Medicine

Hospitals May Turn To Algorithms To Fight Fatal Infections (scientificamerican.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: Clostridium difficile, a deadly bacterium spread by physical contact with objects or infected people, thrives in hospitals, causing 453,000 cases a year and 29,000 deaths in the United States, according to a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Traditional methods such as monitoring hygiene and warning signs often fail to stop the disease. But what if it were possible to systematically target those most vulnerable to C-diff? Erica Shenoy, an infectious-disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jenna Wiens, a computer scientist and assistant professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, did just that when they created an algorithm to predict a patient's risk of developing a C-diff infection, or CDI. Using patients' vital signs and other health records, this method -- still in an experimental phase -- is something both researchers want to see integrated into hospital routines.

The CDI algorithm -- based on a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning -- is at the leading edge of a technological wave starting to hit the U.S. health care industry. After years of experimentation, machine learning's predictive powers are well-established, and it is poised to move from labs to broad real-world applications, said Zeeshan Syed, who directs Stanford University's Clinical Inference and Algorithms Program. Shenoy and Wiens' CDI algorithm analyzed a data set from 374,000 inpatient admissions to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System, seeking connections between cases of CDI and the circumstances behind them. The records contained over 4,000 distinct variables. As it repeatedly analyzes this data, the ML process extracts warning signs of disease that doctors may miss -- constellations of symptoms, circumstances and details of medical history most likely to result in infection at any point in the hospital stay.

Communications

New York Times CEO: Print Journalism Has Maybe Another 10 Years (cnbc.com) 208

New York Times CEO Mark Thompson believes that the newspaper printing presses may have another decade of life in them, but not much more. "I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products," Thompson said on "Power Lunch." He said he'd like to have the print edition "survive and thrive as long as it can," but admitted it might face an expiration date. "We'll decide that simply on economics," he said. "There may come a point when the economics of [the print paper] no longer make sense for us. The key thing for us is that we're pivoting. Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone." CNBC reports: Digital subscriptions, in fact, may be what's keeping the New York Times afloat for a new generation of readers. While Thompson said the number of print subscribers is relatively constant, "with a little bit of a decline every time," the company said last week that it added 157,000 digital subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2017. The majority were new subscribers, but that number also included cooking and crossword subscriptions. Revenue from digital subscriptions increased more than 51 percent in the quarter compared with a year earlier. Overall subscription revenue increased 19.2 percent. Meanwhile, the company's fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analysts expectations, "even though the print side of the business is still somewhat challenged," Thompson said. Total revenue rose 10 percent from a year earlier to $484.1 million. New York Times' shares have risen more than 20 percent this year. "Without question we make more money on a print subscriber," Thompson added. "But the point about digital is that we believe we can grow many, many more of them. We've already got more digital than print subscribers. Digital is growing very rapidly. Ultimately, there will be many times the number of digital subscribers compared to print."
Privacy

Seattle To Remove Controversial City Spying Network After Public Backlash (seattletimes.com) 83

schwit1 shares a report from Activist Post: Following years of resistance from citizens, the city of Seattle has decided to completely remove controversial surveillance equipment -- at a cost of $150,000. In November 2013, Seattle residents pushed back against the installation of several mesh network nodes attached to utility poles around the downtown area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and privacy advocates were immediately concerned about the ability of the nodes to gather user information via the Wi-Fi connection. The Seattle Times reports on the latest developments: "Seattle's wireless mesh network, a node of controversy about police surveillance and the role of federal funding in city policing, is coming down. Megan Erb, spokeswoman for Seattle Information Technology, said the city has budgeted $150,000 for contractor Prime Electric and city employees to remove dozens of surveillance cameras and 158 'wireless access points' -- little, off-white boxes with antennae mounted on utility poles around the city."

The nodes were purchased by the Seattle Police Department via a $3.6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The Seattle Police Department argued the network would be helpful for protecting the port and for first-responder communication during emergencies. As the Times notes, "the mesh network, according to the ACLU, news reports and anti-surveillance activists from Seattle Privacy Coalition, had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday." However, by November 2013, SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb announced, "The wireless mesh network will be deactivated until city council approves a draft (privacy) policy and until there's an opportunity for vigorous public debate." The privacy policy for the network was never developed and, instead, the city has now opted to remove the devices at a cost of $150,000. The Times notes that, "crews are tearing its hardware down and repurposing the usable parts for other city agencies, including Seattle Department of Transportation traffic cameras."

