According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Uber drivers have been complaining that the gap between the fare a rider pays and what the driver receives is getting wider. After months of unsatisfying answers, Uber is providing an explanation: It's charging some passengers more because it needs the extra cash. The company detailed for the first time in an interview with Bloomberg a new pricing system that's been in testing for months in certain cities. On Friday, Uber acknowledged to drivers the discrepancy between their compensation and what riders pay. The new fare system is called "route-based pricing," and it charges customers based on what it predicts they're willing to pay. It's a break from the past, when Uber calculated fares using a combination of mileage, time and multipliers based on geographic demand. Daniel Graf, Uber's head of product, said the company applies machine-learning techniques to estimate how much groups of customers are willing to shell out for a ride. Uber calculates riders' propensity for paying a higher price for a particular route at a certain time of day. For instance, someone traveling from a wealthy neighborhood to another tony spot might be asked to pay more than another person heading to a poorer part of town, even if demand, traffic and distance are the same.
Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."
New submitter lifeisshort writes: "Instead of sitting in a tower overlooking the runway, controllers will be 80 miles away, watching live footage from high-definition cameras," reports BBC. "The new system, due to be completed in 2018, will be tested for a year before becoming fully operational in 2019. The technology has been developed by Saab, the Swedish defense and security company, and will be introduced as part of a 350 million EUR development program to upgrade London City Airport. It will also include an extended terminal building, enabling it to serve two million more passengers a year by 2025.The remote digital system will provide controllers with a 360-degree view of the airfield via 14 high-definition cameras and two cameras which are able to pan, tilt and zoom. The cameras will send a live feed via fibre cables to a new operations room built at the Hampshire base of Nats, Britain's air traffic control provider." As far as reliability is concerned, "the system will use three different cables, taking different routes between the airport and the control centre, to ensure there is a back up if one of those cables fails." In spite of recent large scale hacks, what could possibly go wrong? And the next obvious step is giant Bangalore ATC outsourcing company...
rmdingler writes: "Sweden is dropping its investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape allegations, according to a prosecution statement released Friday," reports CNN. "Assange, who has always denied wrongdoing, has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, in an effort to avoid a Swedish arrest warrant." Despite Friday's announcement, he's unlikely to walk out of the embassy imminently. There is no apparent change in the risk of being detained in the west, particularly in the U.S., but it's definitely a win for Assange. Joshua.Niland adds: The pressure on Julian Assange may have lifted ever so slightly with Swedish prosecutors dropping their investigation into the allegations of rape. A brief statement ahead of a press conference by the prosecutor later on Friday said: "Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange." This will not likely deter the United States from pursuing their own charges against him for publishing tens of thousands of military documents leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. After describing the development as "an important victory," Assange said, "[...] it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight. Seven years without charge while my children grow up without me. That is not something I can forgive. It is not something I can forget."
Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: According to data released today by Kaspersky Lab, roughly 98 percent of the computers affected by the ransomware were running some version of Windows 7, with less than one in a thousand running Windows XP. 2008 R2 Server clients were also hit hard, making up just over 1 percent of infections. Windows 7 is still by far the most common version of Windows, running on roughly four times as many computers as Windows 10 worldwide. Since more recent versions of Windows aren't vulnerable to WannaCry, it makes sense that most of the infections would hit computers running 7. Still, the stark disparity emphasizes how small of a role Windows XP seems to have played in spreading the infection, despite early concerns about the outdated operating system. The new figures also bear on the debate over Microsoft's patching practices, which generated significant criticism in the wake of the attack. Microsoft had released a public patch for Windows 7 months before the attack, but the patch for Windows XP was only released as an emergency measure after the worst of the damage had been done. The patch was available earlier to paying Custom Support customers, but most XP users were left vulnerable, each unpatched computer a potential vector to spread the ransomware further. Still, Kaspersky's figures suggest that unpatched XP devices played a relatively small role in the spread of the ransomware.
