currency's Price Spike in 2017
- Samsung Shutting Down Custom CPU Division in the US
- Little-known Companies Are Amassing Your Data and Selling the Analysis To Clients
- Trump CTO Addresses AI, Facial Recognition, Immigration, Tech Infrastructure, and More
- Alcohol Breath Tests, a Linchpin of the Criminal Justice System, Are Often Unreliable
- Africa Should Look To India For Digital Inspiration
- A Glitch in Robinhood App is Allowing Users To Trade Stocks With Excess Borrowed Funds, Giving Them Access To What Amounts To Free Money
- Don't Reboot Your Computer After You've Been Infected With Ransomware, Experts Say
- German Government Expands Subsidies For Electric Cars
- Xiaomi Launches Mi Watch, Its $185 Apple Watch Clone
- Warehouses Are Tracking Workers' Every Muscle Movement
- Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren't Cinema. Let Me Explain.
- Digital Authoritarianism Is On the Rise Around the World, Report Warns
- Adobe and Twitter Are Designing a System For Permanently Attaching Artists' Names To Pictures
- Interstellar Space Even Weirder Than Expected, NASA Probe Reveals
More Than 11,000 Scientists From Around the World Declare a 'Climate Emergency'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
The world's people face "untold suffering due to the climate crisis" unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists. "We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency," it states. "To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems." There is no time to lose, the scientists say: "The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity."
The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of "vital sign" indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise. "A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events," said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney. Other "profoundly troubling signs from human activities" selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth.
The scientists did identify some positive signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment, and a falling rate of destruction in the Amazon. They also listed a series of actions people can do to help the "climate crisis":
- Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use
- Stabilize global population -- currently growing by 200,000 people a day -- using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls
- End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2
- Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste
- Shift economic goals away from GDP growth
Uber Test Vehicles Involved In 37 Crashes Before Fatal Self-Driving Incident
Uber's autonomous test vehicles were involved in 37 crashes in the 18 months before a
fatal March 2018 self-driving car accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday. Reuters reports:
The board said between September 2016 and March 2018, there were 37 crashes of Uber vehicles in autonomous mode at the time, including 33 that involved another vehicle striking test vehicles. In one incident, the test vehicle struck a bent bicycle lane bollard that partially occupied the test vehicle's lane of travel. In another incident, the operator took control to avoid a rapidly approaching oncoming vehicle that entered its lane of travel. The vehicle operator steered away and struck a parked car. The NTSB will hold a probable cause hearing on the crash Nov. 19. A spokeswoman for Uber's self-driving car division said the company has "adopted critical program improvements to further prioritize safety. We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSB's investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations."
Bloomberg is also reporting that Uber's self-driving test car
wasn't programmed to recognize and react to jawalkers. The report said "the system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians." [Elaine Herzberg, the 49-year-old pedestrian that was struck by one of Uber's self-driving cars] was crossing the road outside of a crosswalk.
Walmart Reaches Settlement With Tesla Over Solar Panel Fires, Drops Lawsuit
dropped a lawsuit that accused Tesla of breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer's stores
allegedly caught fire. TechCrunch reports:
A settlement has been reached and stipulation of dismissal has been filed with the court, a Walmart spokesperson said in an email. It is unclear what the settlement entails. TechCrunch has requested more information and will update the article if new details emerge. The two companies issued a joint release Tuesday announcing that the issues raised by Walmart have been resolved. "Safety is a top priority for each company and with the concerns being addressed, we both look forward to a safe re-energization of our sustainable energy systems," the emailed statement reads.
Walmart said it sued Tesla after years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla, according to court documents. Walmart asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed, as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer's rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.
AT&T Users Whose 'Unlimited Data' Was Throttled Get $60 Million In Refunds
After dragging out the case for five years, AT&T has finally
agreed to pay $60 million back to customers for throttling mobile data plans advertised as "unlimited." Ars Technica reports:
The FTC, which sued AT&T in 2014, announced the settlement today. The deal ends a long saga in which AT&T unsuccessfully tried to cripple the FTC's regulatory authority over telecoms. A court loss last year basically forced AT&T to settle the case. "AT&T promised unlimited data -- without qualification -- and failed to deliver on that promise," FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith said in the announcement. "While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised."