Earth

Trump Administration Wants To Fire 248 Forecasters At the National Weather Service (fortune.com) 523

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: After a year that saw over $300 million in damages from hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, the Trump administration is proposing significant cuts to the National Weather Service (NWS) and hopes to eliminate the jobs of 248 weather forecasters. The idea, which is part of the 2019 fiscal budget proposal and caught the agency by surprise, is being derided by the NWS's labor union, which says the cuts will impact the reliability of future weather forecasts and warnings. All totaled, the Weather Service faces cuts of $75 million in the initial proposal. Some or all of those cuts could be jettisoned before the bill is voted upon. "We can't take any more cuts and still do the job that the American public needs us to do -- there simply will not be the staff available on duty to issue the forecasts and warnings upon which the country depends," said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

Further reading: The Washington Post
Advertising

Huawei Got People To Write Fake Reviews For An Unreleased Phone (theverge.com) 39

As spotted by 9to5Google, Huawei has apparently posted fake reviews on Best Buy for its new Mate 10 Pro, which is available for pre-order in the U.S. despite not having any deals with U.S. carriers. "The fake reviews, which are exclusively on the Best Buy website, are likely the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook," reports The Verge. From the report: On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. "Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page," the post states. On the Best Buy site, there are currently 108 reviews for the phone, 103 of which were written on or after January 31st, the day Huawei posted the contest. Many of the comments directly reference not having any actual hands-on experience with the product itself, but give the phone a five star rating. "I can't wait to get my hands on this phone and demonstrate how amazing it is to people," reads one. "This device looks exciting and beautiful and it would be amazing to have a chance to beta test it," another reads. It seems Huawei is betting that loads of high ratings early on will make people trust the product and lead to higher sales. That's all well and good except that these types of reviews are strictly against Best Buy policy, as 9to5Google points out. "Huawei's first priority is always the consumer and we encourage our customers to share their experiences with our devices in their own voice and through authentic conversation," a Huawei representative told The Verge in a statement. "While there are reviews from beta testers with extensive knowledge of the product, they were in no way given monetary benefits for providing their honest opinions of the product. However, we are working to remove posts by beta testers where it isn't disclosed they participated in the review program."
The Internet

Trump's Infrastructure Plan Has No Dedicated Money For Broadband (arstechnica.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Trump's new 10-year plan for "rebuilding infrastructure in America" doesn't contain any funding specifically earmarked for improving Internet access. Instead, the plan sets aside a pool of funding for numerous types of infrastructure projects, and broadband is one of the eligible categories. The plan's $50 billion Rural Infrastructure Program lists broadband as one of five broad categories of eligible projects.

Eighty percent of the program's $50 billion would be "provided to the governor of each state." Governors would take the lead in deciding how the money would be spent in their states. The other 20 percent would pay for grants that could be used for any of the above project categories. Separately, broadband would be eligible for funding from a proposed $20 billion Transformative Projects Program, along with transportation, clean water, drinking water, energy, and commercial space. Trump's plan would also add rural broadband facilities to the list of eligible categories for Private Activity Bonds, which allow private projects to "benefit from the lower financing costs of tax-exempt municipal bonds." The plan would also let carriers install small cells and Wi-Fi attachments without going through the same environmental and historical preservation reviews required for large towers.

Facebook

Facebook is Pushing Its Data-tracking Onavo VPN Within Its Main Mobile App (techcrunch.com) 40

TechCrunch reports: Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook app itself, under the banner "Protect" in the navigation menu. Clicking through on "Protect" will redirect Facebook users to the "Onavo Protect -- VPN Security" app's listing on the App Store. We're currently seeing this option on iOS only, which may indicate it's more of a test than a full rollout here in the U.S. Marketing Onavo within Facebook itself could lead to a boost in users for the VPN app, which promises to warn users of malicious websites and keep information secure as you browse. But Facebook didn't buy Onavo for its security protections. Instead, Onavo's VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps' new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more. Further reading: Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Download Onavo, Facebook's Vampiric VPN Service (Gizmodo).
China

US Senators Voice Concern Over Chinese Access To Intellectual Property (reuters.com) 115

Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday they were concerned about what they described as China's efforts to gain access to sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual property through Chinese companies with government ties. From a report: Senator Richard Burr, the committee's Republican chairman, cited concerns about the spread of foreign technologies in the United States, which he called "counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors. The focus of my concern today is China, and specifically Chinese telecoms (companies) like Huawei and ZTE that are widely understood to have extraordinary ties to the Chinese government," Burr said. Senator Mark Warner, the committee's Democratic vice chairman, said he had similar concerns. "I'm worried about the close relationship between the Chinese government and Chinese technology firms, particularly in the area of commercialization of our surveillance technology and efforts to shape telecommunications equipment markets," Warner said.
Facebook

YouTube CEO: Facebook Should 'Get Back To Baby Pictures' (cnet.com) 119

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki won't divulge her biggest fear about competing with Facebook, but she will give them some free advice. From a report: "They should get back to baby pictures," Wojcicki said Monday at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. Video has been an obsession for Facebook, as it tries to swipe the most advertising dollars migrating off television before YouTube can get them. Facebook has been aggressively advancing the number of clips and live streams that bubble up to the top of your News Feed and has rolled out a central hub for TV-like programming called Watch. "You always have to take competition seriously. You don't win by looking backwards; you win by looking at your customers and looking forward," she said.
AI

In the Wake of Fake News, Several Universities Including MIT and Harvard Introduce New Course On Ethics and Regulation of AI (nytimes.com) 177

