Earth

The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies (arstechnica.com) 432

New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

Media

Video Is Coming To Reddit (variety.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report from Variety: Videos are coming to Reddit, thanks to a new feature that allows users to upload video clips directly to the service. Reddit rolled out the new video feature Tuesday after testing it with around 200 communities over the past couple of weeks. Reddit users are now able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes in length, with file sizes being limited to 1 gigabyte. Users will be able to upload videos via Reddit's website and its mobile apps for iOS and Android, with the latter offering basic trimming functionality as well. And, in keeping with the spirit of the site, Reddit is also offering a conversion tool to turn videos into animated Gifs. Videos are being displayed persistently, or pinned, meaning that users can scroll through the comments while the video keeps playing in the corner of their screen. And community moderators can opt not to allow videos in their Subreddits at all, with Le arguing that some discussion-heavy Subreddits may decide that the format just doesn't work for them.
Government

Ukraine Hacker Cooperating With FBI In Russia Probe, Says Report (thehill.com) 215

schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: A hacker in Ukraine who goes by the online alias "Profexer" is cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, The New York Times is reporting. Profexer, whose real identity is unknown, wrote and sold malware on the dark web. The intelligence community publicly identified code he had written as a tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of last year's presidential election. The hacker's activity on the web came to a halt shortly after the malware was identified. The New York Times, citing Ukrainian police, reported Wednesday that the individual turned himself into the FBI earlier this year and became a witness for the bureau in its investigation. FBI investigators are probing Russian interference efforts and whether there was coordination between associates of President Trump's campaign and Moscow. Special counsel Robert Mueller is heading the investigation.
Facebook

Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons (techcrunch.com) 25

In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.
Education

Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses (bbc.com) 20

An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."
The Almighty Buck

A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM (nytimes.com) 588

From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.
Bitcoin

Australia Joins China and Japan in Trying To Regulate Digital Currency Exchanges (cnbc.com) 63

Following moves by China and Japan to regulate digital currencies, Australia is attempting to crackdown on money laundering and terrorism financing with plans to regulate bitcoin exchanges. From a report: "The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," said Australia's Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in a press release. The Australian government proposed a set of reforms on Thursday which will close a gap in regulation and bring digital currency exchange providers under the remit of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre. These exchanges serve as marketplaces where traders can buy and sell digital currencies, such as bitcoin, using fiat currencies, such as the dollar. The reform bill is intended to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of AUSTRAC.
Businesses

Ericsson Is Planning To Cut 25,000 Jobs in Brutal Response To Crisis, Report Says (businessinsider.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares a report: Multinational telecom operator Ericsson -- which carries 40% of the world's mobile traffic on its networks and is Sweden's second largest company by revenue -- reported another disappointing quarter last month. As response, the troubled company's new CEO Borje Ekholm announced costs cuts of 10 billion SEK ($1,25 bn) per year. He did not say how many jobs were at stake. Now insider sources have provided details to Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), indicating that Ericsson's restructuring will be more brutal than expected. The Swedish newspaper reports that there are advanced plans to cut Ericsson's operations by 80-90 percent in some markets, and centralize several European markets. However, the 14,000 employee-strong Swedish work force is to stay intact -- at least all R&D engineers. "Right now, Ericsson is hiring engineers to repair the damage that earlier saving packages caused. It's crucial that most of all the Swedish R&D department remains somewhat protected. They are the ones who will come up with the new solutions that will drive sales in the long term," said a person with insight into the process. According to internal sources, up to 25,000 people may be affected by the restructuring program. The Swedish company currently employs 109,000 people across 110 offices around the world.
Google

Google Lunar X-Prize Extends Deadline Through March 2018 (space.com) 30

schwit1 writes: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million. They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it. At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express's rover to the Moon.
Television

Netflix Plans To Spend $7 Billion On Content In 2018 (streamingobserver.com) 97

According to the Streaming Observer, Netflix plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year and spend over $7 billion on content in 2018. Previously, the company paid $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. From the report: While the internet freaks out about Disney ending its streaming agreement with Netflix, the company continues to forge ahead signing high-profile talent and throwing an enormous budget at its original programming. Just days after the Disney turmoil, Netflix's visionary Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the streaming leader plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year. As of now, Netflix currently has $15.7 billion in outstanding obligations in deals for new series and films over the next few years. With such an astronomically-large budget, media analysts are already beginning to wonder if Netflix is "rescuing" or "ruining" Hollywood by creating such a singular creator-producer-distributor model. Sarandos counters those claims, however, stating that Netflix is merely on the forefront of what's already a growing trend throughout the media industries: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy. Everyone is doing some version of it already. They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content. We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."

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