Under the settlement, AT&T did not admit or deny any of the allegations made by the FTC. AT&T's current and former customers who were affected by the throttling won't have to do anything to get their refunds, according to the FTC. The commission said: "The $60 million paid by AT&T as part of the settlement will be deposited into a fund that the company will use to provide partial refunds to both current and former customers who had originally signed up for unlimited plans prior to 2011 but were throttled by AT&T. Affected consumers will not be required to submit a claim for the refunds. Current AT&T customers will automatically receive a credit to their bills while former customers will receive checks for the refund amount they are owed." "AT&T must pay the $60 million within seven days after the settlement is approved by the US District Court for the Northern District of California," adds Ars. "AT&T would have to identify each eligible consumer within 30 days and give bill credits and refund checks to existing and former customers within 90 days. If there is any leftover money, it must be paid to the FTC, which would try to provide further relief to customers."
An Energy Breakthrough Could Store Solar Power For Decades
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat -- even decades after it was captured. The innovations include an energy-trapping molecule, a storage system that promises to outperform traditional batteries, at least when it comes to heating, and an energy-storing laminate coating that can be applied to windows and textiles. The breakthroughs, from a team led by researcher Kasper Moth-Poulsen, have garnered praise within the scientific community. Now comes the real test: whether Moth-Poulsen can get investors to back his technology and take it to market.
The system starts with a liquid molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When hit by sunlight, the molecule draws in the sun's energy and holds it until a catalyst triggers its release as heat. The researchers spent almost a decade and $2.5 million to create a specialized storage unit, which Moth-Poulsen, a 40-year-old professor in the department of chemistry and chemical engineering, says has the stability to outlast the 5-to 10-year life span of typical lithium-ion batteries on the market today. The most advanced potential commercial use the team developed is a transparent coating that can be applied to home windows, a moving vehicle, or even clothing. The coating collects solar energy and releases heat, reducing electricity required for heating spaces and curbing carbon emissions. Moth-Poulsen is coating an entire building on campus to showcase the technology. The ideal use in the early going, he says, is in relatively small spaces. "This could be heating of electrical vehicles or in houses." Moth-Poulsen believes there's potential for the system to produce electricity, but his team is focused for now on heating.
"Moth-Poulsen plans to spin off a company that would advance the technology and says he's in talks with venture capital investors," adds Bloomberg. "The storage unit could be commercially available in as little as six years and the coating in three, pending the $5 million of additional funding he estimates will be needed to bring the coating to market."
Facebook Says 100 Software Developers May Have Improperly Accessed User Data
Facebook on Tuesday said that as many as 100 software developers
may have improperly accessed user data, including the names and profile pictures of people in specific groups on the social network. CNBC reports:
The company recently discovered that some apps retained access to this type of user data despite making changes to its service in April 2018 to prevent this, Facebook said in a blog post. The company said it has removed this access and reached out to 100 developer partners who may have accessed the information. Facebook said that at least 11 developer partners accessed this type of data in the last 60 days.
"Although we've seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data they may have retained and we will conduct audits to confirm that it has been deleted," the company said in the blog post. The company did not say how many users were affected.
The Original Google Pixel Will Get One Final Update In December
Google has confirmed to The Verge that it
will release "one final software update" next month for the original Google Pixel and Pixel XL. From the report:
As of yesterday, it looked like the original Pixel was done getting updates, as Google released its November security update for most Pixel phones, but nothing for the Pixel or Pixel XL. Google tells The Verge that the Pixels won't get that November update, but it says December's "encapsulates a variety of updates" from the November and December updates that were issued for other Pixels.
It wasn't too surprising to see that Google's original Pixels didn't get yesterday's update. When Google announced the phones in 2016, the company said they would get two years of guaranteed Android version updates and three years of security updates, which is also reflected on Google's support page. That said, Google surprised Pixel owners earlier this year by letting them run Android 10, which is one more year of Android than Google originally promised, and now, they have one final update to look forward to as well.