The medical profession has an ethic: First, do no harm. Silicon Valley has an ethos: Build it first and ask for forgiveness later. Now, in the wake of fake news and other troubles at tech companies, universities that helped produce some of Silicon Valley's top technologists are hustling to bring a more medicine-like morality to computer science, the New York Times reporter. From the report: This semester, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are jointly offering a new course on the ethics and regulation of artificial intelligence. The University of Texas at Austin just introduced a course titled "Ethical Foundations of Computer Science" -- with the idea of eventually requiring it for all computer science majors. And at Stanford University, the academic heart of the industry, three professors and a research fellow are developing a computer science ethics course for next year. They hope several hundred students will enroll. The idea is to train the next generation of technologists and policymakers to consider the ramifications of innovations -- like autonomous weapons or self-driving cars -- before those products go on sale.
The Courts

Comcast Sues Vermont Over Conditions On New License Requiring the Company To Expand Its Network (vtdigger.org) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VTDigger: Cable television giant Comcast is suing the Vermont Public Utility Commission over the panel's decision to require the company to expand its network and step up support for community access TV if it wants to continue doing business in Vermont. A key issue is the services Comcast must provide to local community access systems that carry municipal government and school board meetings and other local events. The 26 community access systems have been pushing -- against resistance by Comcast -- for high-definition video, greater ability to operate from remote locations, and inclusion in the interactive program guides that Comcast customers can use to decide what to watch. The PUC -- formerly known as the Public Service Board -- in January issued a new 11-year permit for Comcast to operate in Vermont. In July the panel rejected the company's request to drop some of the conditions attached to the permit.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Comcast argued that the PUC "exceeded its authority under federal and Vermont law" by imposing "numerous conditions on Comcast's continued cable operations in the state that are arbitrary, unprecedented and will ultimately harm local cable subscribers by resulting in millions of dollars in increased cable costs." It said the commission "did so despite overwhelming record evidence that Vermont cable subscribers do not want to incur any additional costs or fees for the kinds of conditions imposed" in the commission's January order.

EU

Daylight Saving Time Isn't Worth It, European Parliament Members Say (arstechnica.com) 425

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it. Although the resolution it voted on was non-binding, the majority reflected a growing dissatisfaction with a system that has been used by the U.S., Canada, most of Europe, and regions in Asia, Africa, and South America for decades. The resolution asked the European Commission to review the costs and benefits of Daylight Saving Time. If the EU were to abolish Daylight Saving Time, it would need approval of the majority of EU member states and EU Parliament members.

"We think that there's no need to change the clocks," Ireland Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly said to Deutsche Welle. "It came in during World War One, it was supposed to be for energy savings -- the indications are that there are very few energy savings, if any -- and there are an awful lot of disadvantages to both human beings and animals that make it outdated at this point."

Earth

25 Years of Satellite Data Shows Global Warming Is Accelerating Sea Level Rise (usnews.com) 343

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows. At the current rate, the world's oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets. It confirms scientists' computer simulations and is in line with predictions from the United Nations, which releases regular climate change reports. Of the 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of sea level rise in the past quarter century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice. But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.
Facebook

Facebook Lost Around 2.8 Million US Users Under 25 Last Year (recode.net) 145

According to new estimates by eMarketer, Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic declined by 9.9 percent in 2017, or about 1.4 million total users. That's almost three times more than the digital measurement firm expected. There were roughly 12.1 million U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic by the end of the year. Recode reports: There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its "cool" factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper -- but many young people don't seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic. Overall, eMarketer found Facebook lost about 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. The research firm released Facebook usage estimates for 2018 on Monday, and expects that Facebook will lose about 2.1 million users in the U.S. under the age of 25 this year.
Government

Trump's New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports (politico.com) 406

The Trump administration has released an infrastructure plan on Monday that proposes that the federal government considers selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. According to Trump's blueprint, the administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for "potential divesture." Politico reports: State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent." Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture." Though technically owned by the federal government, both airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a long-term lease agreement. The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment. "The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure," reports CNNMoney. "Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio. States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend."

As for how the money would be split up, the plan says that half of the new federal money, $100 billion, "would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities," reports CNNMoney. "An additional $20 billion would go toward 'projects of national significance' that can 'lift the American spirit,'" while another $50 billion will be designated "for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have," reports CNNMoney. "The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings..."
Businesses

Amazon Is Cutting Hundreds of Corporate Jobs (techcrunch.com) 61

According to a Seattle Times report, Amazon is laying off hundreds of corporate workers in its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere. "The corporate cuts come after an eight-year hiring spree, taking the company from 5,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in its Seattle headquarters and gobbling up several retail businesses throughout the country," reports TechCrunch. From the report: However, according to the report, Amazon's rising employee numbers over the last two years left some departments over budget and with too many staff on hand. In the last few months, the company implemented hiring freezes to stem the flow of new workers, cutting the number of open positions in half from the 3,500 listed last Summer. The layoffs will mainly focus on Amazon's Seattle office, but there have already been cuts in some of its retail subsidiaries in other parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas-based online footwear retailer Zappos, which had to lay off 30 people recently. And the company behind Diapers.com, Quidsi, had to cut more than 250 jobs a year ago. The moves suggest Amazon may be trying to rein in spending and consolidate some of its retail businesses.
Education