An anonymous reader shares a report: Investigators from Immigration and Custom Enforcement as well as the FBI have been using controversial cell-spoofing devices to secretly track down undocumented immigrants, court records show. According to a report the Detroit News, which obtained an unsealed federal search warrant affidavit, FBI and ICE agents in Michigan used a Stingray device to ensnare a restaurant worker from El Salvador in March. The devices, which were originally intended for counter-terrorism use, have come under fire because there are currently no clear rules governing when law enforcement is allowed to deploy them. Even in cases where authorities have a clear target in mind, they run the risk of exposing personal information of other innocent people in range. Until 2015, Federal investigators were free to deploy the devices without a search warrant. At that point the Justice Department laid out a policy requiring investigators get approval to use the devices first.
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.
Four years ago professor Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, gave the world a sombre warning of the growing threat posed by bacteria evolving resistance to life-saving antibiotics. If this were left unaddressed, she argued, it would lead to the erosion of modern medicine as we know it. Doctors and scientists had long warned of the problem, but few outside medicine were taking real heed. Consumption of antibiotics rose 36% between 2000 and 2010, writes Ed Whiting, director of policy and chief of staff at Wellcome, a biomedical research charity based in London. He notes that much of the progress in the field is yet to be made: We urgently need new antibiotics. No new classes of antibiotics have been approved since the early 1980s. Between 1940 and 1962 about 20 classes were produced, but industry backing has decreased significantly since that golden age. The pipeline of new treatments is all but dry, the void fast exploited by resistant bacteria. A concerning number are now resistant to drugs reserved as the last line of defence, and the most vulnerable are in greatest danger -- the young, old and critically ill. Blood infections caused by drug-resistant microbes kill more than 200,000 newborn babies each year. The reason for the lack of interest from the pharmaceutical industry is simple: the economics don't add up. Developing new antibiotics is scientifically challenging, time-consuming and costly. The medicines we so badly need cannot be allowed to be sold in volume; they must be conserved for real need, with fair access guaranteed. This limits their retail value. Many early-stage projects will fail, making them a risky bet. Even those that are successful will take at least a decade to produce medicines that are safe for human use.
Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.
For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.
Kyle Stock and David Ingold, writing for Bloomberg: Sometime in the next couple of months, the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and its 808 horsepower will show up in dealership windows like some kind of tiny, red, tire-melting factory. Yes, 808 horsepower. There's no typo. Last year, U.S. drivers on the hunt for more than 600 horsepower had 18 models to choose from, including a Cadillac sedan that looks more swanky than angry. Meanwhile, even boring commuter sedans are posting power specifications that would have been unheard of during the Ford Administration. The horses in the auto industry are running free. We crunched four decades of data from the Environmental Protection Agency's emission tests and arrived at a simple conclusion: All of the cars these days are fast and furious -- even the trucks. If a 1976 driver were to somehow get his hands on a car from 2017, he'd be at grave risk of whiplash. Since those days, horsepower in the U.S. has almost doubled, with the median model climbing from 145 to 283 stallions. Not surprisingly, the entire U.S. fleet grew more game for a drag-race: The median time it took for a vehicle to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour was halved, from almost 14 seconds to seven.
At its developer conference I/O 2017 this week, Google also shared an update on its fast-loading Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The company says that over 900,000 domains on the web have enabled AMP, and over two billion pages now load faster because of it. Taking things forward, Google says AMP access from Google Search is now twice as fast. From a report: Google first unveiled the open source AMP Project in October 2015. Since then, the company has been working hard to add new features and push AMP across not just its own products, but the larger web. Google Search only launched AMP support out of developer preview in September 2016. Eight months later, Google has already cut the time it takes to render content in half. The company explains that this is possible due to several key optimizations made to the Google AMP Cache. These include server-side rendering of AMP components and reducing bandwidth usage from images by 50 percent without affecting the perceived quality. Also helpful was the Brotli compression algorithm, which made it possible to reduce document size by an additional 10 percent in supported browsers (even Edge uses it). Google open-sourced Brotli in September 2015 and considers it a successor to the Zopfli algorithm.