T-Mobile Says It Owns Exclusive Rights To the Color Magenta
An anonymous reader quotes a report from AdAge:
Startup insurance provider Lemonade is trying to make the best of a sour situation after T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom claimed it owns the exclusive rights to the color magenta. New York-based Lemonade is a 3-year-old company that lives completely online and mostly focuses on homeowners and renter's insurance. The company uses a similar color to magenta -- it says it's "pink" -- in its marketing materials and its website. But Lemonade was told by German courts that it must cease using its color after launching its services in that country, which is also home to T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom. Although the ruling only applies in Germany, Lemonade says it fears the decision will set a precedent and expand to other jurisdictions such as the U.S. or Europe.
"If some brainiac at Deutsche Telekom had invented the color, their possessiveness would make sense," Daniel Schreiber, CEO and co-founder of Lemonade, said in a statement. "Absent that, the company's actions just smack of corporate bully tactics, where legions of lawyers attempt to hog natural resources -- in this case a primary color -- that rightfully belong to everyone." A spokesman for Deutsche Telekom confirmed that it "asked the insurance company Lemonade to stop using the color magenta in the German market," while adding that the "T" in "Deutsche Telekom" is registered to the brand. "Deutsche Telekom respects everyone's trademark rights but expects others to do the same," the spokesman said in an emailed statement to Ad Age. The report says Lemonade has complied with the ruling by removing its pink color from marketing materials in Germany. It's also trying to open up a larger discussion on the legal matter by using the hashtag "#FreeThePink," although it's gained little traction thus far.
Lemonade also filed a motion today with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, or EUIPO, to invalidate Deutsche Telekom's magenta trademark, and they released a color chart with which it asserts are the hues at issue.
One Bitcoin 'Whale' May Have Fueled the Currency's Price Spike in 2017
A single Bitcoin holder -- called a "whale" in cryptocurrency parlance -- likely
manipulated the market and helped fuel the big rise in Bitcoin's price in 2017, according to researchers. That year, Bitcoin's price jumped from under $1,000 in January to more than $19,000 in December. From a report:
Last year, University of Texas professor John Griffin and Amin Shams, an instructor at Ohio State University, published controversial research concluding that in 2017 just a few big players used the stablecoin Tether to prop up the price of Bitcoin following market downturns. Griffin and Shams now tell Bloomberg that just a single whale was likely behind the behavior. They say that one entity on Bitfinex, a popular cryptocurrency headquartered in Hong Kong, appears able to push the price of Bitcoin up when it falls below certain thresholds. Griffin and Shams studied Bitcoin and Tether transactions from March 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. They found that Bitcoin purchases on Bitfinex increased whenever the price dropped by certain increments. According to Bloomberg, which saw a prepublication version of a paper set to be published in the Journal of Finance, the authors conclude: "This pattern is only present in periods following the printing of Tether, driven by a single large account holder, and not observed by other exchanges."
Samsung Shutting Down Custom CPU Division in the US
Samsung's Exynos flagship processors have been a mainstay for years now, and they've mostly featured Samsung's Mongoose custom CPU cores. Unfortunately,
the Korean brand is now shutting down its custom CPU division. From a report:
Samsung filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) letter in Texas, according to The Statesman, notifying the state that 290 employees will be laid off as part of its CPU unit being shut down. The layoffs reportedly go into effect from December 31. The Korean manufacturer confirmed the news to Android Authority, while also explaining the reasoning behind the decision. "Based upon a thorough assessment of our System LSI [large scale integration - ed] business and the need to stay competitive in the global market, Samsung has decided to transition part of our U.S.-based R&D teams in Austin and San Jose," the company told us in a statement, adding that it remained committed to its US workforce.