Unknown Language Discovered in Malaysia (smithsonianmag.com) 55

Researchers have cataloged close to 7,000 distinct human languages on Earth, per Linguistic Society of America's latest count. That may seem like a pretty exhaustive list, but it hasn't stopped anthropologists and linguists from continuing to encounter new languages, like one recently discovered in a village in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. From a report: According to a press release, researchers from Lund University in Sweden discovered the language during a project called Tongues of the Semang. The documentation effort in villages of the ethnic Semang people was intended to collect data on their languages, which belong to an Austoasiatic language family called Aslian. While researchers were studying a language called Jahai in one village, they came to understand that not everyone there was speaking it. "We realized that a large part of the village spoke a different language. They used words, phonemes and grammatical structures that are not used in Jahai," says Joanne Yager, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Linguist Typology. "Some of these words suggested a link with other Aslian languages spoken far away in other parts of the Malay Peninsula."
ISS

The Trump Administration is Moving To Privatize the International Space Station: Report (techcrunch.com) 236

The Trump administration is planning to privatize the international space station instead of simply decommissioning the orbiting international experiment in 2024, The Washington Post reports. From a report: According to a document obtained by the Post, the current administration is mulling handing the International Space Station off to private industry instead of de-orbiting it as NASA "will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit." The Post also reported that the administration was looking to request $150 million in fiscal year 2019 "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS -- potentially including elements of the ISS -- are operational when they are needed." The U.S. government has already spent roughly $100 billion to build and operate the space station as part of an international coalition that also includes the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Russian Space Agency.
Security

Games Organizers at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Confirm Cyber Attack, Won't Reveal Source (reuters.com) 73

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizers confirmed on Sunday that the Games had fallen victim to a cyber attack during Friday's opening ceremony, but they refused to reveal the source. From a report: The Games' systems, including the internet and television services, were affected by the hack two days ago but organizers said it had not compromised any critical part of their operations. "Maintaining secure operations is our purpose," said International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams. "We are not going to comment on the issue. It is one we are dealing with. We are making sure our systems are secure and they are secure."
Education

Cryptocurrency Classes Are Coming To Campus (nytimes.com) 81

While the price of Bitcoin has dropped since Christmas, the virtual currency boom has shown no signs of cooling off in the more august precincts of America's elite universities. The New York Times: Several top schools have added or are rushing to add classes about Bitcoin and the record-keeping technology that it introduced, known as the blockchain. Graduate-level classes this semester at Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland, among other places, illustrate the fascination with the technology across several academic fields, and the assumption that it will outlast the current speculative price bubble. "There was some gentle ribbing from my colleagues when I began giving talks on Bitcoin," said David Yermack, a business and law professor at New York University who offered one of the first for-credit courses on the topic back in 2014. "But within a few months, I was being invited to Basel to talk with central bankers, and the joking from my colleagues stopped after that." For a class this semester, Mr. Yermack originally booked a lecture hall that could fit 180 students, but he had to move the course to the largest lecture hall at N.Y.U. when enrollment kept going up. He now has 225 people signed up for the class.
Open Source

How the First Open Source Software and Hardware Satellite UPSat Was Built (fosdem.org) 25

UPSat is the first open source -- both hardware and software -- satellite to have ever been launched in orbit. Pierros Papadeas, the Director of Operations for Libre Space Foundation, which helped build the UPSat, talked about the project at FOSDEM, a non-commercial, volunteer-organized European event focused on free and open-source software development. You can watch the talk here; and read an interview of him with folks at FOSDEM ahead of the talk here. Two excerpts from the interview: Q: What challenges did you encounter while designing, building, testing and eventually launching UPSat in orbit?
PP: The challenges where numerous, starting with the financial ones. Lack of appropriate funding led us to invest heavily in the project (through Libre Space Foundation funds) to ensure its successful completion. Countless volunteer participation was also key to the success. On the technical side, with minimal documentation and knowledge sharing around space projects we had to re-invent the wheel and discover many procedures and practices in a really short time-frame (6 months - unheard for a space mission). Lack of tools and equipment made our building process a creative exploration as we had to figure out ways to achieve specific tasks resorting to purpose-built projects in our local lab (hackerspace.gr). Testing and verification facilities where also a challenge mainly as we had to undergo much more extensive tests than other missions, having none of our components already "flight proven". Again creativity and countless hours of negotiations and documentation got us to the final delivery point. Launching UPSat in orbit was secured once the delivery happened, but as any typical space mission it came with long delays and timeline push-backs.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?
Through this talk we would like to raise awareness for open source initiatives in space, and inspire open source technologists (engineers, programmers, analysts, makers) to engage in an open source project. We would also love to gather feedback and ideas on next steps and provide contribution opportunities for interested parties.

Businesses

Where Old, Unreadable Documents Go to Be Understood (atlasobscura.com) 44

From a report: On any given day, from her home on the Isle of Man, Linda Watson might be reading a handwritten letter from one Confederate soldier to another, or a list of convicts transported to Australia. Or perhaps she is reading a will, a brief from a long-forgotten legal case, an original Jane Austen manuscript. Whatever is in them, these documents made their way to her because they have one thing in common: They're close to impossible to read. Watson's company, Transcription Services, has a rare specialty -- transcribing historical documents that stump average readers. Once, while talking to a client, she found the perfect way to sum up her skills.