Coastal flooding is about to get dramatically more frequent around the world as sea levels rise from global warming, researchers said Thursday. Phys.Org reports, "A 10-to-20 centimeter (four-to-eight inch) jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 -- a conservative forecast -- would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reports in the journal Scientific Reports." From the report: Major cities along the North American seaboard such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found. But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa. Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected. To make up for the lack of observational data, Vitousek and his colleagues used computer modeling and a statistical method called extreme value theory. "We asked the question: with waves factored in, how much sea level rise will it take to double the frequency of flooding?" Sea levels are currently rising by three to four millimeters (0.10 to 0.15 inches) a year, but the pace has picked up by about 30 percent over the last decade. It could accelerate even more as continent-sized ice blocs near the poles continue to shed mass, especially in Antarctica, which Vitousek described as the sea level "wild card." If oceans go up 25 centimeters by mid-century, "flood levels that occur every 50 years in the tropics would be happening every year or more," he said.
lbalbalba writes: Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers, is demanding $15 million in damages from Sci-Hub and LibGen, who make paywalled scientific research papers freely available to the public [without permission]. A good chunk of these papers are copyrighted, many by Elsevier. Elsevier has requested a default judgment of $15 million against the defendants for their "truly egregious conduct" and "staggering" infringement. Sci-Hub's efforts are backed by many prominent scholars, who argue that tax-funded research should be accessible to everyone. Others counter that the site doesn't necessarily help the "open access" movement move forward. Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan defends her position and believes that what she does is helping millions of less privileged researchers to do their work properly by providing free access to research results.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Starting with the release of Firefox 55, the Adobe Flash plugin for Firefox will be set to "Ask to Activate" by default for all users. This move was announced in August 2016, as part of Mozilla's plan to move away from plugins built around the NPAPI technology. Flash is currently the only NPAPI plugin still supported in Firefox, and moving its default setting from "Always Activate" to "Ask to Activate" is just another step towards the final step of stop supporting Flash altogether. This new Flash default setting is already live in Firefox's Nightly Edition and will move through the Alpha and Beta versions as Firefox nears its v55 Stable release. By moving Flash to a click-to-play setting, Firefox will indirectly start to favor HTML5 content over Flash for all multimedia content. Other browsers like Google Chrome, Brave, or Opera already run Flash on a click-to-play setting, or disabled by default. Firefox is scheduled to be released on August 8, 2017.
At its I/O 2017 conference, Google announced that it's launching a jobs search engine in the U.S. that will focus on a wide variety of jobs -- from entry-level and service industry positions to high-end professional jobs. The service will also use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand how jobs are classified and related, among other things. TechCrunch reports: In a few weeks, Google will begin to recognize when U.S. users are typing job search queries into Google Search, and will then highlight jobs that match the query. However, Google is not necessarily taking on traditional job search service providers with this launch -- instead, it's partnering with them. The company said that Google for Jobs will initially partner with LinkedIn, Facebook, Careerbuilder Monster, Glassdoor, and other services. The search engine will have a number of tools that will help you find the right jobs for you. For example, you'll be able to filter jobs by location, title, category or type, date posted or whether it's full or part-time, among other things. The service will also show applicants things like commute time, to help them figure out if the job is too far away to consider. What makes the service interesting is that it's leveraging Google's machine learning smarts to understand how job titles are related and cluster them together.
Researchers in Antarctica have discovered rapidly growing banks of mosses on the ice continent's northern peninsula, providing striking evidence of climate change in the coldest and most remote parts of the planet. Amid the warming of the last 50 years, the scientists found two different species of mosses undergoing the equivalent of growth spurts, with mosses that once grew less than a millimeter per year now growing over 3 millimeters per year on average, (the link could be paywalled; alternative source below) the Washington Post reported on Thursday. From a report: "Antarctica is not going to become entirely green, but it will become more green than it currently is," said Matt Amesbury, co-author of the research from the University of Exeter. "This is linking into other processes that are happening on the Antarctic Peninsula at the moment, particularly things like glacier retreat which are freeing up new areas of ice-free land -- and the mosses particularly are very effective colonisers of those new areas," he added. In the second half of the 20th century, the Antarctic Peninsula experienced rapid temperature increases, warming by about half a degree per decade. Plant life on Antarctica is scarce, existing on only 0.3% of the continent, but moss, well preserved in chilly sediments, offers scientists a way of exploring how plants have responded to such changes.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Owners of some Windows XP computers infected by the WCry ransomware may be able to decrypt their data without making the $300 to $600 payment demand, a researcher said Thursday. Adrien Guinet, a researcher with France-based Quarkslab, has released software that he said allowed him to recover the secret decryption key required to restore an infected XP computer in his lab. The software has not yet been tested to see if it works reliably on a large variety of XP computers, and even when it does work, there are limitations. The recovery technique is also of limited value because Windows XP computers weren't affected by last week's major outbreak of WCry. Still, it may be helpful to XP users hit in other campaigns. "This software has only been tested and known to work under Windows XP," he wrote in a readme note accompanying his app, which he calls Wannakey. "In order to work, your computer must not have been rebooted after being infected. Please also note that you need some luck for this to work (see below), and so it might not work in every case!"