Little-known Companies Are Amassing Your Data and Selling the Analysis To Clients
As consumers, we all have "secret scores": hidden ratings that determine how long each of us waits on hold when calling a business, whether we can return items at a store, and what type of service we receive. A
low score sends you to the back of the queue; high scores get you elite treatment. From a report:
Every so often, journalists lament these systems' inaccessibility. They're "largely invisible to the public," The New York Times wrote in 2012. "Most people have no inkling they even exist," The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal's Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. "Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted," he wrote, "yet there's no file with your name that it can produce upon request." As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I'd ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I'd opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.
Sift knew, for example, that I'd used my iPhone to order chicken tikka masala, vegetable samosas and garlic naan on a Saturday night in April three years ago. It knew I used my Apple laptop to sign into Coinbase in January 2017 to change my password. Sift knew about a nightmare Thanksgiving I had in California's wine country, as captured in my messages to the Airbnb host of a rental called "Cloud 9." This may sound somewhat comical, but the companies gathering and paying for this data find it extremely valuable for rooting out fraud and increasing the revenue they can collect from big spenders. Sift has this data because the company has been hired by Airbnb, Yelp, and Coinbase to identify stolen credit cards and help spot identity thieves and abusive behavior. Still, the fact that obscure companies are accumulating information about years of our online and offline behavior is unsettling, and at a minimum it creates the potential for abuse or discrimination -- particularly when those companies decide we don't stack up.
Trump CTO Addresses AI, Facial Recognition, Immigration, Tech Infrastructure, and More
Tekla Perry writes:
Michael Kratsios, the fourth U.S. Chief Technology Officer, explains administration policies at the Fall Conference of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence -- and takes some tough questions from the audience. An exchange between Kratsios and Stanford's Eileen Donahoe hit on current hot topics, starting with the tension between the U.S. and China:
Donahoe: "You talk a lot about unique U.S. ecosystem. In which aspect of AI is the U.S. dominant, and where is China challenging us in dominance?
Kratsios: "They are challenging us on machine vision. They have more data to work with, given that they have surveillance data."
Donahoe: "To what extent would you say the quantity of data collected and available will be a determining factor in AI dominance?"
Kratsios: "It makes a big difference in the short term. But we do research on how we get over these data humps. There is a future where you don't need as much data, a lot of federal grants are going to [research in] how you can train models using less data."
Donahoe turned the conversation to a different tension -- that between innovation and values.
Donahoe: "A lot of conversation yesterday was about the tension between innovation and values, and how do you hold those things together and lead in both realms."
Kratsios: "We recognized that the U.S. hadn't signed on to principles around developing AI. In May, we signed [the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Principles on Artificial Intelligence], coming together with other Western democracies to say that these are values that we hold dear.
[Meanwhile,] we have adversaries around the world using AI to surveil people, to suppress human rights. That is why American leadership is so critical: We want to come out with the next great product. And we want our values to underpin the use cases."
A member of the audience pushed further:
"Maintaining U.S. leadership in AI might have costs in terms of individuals and society. What costs should individuals and society bear to maintain leadership?" Kratsios: "I don't view the world that way. Our companies big and small do not hesitate to talk about the values that underpin their technology. [That is] markedly different from the way our adversaries think. The alternatives are so dire [that we] need to push efforts to bake the values that we hold dear into this technology."
Alcohol Breath Tests, a Linchpin of the Criminal Justice System, Are Often Unreliable
A million Americans a year are arrested for drunken driving, and most stops begin the same way: flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror, then a battery of tests that might include standing on one foot or reciting the alphabet. What matters most, though, happens next. From a report:
By the side of the road or at the police station, the drivers blow into a miniature science lab that estimates the concentration of alcohol in their blood. If the level is 0.08 or higher, they are all but certain to be convicted of a crime. But those tests -- a bedrock of the criminal justice system -- are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place. Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years. The machines are sensitive scientific instruments, and in many cases they haven't been properly calibrated, yielding results that were at times 40 percent too high. Maintaining machines is up to police departments that sometimes have shoddy standards and lack expertise. In some cities, lab officials have used stale or home-brewed chemical solutions that warped results. In Massachusetts, officers used a machine with rats nesting inside.