[...] Since she first started specializing in old documents, Watson has expanded beyond things written in English. She now has a stable of collaborators who can tackle manuscripts in Latin, German, Spanish, and more. She can only remember two instances that left her and her colleagues stumped. One was a Tibetan manuscript, and she couldn't find anyone who knew the alphabet. The other was in such bad shape that she had to admit defeat. In the business of reading old documents, Watson has few competitors. There is one transcription company on the other side of the world, in Australia, that offers a similar service. Libraries and archives, when they have a giant batch of handwritten documents to deal with, might recruit volunteers.

Businesses

How Delivery Apps May Put Your Favorite Restaurant Out of Business (newyorker.com) 269

In a piece this month, The New Yorker argues that online food discovery and delivery platforms are bad for restaurants. From the report: In recent years, online platforms like Uber Eats, Seamless, and GrubHub (which merged with Seamless, in 2013) have turned delivery from a small segment of the restaurant industry, dominated by pizza, to a booming new source of sales for food establishments of all stripes. When the average consumer logs in to the Caviar app to order a Mulberry & Vine salad for the office or a grain bowl on the way home from work, she might reasonably assume that her order is benefitting the restaurant's bottom line. But Gauthier, like many other restaurant owners I've spoken to in recent months, paints a more complicated picture. "We know for a fact that as delivery increases, our profitability decreases," she said. For each order that Mulberry & Vine sends out, between twenty and forty per cent of the revenue goes to third-party platforms and couriers. (Gauthier initially had her own couriers on staff, but, as delivery volumes grew, coordinating them became unmanageable.) Calculating an order's exact profitability is tricky, Gauthier said, but she estimated that in the past three years Mulberry & Vine's over-all profit margin has shrunk by a third, and that the only obvious contributing factor is the shift toward delivery.
It's funny.  Laugh.

There Are Ajit Pai 'Verizon Puppet' Jokes That the FCC Doesn't Want You To Read (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release the draft versions of jokes told by Chairman Ajit Pai at a recent dinner, claiming that releasing the drafts would "impede the candid exchange of ideas" within the commission. In December, Pai gave a speech at the annual FCC Chairman's Dinner and played a video that attempts to lampoon critics who accuse Pai of doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer. The video was shown less than a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, a favorable move for the broadband industry requested by Verizon and other ISPs. The satirical skit shows Pai planning his future ascension to the FCC chairmanship with Verizon executive Kathleen Grillo in 2003, the last year Pai worked as a Verizon lawyer. The video shows Pai and the Verizon executive plotting to install a "Verizon puppet" as FCC chair. In response, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for "any communications records from within the chairman's office referencing the event or the Verizon executive," the news site wrote yesterday. "Nearly a dozen pages worth of emails were located, including draft versions of the video's script and various edits," Gizmodo wrote. "The agency is refusing to release them, however; it is 'reasonably foreseeable,' it said, that doing so would injure the 'quality of agency decisions.'" The FCC searched for the records in response to Gizmodo's request and "returned no communications whatsoever with Kathy Grillo," the article said.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Causing Childhood Depression? (bbc.com) 131

General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. "One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E," reports BBC. Dr. Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. "He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community," says Dr. Chatterjee. That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people. From the report: "Social media is having a negative impact on mental health," he said. "I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?" A 2017 study by The Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people aged 11-25 to track their moods while using the five most popular social media sites. It suggested Snapchat and Instagram were the most likely to inspire feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. YouTube had the most positive influence. Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse.

Consultant psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou says one of the clearest indications children are spending too long on their phones is their behavior during a session with a psychiatrist. "Two or three years ago, it was very unusual for a child to answer their phone or text during an appointment. But now it is common," said the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital doctor. She has seen a rise in cases where social media is a contributing factor in teenage depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These problems are often complex and wide-ranging -- from excessive use of gaming or social media sites to feelings of inadequacy brought on by a constant bombardment of social media images of other people's lives, to cyber-bullying.

Earth

Researchers Discover Efficient Way To Filter Salt, Metal Ions From Water (phys.org) 67

schwit1 shares a report on a new study, published in Sciences Advances, that offers a new solution to providing clean drinking water for billions of people worldwide: It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. The sponge like crystals can be used to capture, store and release chemical compounds. In this case, the salt and ions in sea water. Dr Huacheng Zhang, Professor Huanting Wang and Associate Professor Zhe Liu and their team in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO and Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, have recently discovered that MOF membranes can mimic the filtering function, or "ion selectivity," of organic cell membranes. With further development, these membranes have significant potential to perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions in a highly efficient and cost effective manner, offering a revolutionary new technological approach for the water and mining industries. Currently, reverse osmosis membranes are responsible for more than half of the world's desalination capacity, and the last stage of most water treatment processes, yet these membranes have room for improvement by a factor of 2 to 3 in energy consumption. They do not operate on the principles of dehydration of ions, or selective ion transport in biological channels.
Businesses