An anonymous reader writes: A new report from Spiceworks, entitled A Portrait of IT Workers, says 41 per cent of IT pros in the UK consider themselves "accidental" -- and that they ended up in their career via a "non-traditional" route. The report, which covers areas including the career plans and education levels of IT professionals, found that a third (33 per cent) of the UK's IT job force don't have a college or a university degree. [...] When it comes to working, British IT bods work 41 hours a week, "far above" the 31 hour average across all industries. Almost all (89 per cent) see themselves as "somewhat stressed" at work, with a quarter (26 per cent) reported being extremely stressed.
Workers at Tesla's California car factory have been passing out and requiring rides in ambulances, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. The conditions at the factory suggest the lengths the company is going to in order to meet its extremely ambitious production goals, and the tension employees feel between their pride in being part of the company and the stress and exhaustion the company's goals are causing them, according to the report. From the article: Ambulances have been called more than 100 times since 2014 for workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains, according to incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues. In a phone interview about the conditions at the factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, the Tesla CEO conceded his workers had been "having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs," but said he cared deeply about their health and wellbeing. His company says its factory safety record has significantly improved over the last year. Musk also said that Tesla should not be compared to major US carmakers and that its market capitalization, now more than $50bn, is unwarranted. "I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve," he said, pointing out his company produces just 1% of GM's total output. "We're a money-losing company," Musk added. "This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It's just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?" The article also sheds light on the kind of manager Musk is. In early 2016, Musk slept on the factory floor in a sleeping bag "to make it the most painful thing possible. I knew people were having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs. I wanted to work harder than they did, to put even more hours in," he was quoted as saying. "Because that's what I think a manager should do."
Cisco said this week that it will cut an additional 1,100 employees as part of an expanded restructuring plan. From a report: The cuts come on top of the 5,500 job cuts, or 7 percent of its workforce, announced in August 2016, the enterprise technology company said. Cisco said it plans to recognize hundreds of millions of pretax charges related to the restructuring, which will end around the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year.
Facebook is taking further steps to decrease the reach and prevalence of clickbait headlines on its social network. Facebook says it will target clickbait on an individual post level and not just by analyzing the bulk posts of a page. It will also look at two distinct signals: whether a headline "withholds information or if it exaggerates information separately." From a report: This should "more precisely" downplay the number of misleading stories cluttering your timeline, the social network says. Moreover, it's promising a more exacting approach when it looks at individual headlines. Until now, Facebook examined clickbait titles in a holistic way: it looked for both the exaggerated language ("you have to see this!") and deliberate attempts to withhold info ("eat this every day").
More than 35,000 AT&T workers plan to go on strike on Friday if they don't reach an agreement with the company for new contracts. From a report: The Communications Workers of America union said about 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wireline telephone and Internet business in Nevada and California who have been working without a contract for over a year would walk off the job on Friday afternoon for a three day strike if no deal is reached. On Tuesday, the union made a similar threat for 21,000 workers in AT&T's wireless business spread across 36 states and Washington, D.C. Workers are fed up with delays in the negotiations, Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1, said. "Now, AT&T is facing the possibility of closed stores for the first time ever," Trainor said. "Our demands are clear and have been for months: fair contract or strike. It's now in AT&T's hands to stand with workers or at 3pm Eastern Time on Friday workers will be off the job and onto picket lines across the country."
As we feared yesterday, the rollback of net neutrality rules officially began today. The FCC voted along party lines today to formally consider Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap the legal foundation for the rules and to ask the public for comments on the future of prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. ArsTechnica adds: The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 today to start the process of eliminating net neutrality rules and the classification of home and mobile Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes eliminating the Title II classification and seeks comment on what, if anything, should replace the current net neutrality rules. But Chairman Ajit Pai is making no promises about reinstating the two-year-old net neutrality rules that forbid ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful Internet content, or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. Pai's proposal argues that throttling websites and applications might somehow help Internet users.