Africa Should Look To India For Digital Inspiration
Aubrey Hruby, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Africa Center,
writing at Financial Times:
Africa's digital economy is still small in size compared with those of its global peers. But it has seen exponential growth over the past decade and now has the potential to redefine the continent's economies. [...] African governments and development finance institutions (DFIs) should look to India as a model and focus on critical infrastructure needs. This includes reducing the cost of data and increasing access to fixed line broadband, spurring corporate ventures in the tech ecosystem, and providing Africans with the skills they need to take part in this digital transformation. The lack of adequate access to the internet in most African countries boils down to the fact that mobile data is too expensive and fixed line broadband is too slow and not widely available. It costs Africans on average $7.04 or nearly 9 per cent of their monthly income for just 1GB of mobile data (enough to watch about three hours of low quality video on Netflix). That compares with just 3.5 per cent of monthly income in Latin American and 1.5 per cent in Asia.
There has been progress in some countries. In Nigeria, mobile data prices continue to drop following a decision by the Communications Commission in October 2015 to remove a floor on data prices, and increased competition among submarine cable companies. In India, competition among carriers played a critical role in lowering mobile data costs, which are now the cheapest in the world. Reliance Jo, a young telecom operator, is highly responsible for the shift, investing $35bn in a 4G network and offering free unlimited data trials to attract new customers. While some have criticised the company's practices and data prices may increase, the impact of private sector investment and competition has benefited average Indians. African governments should further liberalise their telecoms sectors and encourage competition to promote private investment in infrastructure that can be shared by providers. Regulators should track the cost of data as a measure of the healthiness of the industry.
A Glitch in Robinhood App is Allowing Users To Trade Stocks With Excess Borrowed Funds, Giving Them Access To What Amounts To Free Money
Dubbed the "infinite money cheat code" by users of Reddit's WallStreetBets forum,
the bug is being exploited, according to users on the forum. One trader bragged about a $1 million position funded by a $4,000 deposit. From a report:
Robinhood is "aware of the isolated situations and communicating directly with customers," spokesperson Lavinia Chirico said in an email response to questions. The Menlo Park, California-based money-management software designer touts trading "free from commission fees." Robinhood Gold customers are invited to "supercharge" their investing by paying $5 a month to trade on margin, or money borrowed from the company. Here's how the trade works. Users of Robinhood Gold are selling covered calls using money borrowed from Robinhood. Nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when Robinhood incorrectly adds the value of those calls to the user's own capital. And that means that the more money a user borrows, the more money Robinhood will lend them for future trading. One trader managed to turn his $2,000 deposit into $50,000 worth of purchasing power, which he used to buy Apple puts.
Don't Reboot Your Computer After You've Been Infected With Ransomware, Experts Say
don't recommend that users reboot their computers after suffering a ransomware infection, as this could help the malware in certain circumstances. From a report:
Instead, experts recommend that victims power down the computer, disconnect it from their network, and reach out to a professional IT support firm. Experts are recommending against PC reboots because a recent survey of 1,180 US adults who fell victim to ransomware in the past years has shown that almost 30% of victims chose to reboot their computers as a way to deal with the infection. But while rebooting in safe mode is a good way of removing older screenlocker types of ransomware, it is not recommended when dealing with modern ransomware versions that encrypt files.
"Generally, the [ransomware] executable that actually encrypts your data is designed to crawl through attached, mapped and mounted drives to a given machine. Sometimes it trips, or is blocked by a permission issue and will stop encrypting," Bill Siegel, CEO & Co-Founder of Coveware, a company that provides ransomware data recovery services told ZDNet in an email this week. "If you reboot the machine, it will start back up and try to finish the job," Siegel said.
German Government Expands Subsidies For Electric Cars
The German government and car industry have
agreed to increase joint subsidies for the purchase of electric cars on the same day automobile giant Volkswagen began production of a new all-electric vehicle. From a report:
The agreement between the government and the automobile industry was reached following a Monday evening "car summit" aimed at fostering the mass production of cleaner transportation. Under the agreement, consumer subsidies for electric cars costing less than $44,500 will increase to about $6,700 from from $4,400. Purchasers of plug-in hybrids in this price range would be given a subsidy of $5,000, up from $3,320. For electric cars over $44,500, there will be an increase in the subsidy by 25%. Industry and government will evenly split the cost of the subsidies. The subsidies will also be extended from the end of 2020 to the end of 2025. In addition to the subsidy issue, the two sides discussed ways to expand infrastructure for electric cars.