Why Hiring the 'Best' People Produces the Least Creative Results (qz.com) 333

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report written by Scott E. Page, who explains why hiring the "best" people produces the least creative results: The burgeoning of teams -- most academic research is now done in teams, as is most investing and even most songwriting (at least for the good songs) -- tracks the growing complexity of our world. We used to build roads from A to B. Now we construct transportation infrastructure with environmental, social, economic, and political impacts. The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them. The multidimensional or layered character of complex problems also undermines the principle of meritocracy: The idea that the "best person" should be hired. There is no best person. When putting together an oncological research team, a biotech company such as Gilead or Genentech would not construct a multiple-choice test and hire the top scorers, or hire people whose resumes score highest according to some performance criteria. Instead, they would seek diversity. They would build a team of people who bring diverse knowledge bases, tools and analytic skills. That team would more likely than not include mathematicians (though not logicians such as Griffeath). And the mathematicians would likely study dynamical systems and differential equations.

Believers in a meritocracy might grant that teams ought to be diverse but then argue that meritocratic principles should apply within each category. Thus the team should consist of the "best" mathematicians, the "best" oncologists, and the "best" biostatisticians from within the pool. That position suffers from a similar flaw. Even with a knowledge domain, no test or criteria applied to individuals will produce the best team. Each of these domains possesses such depth and breadth, that no test can exist. When building a forest, you do not select the best trees as they tend to make similar classifications. You want diversity. Programmers achieve that diversity by training each tree on different data, a technique known as bagging. They also boost the forest 'cognitively' by training trees on the hardest cases -- those that the current forest gets wrong. This ensures even more diversity and accurate forests.

Communications

NSA Sent Coded Messages From Its Twitter To Communicate With Foreign Spies (gizmodo.com) 108

Matt Novak reports via Gizmodo: During the first Cold War, American and British spies would sometimes place coded messages in newspaper classified ads to communicate with each other. And according to new reports in the New York Times and The Intercept, the National Security Agency (NSA) has updated the tactic, using its public Twitter account to send secret messages to at least one Russian spy. That's just one relatively small detail in much more salacious articles about NSA and CIA agents traveling to Germany in an effort to recover cyberweapons that had been stolen from U.S. intelligence agencies. A Russian spy allegedly offered up the stolen cyber tools to the Americans in exchange for $10 million, eventually lowering his price to just $1 million. The Russian spy allegedly claimed to even have dirt on President Trump.

According to the reports, the unnamed Russian met with U.S. spies in person in Germany, and the NSA sometimes communicated with the Russian spy by sending roughly a dozen coded messages from the NSA's Twitter account. The one important question: Were the messages sent via direct message or were they sent out as public tweets? The New York Times report leaves some ambiguity, but according to James Risen in The Intercept they were very public.

Transportation

US Transportation Department Calls For 'Summit' On Autonomous Cars (reuters.com) 38

Auto manufacturers, technology companies, road safety advocates and policy makers will attend a March 1 conference over potential government actions that could speed the rollout of autonomous cars, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday. Reuters reports: Next month's "summit" is to help "identify priority federal and non-federal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout" of autonomous vehicles, the department said. It will also be open to the public. The U.S. National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants comments on what research to conduct before deciding whether to eliminate or rewrite regulations. It could take the agency years to finalize rule changes, and advocates are pushing Congress to act. The March 1 meeting at the department's headquarters in Washington will include "several stakeholder breakout sessions on various topics related to automation," NHTSA said.
Government

Budget Deal Has Tax Credit Extensions For Nuclear, Fuel Cells, Carbon Capture (arstechnica.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A two-year budget deal was approved by the House and the Senate this morning and signed by President Trump a few hours later. The budget (PDF) included a slew of tax credit extensions that will affect how the energy industry plans its next two years. Most notably, the deal extended a $0.018 per-kWh credit for nuclear power plants over 6,000MW -- a tax credit that is primarily going to benefit one project in the US. That project is the construction of two new reactors at the Georgia Vogtle nuclear power plant.

Interestingly, a bipartisan effort to increase and extend tax credits for carbon sequestration passed through this budget. The bill was pushed through by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). The bill would offer a tax credit per ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and either sequestered, used for another end product, or used for enhanced oil recovery. The credit applies to any facility that started carbon capture construction within the past seven years, and the credit extends for 12 years.

While the budget deal leaves the federal tax credit scheme for electric vehicles unchanged (automakers can still entice buyers with a $7,500 credit for the first 200,000 electric vehicles that roll off that automaker's line), the budget did include and extend some interesting tax credits for other kinds of non-traditional energy. Fuel cell vehicles saw an extension of tax credits that will allow purchasers of new cars a tax credit of between $4,000 and $40,000, depending on the weight of the vehicle (this is probably good news for potential customers of Nikola's in-development fuel-cell semis). Non-hydrogen alternative fuel infrastructure also scored, as the new budget lets installers of infrastructure for alternative fuels like biodiesel and natural gas deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing the new pumps. Two-wheeled electric vehicle buyers will also see a 10-percent credit extended (though that credit has a $2,500 cap). Per-gallon biodiesel and renewable diesel credits that expired at the end of 2017 will continue.