An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: Humans have accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. This video explainer, released by NASA on Wednesday, visualizes how radio waves wafting into space interact with the particles surrounding Earth, and influence their motion. Satellites in certain high-altitude orbits, such as NASA's particle-watching Van Allen Probes, have observed these VLF ripples creating an 'impenetrable boundary,' a phrase coined by study co-author Dan Baker, director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. This doesn't mean impenetrable to spacecraft or asteroids, per se, but rather to potentially harmful particle showers created by turbulent space weather.
On Thursday, the European Union's powerful antitrust chief fined Facebook 110 million euros, or about $122 million, for giving misleading statements during the company's $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. From a report: During the review process, the EC discussed the possibility of Facebook matching its users' accounts with WhatsApp users' accounts, to which Facebook replied that it "would be unable to establish reliable automated matching" between the two. Since then, though, the company has found a way, and it seems pretty straightforward. Unhappy with this, the EC today revealed a "proportionate and deterrent fine." How it acts as a deterrent, however, is unclear. Facebook was at risk of a fine totalling 1 percent of its turnover, which would have been closer to 200 million euros, but the figure was lower due to its compliance during the investigation. "The commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility," the EC said.
An anonymous reader writes: US and EU officials have decided against a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe. But after a four-hour meeting in Brussels to discuss the threats to aviation security, officials said other measures were still being considered. US officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronics on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries. The measure was introduced over fears a bomb could be concealed in a device. The meeting was requested by EU officials after recent reports suggested US authorities had new information regarding laptop parts being turned into explosives.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Mueller, a former prosecutor who served a 12-year term at the helm of the bureau, has accepted the position, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for the matter," Rosenstein said in a statement. "My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." UPDATE: President Trump has released a statement: "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know -- there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."
Entomologists have been assessing diversity and abundance across western Germany and have found that between 1989 and 2013 the biomass of invertebrates caught had fallen by nearly 80 percent. From an article on Science magazine: Scientists have tracked alarming declines in domesticated honey bees, monarch butterflies, and lightning bugs. But few have paid attention to the moths, hover flies, beetles, and countless other insects that buzz and flitter through the warm months. "We have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species," which most insects are, says Joe Nocera, an ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. [...] A new set of long-term data is coming to light, this time from a dedicated group of mostly amateur entomologists who have tracked insect abundance at more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the 1980s. Over that time the group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low. Through more direct comparisons, the group -- which had preserved thousands of samples over 3 decades -- found dramatic declines across more than a dozen other sites. Such losses reverberate up the food chain. "If you're an insect-eating bird living in that area, four-fifths of your food is gone in the last quarter-century, which is staggering," says Dave Goulson, an ecologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, who is working with the Krefeld group to analyze and publish some of the data. "One almost hopes that it's not representative -- that it's some strange artifact."
Reader AnalogDiehard writes: Writer Alex Kaseburg has filed a lawsuit against TBS and Time Warner alleging that jokes recited on the Conan O'Brien show were stolen from his blog shortly after they were published. The case gets heard in August and could create new protections in a legal forum in which there is little precedent or clear definition in what defines a joke as "original" and subject to legal protection, especially in an industry where theft of humor occurs on a regular basis. But the outcome of any judicial decision opens a big can of worms and raises serious questions: Will YouTube videos get shut down from DMCA notices citing copyrighted jokes? Will compliance staff have to be retained to ensure that their magazine or news article, TV show, movie, or broadway act is not infringing on copyrighted jokes? Will copyrights on jokes get near-perpetual protection like the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act? Will people be able to recite limericks without fear of infringing? Will tyrannical politicians copyright critical jokes to oppress freedom of speech? Will legal cases be filed arguing that a comedian's joke(s) bears too much similarity to a copyrighted joke recited decades ago? Will girl scouts be free to tell copyright jokes around the campfire?
An anonymous reader writes: A new report has revealed that VPN usage in the UK has increased with almost one in six people now using a VPN alongside their internet connection. According to YouGov's 'Incognito Individual' report, 16 percent of British adults have used either a VPN or proxy server. This up-tick in users trying a VPN was often the direct result of trying access region-locked content or websites. Of those surveyed, 48 percent of respondents admitted to using a VPN or a proxy to access content they would otherwise be unable to view. VPNs are often used by security conscious individuals who are concerned with their privacy and not having their browsing data logged. YouGov's report found that 44 percent of VPN users utilised such a service for better security and that 37 percent did so for improved privacy.