Xiaomi Launches Mi Watch, Its $185 Apple Watch Clone
Xiaomi, which competes with Apple for the top position in the wearable market, today made the competition a little more interesting. The Chinese electronics giant has
launched its first smartwatch called the Mi Watch that looks strikingly similar to the Apple Watch in its home market. From a report:
The Mi Watch, like the Apple Watch, has a square body with a crown and a button. It sports a 1.78-inch AMOLED display (326 ppi) that offers the always-on capability and runs MIUI for Watch, the company's homegrown wearable operating system based on Google's Wear OS. Inside the metal housing -- aluminum alloy with a matte finish -- are microphones on two sides for recording audio and taking calls, and a loudspeaker on the left to listen to music or incoming calls. The Mi Watch, which comes in one size -- 44mm -- has a ceramic back, which is where the charging pins and a heart rate sensor are also placed. The Mi Watch is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 3100 4G chipset with four Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.2GHz, coupled with 1GB of RAM and 8GB storage. The company says its first smartwatch supports cellular connectivity (through an eSIM), Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC for payments. The Mi Watch should last for 36 hours on a single charge on cellular mode, the company claimed. The Mi Watch is priced at CNY 1,299 ($185) and will go on sale in the country next week.
Warehouses Are Tracking Workers' Every Muscle Movement
Unions and researchers who study workplace surveillance worry that employers who begin gathering data on workers for whatever reason
will be unable to resist using it against them. From a report:
Productivity tracking is already widespread throughout the industry -- and workers can be fired or punished if their performance dips. The opacity of data-analysis tools can make it difficult for workers to fully understand how much employers can see. StrongArm, a company that makes such devices, says it has about 30 clients, including Heineken NV and Toyota Motor, and is also establishing relationships with insurance companies interested in ways to reduce workers compensation costs. Walmart says it's testing StrongArm in eight distribution centers and adds it has no plans to use them in stores.
StrongArm says about 15,000 workers have worn its devices, and most of them use it daily. The Brooklyn, New York-based startup expects to have 35,000 daily active users by the end of next year. StrongArm acknowledges that concerns about workplace surveillance surround its work, but the company says its products are designed solely to improve safety and cites a recent study it commissioned that found users wearing them suffered 20% to 50% fewer injuries. It says it's not tracking individual productivity and that its products aren't used to punish individual workers or to contest workers compensation claims. But ergonomic tracking isn't happening in isolation.
Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren't Cinema. Let Me Explain.
writing at The New York Times:
[...] In a way, certain Hitchcock films were also like theme parks. I'm thinking of "Strangers on a Train," in which the climax takes place on a merry-go-round at a real amusement park, and "Psycho," which I saw at a midnight show on its opening day, an experience I will never forget. People went to be surprised and thrilled, and they weren't disappointed. Sixty or 70 years later, we're still watching those pictures and marveling at them. But is it the thrills and the shocks that we keep going back to? I don't think so. The set pieces in "North by Northwest" are stunning, but they would be nothing more than a succession of dynamic and elegant compositions and cuts without the painful emotions at the center of the story or the absolute lostness of Cary Grant's character. The climax of "Strangers on a Train" is a feat, but it's the interplay between the two principal characters and Robert Walker's profoundly unsettling performance that resonate now.
Some say that Hitchcock's pictures had a sameness to them, and perhaps that's true -- Hitchcock himself wondered about it. But the sameness of today's franchise pictures is something else again. Many of the elements that define cinema as I know it are there in Marvel pictures. What's not there is revelation, mystery or genuine emotional danger. Nothing is at risk. The pictures are made to satisfy a specific set of demands, and they are designed as variations on a finite number of themes. They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can't really be any other way. That's the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption.
[...] In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all. [...] Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary -- a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There's worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there's cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that's becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other. For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness.