United States

Detroit Decides Against Banning Airbnb -- For Now (detroitnews.com) 37

Building officials say they will not enforce an apparent city ban of some Airbnb rentals until there is a legal review of an ordinance that went into effect this week. Detroit News reports: The ordinance, approved by the Detroit City Council in November, prohibits an owner-occupied-unit to be used for paid overnight guests. According to information listed online in the Detroit City Code, the rule went into effect Feb. 6, catching some city officials by surprise.

"Detroit homeowners have been able to rent out a room in their homes for more than 100 years, and we don't believe the new ordinance was intended to take away that right," said David Bell, director of the Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department for the City of Detroit, in a statement Friday. "The ordinance as written appears to ban all homeowners from having even their own friends and relatives stay at their homes if that friend or relative is paying them rent. The public was never told that was intended. I have asked the law department to review this question and give (the department) guidance." "Until the law department review is complete, (the department) will not be ticketing homeowners for renting out rooms in their own residence, whether through Airbnb or otherwise," Bell said. "(The department) and the administration will be working with City Council to resolve these issues."

The Courts

Maine Dairy Company Settles Lawsuit Over Oxford Comma (bostonmagazine.com) 169

Daniel Victor reports via The New York Times: Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The dairy company in Portland, Me., agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to court documents filed on Thursday. The relatively small-scale dispute gained international notoriety last year when the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the missing comma created enough uncertainty to side with the drivers, granting those who love the Oxford comma a chance to run a victory lap across the internet. But the resolution means there will be no ruling from the land's highest courts on whether the Oxford comma -- the often-skipped second comma in a series like "A, B, and C" -- is an unnecessary nuisance or a sacred defender of clarity, as its fans and detractors endlessly debate.

The case began in 2014, when three truck drivers sued the dairy for what they said was four years' worth of overtime pay they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carved out exemptions for: The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: agricultural produce; meat and fish products; and perishable foods. What followed the last comma in the first sentence was the crux of the matter: "packing for shipment or distribution of." The court ruled that it was not clear whether the law exempted the distribution of the three categories that followed, or if it exempted packing for the shipment or distribution of them. Had there been a comma after "shipment," the meaning would have been clear.

Earth

'Sinking' Pacific Nation Tuvalu Is Actually Getting Bigger (phys.org) 152

mi shares a report from Phys.Org: The Pacific nation of Tuvalu -- long seen as a prime candidate to disappear as climate change forces up sea levels -- is actually growing in size, new research shows. A University of Auckland study examined changes in the geography of Tuvalu's nine atolls and 101 reef islands between 1971 and 2014, using aerial photographs and satellite imagery. It found eight of the atolls and almost three-quarters of the islands grew during the study period, lifting Tuvalu's total land area by 2.9 percent, even though sea levels in the country rose at twice the global average. Co-author Paul Kench said the research, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, challenged the assumption that low-lying island nations would be swamped as the sea rose. It found factors such as wave patterns and sediment dumped by storms could offset the erosion caused by rising water levels.
Youtube

YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos (techcrunch.com) 314

Earlier today, YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers. TechCrunch reports: "We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next," Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post.

The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube:
1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator's YouTube Original.
2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel's ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces.
3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next.

The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression. Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what's being posted, and these videos have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube's rules and getting dinged.

Android

Android Messages May Soon Let You Text From the Web (androidpolice.com) 48

Android Police dug into the code for the latest version of Android Messages and found two very intriguing features: Rich Communication Services (RCS) support and support for all the popular web browsers. From the report: Google is developing a web interface to run on a desktop or laptop, and it will pair with your phone for sending messages. Internally, the codename for this feature is "Ditto," but it looks like it will be labeled "Messages for web" when it launches. You'll be guided to visit a website on the computer you want to pair with your phone, then simply scan a QR code. Once that's done, you'll be able to send and receive messages in the web interface and it will link with the phone to do the actual communication through your carrier. I can't say with any certainty that all mainstream browsers will be supported right away, but all of them are named, so most users should be covered.

Another major move appears to be happening with RCS, and it looks like Google may be tired of letting it progress slowly. A lot of new promotional text has been added to encourage people to "text over Wi-Fi" and suggesting that they "upgrade" immediately. There's a lot of text in that block, but most of it is purely promotional. It describes features that are already largely familiar as capabilities of RCS, including texting through a data connection, seeing messaging status (if somebody is typing) and read receipts, and sending photos. Google does put a lot of emphasis that if it's handling the photos, that they are high-quality.
Android Police also notes the ability to make purchases via Messages.
Businesses

Amazon To Take On UPS, FedEx Via 'Shipping With Amazon' (arstechnica.com) 60

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is planning to take on UPS and FedEx with a new shipping service named "Shipping with Amazon" (SWA). The new service will reportedly roll out in Los Angeles in the coming weeks. Ars Technica reports: Aside from first starting in LA, SWA will first serve third-party merchants that already sell on Amazon. The company plans to send drivers to pick up shipments from these businesses and deliver the packages for them. While shipping and delivery will mostly go through Amazon, anything outside of the retailer's reach will be given to the USPS and other shipping services for the "last mile" portion of the delivery. In the future, Amazon reportedly wants to open up SWA to businesses that aren't affiliated with the site -- meaning Amazon could ship and deliver packages from companies of all sizes. Amazon also believes it can compete with UPS and FedEx by making SWA more affordable for business customers, but its pricing structure hasn't been revealed.
The Internet