An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: Chinese state media on Wednesday criticized the United States for hindering efforts to stop global cyber threats in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide in recent days. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) should shoulder some blame for the attack, which targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft systems and has infected some 30,000 Chinese organisations as of Saturday, the China Daily said. "Concerted efforts to tackle cyber crimes have been hindered by the actions of the United States," it said, adding that Washington had "no credible evidence" to support bans on Chinese tech firms in the United States following the attack. The malware attack, which began on Friday and has been linked by some researchers to previous hits by a North Korean-run hacking operation, leveraged a tool built by the NSA that leaked online in April, Microsoft says.
Twelve readers share a Reuters report: Many countries are pinning their hopes on China and India to lead efforts to slow climate change amid a growing sense of resignation that U.S. President Donald Trump will either withdraw from a global pact or stay and play a minimal role. Delegates at the May 8-18 negotiations in Bonn on a detailed "rule book" for the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first U.N. talks since Trump took office, say there is less foreboding than when Washington last broke with global climate efforts in 2001. Trump doubts global warming has a human cause and says he will decide on a campaign threat to "cancel" the Paris Agreement, the first to bind all nations to set goals to curb emissions, after a group of Seven summit in Italy on May 26-27. "The time when one big player could affect the whole game is past," said Ronald Jumeau, climate ambassador for the Seychelles. "There would be a void without the U.S., but China and India seem to be increasing their effort." Big emitters led by China, the European Union and India have reaffirmed their commitment to Paris, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century by shifting to clean energies. By contrast, Trump wants to favor U.S. coal.
Qualcomm on Wednesday sued the manufacturers that make iPhones for Apple for failing to pay royalties on the chip maker's technology, widening its legal battle with the world's most valuable company. Qualcomm's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a federal district court in San Diego, accuses Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron of breaching longstanding patent-licensing agreements with Qualcomm by halting royalty payments on Qualcomm technology used in iPhones and iPads. From a report: Apple sued Qualcomm in January, accusing it of overcharging for chips and refusing to pay some $1 billion in promised rebates. Qualcomm said in the complaint that Apple is trying to force the company to agree to a "unreasonable demand for a below-market direct license." Qualcomm said last month that Apple had decided to withhold royalty payments to its contract manufacturers that are owed to the chipmaker, for sales made in the first quarter of 2017, until the dispute is resolved in court. "While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm's inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple's instructions not to pay," Qualcomm said in a statement on Wednesday.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is set to walk out of prison Wednesday -- but she won't be entirely free. Manning's 35-year sentence for leaking an enormous trove of military intelligence records was commuted by President Barack Obama in January. But Manning is still appealing her conviction in a case that could take years, and the government has yet to respond to the appeal. And all the while, Private First Class Manning, 29, will remain an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army. She won't be paid a salary, and it's highly unlikely that she will be called to serve. But being placed on voluntary excess leave rather than discharged, says one of her attorneys, makes her vulnerable to new military punishment or charges if she steps out of line. Such an offense could be anything from getting into a fistfight to revealing previously unreleased classified information. Manning could even get into trouble with the military for speaking and writing. The Army private then known as Bradley Manning was just 22-year-old when she leaked nearly 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks. Manning was court-martialed and sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison, with opportunity for parole after seven years served. n a statement given to the TODAY show the day after sentencing, Manning came out as a transgender woman. Last Tuesday, in Manning's first official statement about her plans after prison, she said, "I can see a future for myself as Chelsea."
Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Stanford University economist Tony Seba forecasts in his new report that petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will no longer be sold anywhere in the world within the next eight years. As a result, the transportation market will transition and switch entirely to electrification, "leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century," reports Financial Post. From the report: Seba's premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are ten times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles. Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2,000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024. Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a "mass stranding of existing vehicles." The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle. It is a twin "death spiral" for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time. The long-term price of crude will fall to $25 a barrel. Most forms of shale and deep-water drilling will no longer be viable. Assets will be stranded. Scotland will forfeit any North Sea bonanza. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela will be in trouble.