Digital Authoritarianism Is On the Rise Around the World, Report Warns
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET:
Internet freedom declined for a ninth consecutive year as governments around the world used social media to monitor citizens and manipulate elections, according to a new study that warned of creeping "digital authoritarianism." Thirty-three of the 65 countries surveyed were found to have experienced worsening internet freedom since June 2018, compared with 16 that were found to have improving conditions. The study, conducted by Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights advocacy, said domestic disinformation had grown as a threat to democracy with populist leaders and their online supporters using the internet to distort political discussions. The organization found domestic interference in 26 of the 30 countries that held elections over the past year.
The report said internet freedom in the U.S. had declined, in large part because law enforcement and immigration agencies used social media to monitor people, though the country was still deemed "free." China was dubbed the "worst abuser of internet freedom" for a fourth consecutive year as the government tightened information controls because of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and protests in Hong Kong. Noting that the biggest platforms were American, Freedom House called on the U.S. to lead in the effort to fix social media transparency and accountability. "This is the only way to stop the internet from becoming a Trojan horse for tyranny and oppression," wrote Adrian Shahbaz, one of the authors of the report.
Adobe and Twitter Are Designing a System For Permanently Attaching Artists' Names To Pictures
Adobe, Twitter, and The New York Times Company have
announced a new system for adding attribution to photos and other content. A tool
will record who created a piece of content and whether it's been modified by someone else, then let other people and platforms check that data. The Verge reports:
The overall project is called the Content Authenticity Initiative, and its participants will hold a summit on the system in the next few months. Based on what Adobe has announced, the attribution tool is a piece of metadata that can be attached to a file. Adobe doesn't describe precisely how it will keep the tag secure or prevent someone from copying the content in a way that strips it out. Adobe chief product officer Scott Belsky said that some technical details will be worked out at the summit. Adobe described this system as a way to verify "authenticity" online. And The New York Times Company's research and development head, Marc Lavallee, suggested it could fight misinformation by helping people discern "trusted news" on digital media platforms.
But the most obvious uses include identifying a photo's source and making sure artists get credit for their work. Many photos and webcomics circulate anonymously on platforms like Twitter, and an attribution tag would help trace those images back to their creator. This depends entirely on how well the CAI system works, however. Tags wouldn't be very useful if they could be easily altered or removed, but if the system preserves security by tightly controlling how people can interact with the image, it could have the same downsides as other digital rights management or DRM systems.
Interstellar Space Even Weirder Than Expected, NASA Probe Reveals
paralumina01 shares a report from National Geographic:
In the blackness of space billions of miles from home, NASA's Voyager 2 marked a milestone of exploration, becoming just the second spacecraft ever to enter interstellar space in November 2018. Now, a day before the anniversary of that celestial exit, scientists have revealed what Voyager 2 saw as it crossed the threshold -- and it's giving humans new insight into some of the big mysteries of our solar system. The findings, spread across five studies published today in Nature Astronomy, mark the first time that a spacecraft has directly sampled the electrically charged hazes, or plasmas, that fill both interstellar space and the solar system's farthest outskirts. It's another first for the spacecraft, which was launched in 1977 and performed the first -- and only -- flybys of the ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune.
For the first time, researchers could see that as an object gets within 140 million miles of the heliopause, the plasma surrounding it slows, heats up, and gets more dense. And on the other side of the boundary, the interstellar medium is at least 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than expected. In addition, Voyager 2 confirmed that the heliopause is one leaky border -- and the leaks go both ways. Before Voyager 1 passed through the heliopause, it zoomed through tendrils of interstellar particles that had punched into the heliopause like tree roots through rock. Voyager 2, however, saw a trickle of low-energy particles that extended more than a hundred million miles beyond the heliopause. Another mystery appeared as Voyager 1 came within 800 million miles of the heliopause, where it entered a limbo-like area in which the outbound solar wind slowed to a crawl. Before it crossed the heliopause, Voyager 2 saw the solar wind form an altogether different kind of layer that, oddly, was nearly the same width as the stagnant one seen by Voyager 1.