An anonymous reader writes: European privacy regulators from as number of countries has made a coordinated action against Facebook for violating data protection laws. The French CNIL has sanctioned Facebook with a 150,000 EUR fine, and the regulator from Netherlands is considering a similar action. Regulators are concerned with new privacy policies of Facebook, lack of transparency, cookie handling and tracking Facebook users on third-party sites -- all without user knowledge or control. Such coordinated move is unprecedented in the history of European data protection regulators.
Microsoft and the United Nations (UN) have announced a five-year "landmark" partnership to develop technology to "better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations," according to a statement issued today. From a report: Additionally, Microsoft will support work being carried out by the UN Human Rights Office by contributing $5 million to a grant in what the UN called an "unprecedented level of support" from a private organization. An example of the kind of technology the duo have been working on is an information dashboard called Rights View that gives UN employees access to real-time aggregated data on rights violations by country. This, it's hoped, will "facilitate analysis, ensure early warning of emerging critical issues, and provide data to guide responses," according to Microsoft.
Ford is planning a major round of layoffs that will cut up to 20,000 jobs around the world, according to reports published Monday. From a report: Ford plans to shrink its salaried workforce in North America and Asia by about 10 percent as it works to boost profits and its sliding stock price, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters. A person briefed on the plan said Ford plans to offer generous early retirement incentives to reduce its salaried headcount by Oct. 1, but does not plan cuts to its hourly workforce or its production. The move could put the U.S. automaker on a collision course with President Donald Trump, who has made boosting auto employment a top priority. Ford has about 30,000 salaried workers in the United States. The cuts are part of a previously announced plan to slash costs by $3 billion, the person said, as U.S. new vehicles auto sales have shown signs of decline after seven years of consecutive growth since the end of the Great Recession.
An anonymous reader writes: Wall Street will be one of the first and largest industries to be automated by artificial intelligence, predicts Kai-Fu Lee, China's most famous venture capitalist and former Microsoft and Google executive. Lenders, money managers, and analysts -- any jobs that involve crunching numbers to estimate a return -- are at risk. "Banks have the curse of the baggage they have, like Kodak letting go of film," Lee says. "Their DNA is all wrong." [...] The big banks that dominate now, the venture capitalist predicts they will be outmaneuvered by smaller startups able to deploy new technology much faster.
An anonymous reader writes: If you work at Apple's One Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino as a computer programmer on an H-1B visa, you can can be paid as little as $52,229. That's peanuts in Silicon Valley. Average wages for a programmer in Santa Clara County are more than $93,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the U.S. government will approve visa applications for Silicon Valley programmers at $52,229 -- and, in fact, did so for hundreds of potential visa holders at Apple alone. To be clear, this doesn't mean there are hundreds of programmers at Apple working for that paltry sum. Apple submitted a form to the U.S. saying it was planning on hiring 150 computer programmers beginning June 14 at this wage. But it's not doing that. Instead, this is a paperwork exercise by immigration attorneys to give an employer -- in this case, Apple -- maximum latitude with the H-1B laws. The forms-submittal process doesn't always reflect actual hiring goals or wage levels. Apple didn't want to comment for the story, but it did confirm some things. It says it hires on the basis on qualifications and that all employees -- visa holders and U.S. workers alike -- are paid equitably and it conducts internal studies to back this up. There are bonuses on top of base pay. Apple may not be paying low wages to H-1B workers, but it can pay low wages to visa workers if it wanted. This fact is at the heart of the H-1B battle.
Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, said a hacker had accessed customer information containing about 1.9 million active email addresses and about 1,700 names and active phone numbers. The breach was not connected to the recent global WannaCry malware attacks, the company added. From a report: The information appears to have been posted online, but the company could not confirm the leaked data was one and the same. "There is no indication that any financial, password or other sensitive personal information was accessed," the company wrote in a statement. Bell said the incident was unrelated to the massive spike in ransomware infections that affected an estimated 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries late last week. It is not clear when the breach occurred, how the data was accessed, or how long the attacker had access to Bell's systems.
A hacker group "aligned with Vietnamese government interests" carried out attacks on corporate companies, journalists and overseas governments over the past three years, according to a report from cyber security firm FireEye. FireEye, which works with large companies to secure their assets from cyber threats, said it has tracked at least 10 separate attacks from the group -- referred to as OceanLotus, or APT32 -- since 2014. Targets included members of the media, and private and public sector organizations from across Germany, China, the U.S., the Philippines, the UK and Vietnam itself, according to the report. From an article: APT refers to advanced persistent threat -- one that involves a continuous hacking process using sophisticated techniques that exploit vulnerabilities within a network. Nick Carr, a senior manager at FireEye's Mandiant team that responds to threats and incidents, told CNBC what set APT32 apart from other groups was the kind of information the hackers were looking for within a company's breached network. "Several cases here, it appears APT32 was conducting intrusions to investigate the victims' operations and assess their adherence to regulations," Carr said. "That's where it starts to be really unusual and is a significant departure from the wide-scale intellectual property theft and espionage that you see from a Chinese group, or political espionage or information operations from a Russian group." To be clear, the attacks carried out by APT32 are unrelated to the WannaCry ransomware that has hit 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries since Friday.
An anonymous reader writes: "While the world was busy dealing with the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, last Friday, about the time when we were first seeing a surge in WannaCry attacks, WikiLeaks dumped new files part of the Vault 7 series," reports BleepingComputer. This time, the organization dumped user manuals for two hacking tools named AfterMidnight and Assassin. Both are malware frameworks, but of the two, the most interesting is AfterMidnight -- a backdoor trojan for stealing data from infected PCs. According to its leaked manual, AfterMidnight contains a module to "subvert" user software by killing processes and delaying the execution of user software. Examples in this manual show CIA operatives how to kill browsers every 30 seconds to keep targets focused on their work, how to delay the execution of PowerPoint software with 30 seconds just to mess with their targets, or how to lock up 50% of PC resources whenever the user starts certain software. Basically, the CIA created nagware.
SpaceX has successfully launched a heavy commercial communications satellite atop one of its Falcon 9 rockets today. "Weighing in at nearly 13,500 pounds atop the rocket, the fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite was the heaviest load lofted by a Falcon 9 yet," reports USA Today. From the report: The 230-foot rocket delivered the spacecraft larger than a double-decker bus to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator. As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket's first stage either at Cape Canaveral or at sea, and the Falcon 9 booster was not equipped with landing legs. The Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 satellite, built by Boeing, completes Inmarsat's four-satellite Global Xpress constellation focused on delivering high-speed broadband data to mobile customers, including commercial aircraft and ships and the U.S. military.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed Monday that hackers claiming to have access to a Disney movie threatened to release it unless the studio paid a ransom. Iger didn't disclose the name of the film, but said Disney is refusing to pay. The studio is working with federal investigators. Iger's comments came during a town hall meeting with ABC employees in New York City, according to multiple sources. The Disney chief said the hackers demanded that a huge sum be paid in Bitcoin. They said they would release five minutes of the film at first, and then in 20-minute chunks until their financial demands are met. While movie piracy has long been a scourge, ransoms appear to be a new twist. UPDATE: According to Deadline, the movie in question appears to be the upcoming film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Disney appears to be working with the FBI and will not pay the ransom.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A U.S. federal judge has ordered Uber to bar its top self-driving car engineer from any work on LiDAR, and return stolen files to Google's self-driving car unit Waymo. Today's order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup demands Uber do "whatever it can to ensure that its employees return 14,000-plus pilfered files to their rightful owner." The files must be returned by May 31. The order was granted last week, but just made public in an unsealed document this morning. U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that Uber "likely knew or at least should have known" that the man it hired as its top self-driving car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, took and kept more than 14,000 Waymo files. Those files "likely contain at least some trade secrets," making some "provisional relief" for Waymo appropriate. Levandowski has previously asserted his Fifth Amendment rights with respect to his possession of the files. "If Uber were to threaten Levandowski with termination for noncompliance, that threat would be backed up by only Uber's power as a private employer, and Levandowski would remain free to forfeit his private employment to preserve his Fifth Amendment privilege," Alsup wrote. Several factors limit the amount of relief Waymo might receive. First of all, in the judge's view, not all of the 121 elements that Waymo defines as "trade secrets" are really trade secrets. Additionally, the judge has slapped aside Waymo's patent infringement accusations as "meritless."