Major Websites Are Planning a 'Day of Action' To Block Repeal of Net Neutrality (medium.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group concerned with digital rights, has posted to medium today, revealing that many major websites, online communities, and internet users are planning a "day of action" focused on finding the final vote needed to pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA). "50 Senators have already come out in support of the CRA, which would completely overturn the FCC's December 14 decision and restore net neutrality protections," the post reads. "Several Senators have indicated that they are considering becoming the 51st vote we need to win, but they're under huge pressure from telecom lobbyists. Only a massive burst of energy from the internet will get them to move."

The day of action is scheduled for February 27, and participants include Tumblr, Etsy, Vimeo, Medium, Namecheap, Imgur, Sonos, and DuckDuckGo. "Internet users will be encouraged to sound the alarm on social media and sign up to receive alerts with their lawmaker's position on net neutrality and prompts to take action on the big day, while websites, subreddits, and online communities will display prominent alerts driving phone calls, emails, and tweets to Senators and Representatives calling on them to pass the CRA." The post notes that we're faced with an uphill battle as the fight will elevate to the House of Representatives if the CRA can pass the Senate. From there it will go to the President's desk.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Could Come with Snap Apps Preinstalled (omgubuntu.co.uk) 139

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS 'Bionic Beaver' could ship with Snap apps installed by default. From a report: A proposal from Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek suggests that Snapcraft now stand as a 'first-class' alternative to traditional packages, making them ripe for inclusion. "As more software becomes available as snaps, we want to take advantage of this body of packages as part of the default Ubuntu experience," he writes. As part of his proposal -- which is just a suggestion for the moment, so don't get excited/angry -- Langasek wants to iron out policy and rules around seeded snap app. This is to ensure they are updated and maintained accordingly, inline with Ubuntu practice. While Snaps by default would be something of a first for the regular version Ubuntu, it wouldn't be a first in general. That honour goes to Ubuntu MATE 17.10, the first distro to ship with a preinstalled Snap app.
Media

Viacom To Launch Its Own Streaming Service this Year (techcrunch.com) 64

Viacom said today it's planning to launch its own ad-supported streaming service by September 2018, the end of its fiscal year. The service will include "tens of thousands of hours of content" from across Viacom's library. From a report: Viacom had hinted about its plans in streaming before, but it shared a few more details on the call about what the service will include. The company, which owns cable TV channels like MTV and Comedy Central, already licenses some of its content to other streaming services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, as well as newcomer Philo. "It's going to be rolled out in the U.S., in terms of the amount of content that it's going to have, it's going to have tens of thousands of hours of content that cut across the library we have on a global basis," the company said.
Media

Twitch To Ban Users For 'Hate' on Other Platforms (bbc.com) 155

Twitch has updated its guidelines so that abuse taking place on other platforms can contribute to a suspension on the streaming site. From a report: Directing "hate or harassment" towards someone on Twitch using other services will be considered a policy violation. Conduct Twitch deems "hateful" on any platform will result in an "immediate indefinite suspension." Sexual conduct rules have also been changed to consider the "context" of a stream. Moderators will pay attention to clothing, the title of a stream, camera angles and chat moderation when deciding whether something is sexually inappropriate.
Media

VLC 3.0 Adds Chromecast Support and More as the Best Free Media Player Gets Even Better (pcworld.com) 131

Ian Paul, writing for PCWorld: The best free media player is getting even better. After three years of development, VLC 3.0 'Ventari' is rolling out to all platforms, and it's packed full of goodies such as Chromecast support. The latest version of VLC contains a lot of great additions, as well as a tweaked UI. Chromecast discovery tops the list. It's only available on Windows desktop and Android right now, but Videolan says the feature's coming to VLC's iOS and the Windows Store apps in the future. [...] VLC 3.0's refreshed UI isn't a fresh, new look from previous versions, but it is noticeably different. The icons at the bottom of the window are cleaner, and the small icons used within menu items are also new. Version 3.0 also adds support for 360-degree video and 3D audio, readying features for a VR version of VLC slated to roll out in mid-April. The new VLC also adds hardware decoding across all platforms for better performance and less CPU consumption, especially when dealing with more resource-intense video.
Google

YouTube Suspends Ads on Logan Paul's Channels After 'Recent Pattern' of Behavior in Videos (techcrunch.com) 162

More problems and controversy for Logan Paul, the YouTube star who caused a strong public backlash when he posted a video of a suicide victim in Japan. From a report: Google's video platform today announced that it would be pulling advertising temporarily from his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. This is in addition to Paul's suspensions from YouTube's Preferred Ad program and its Originals series, both of which have been in place since January; and comes days after YouTube's CEO promised stronger enforcement of YouTube's policies using a mix of technology and 10,000 human curators.
Bitcoin

Arizona Introduces Bill That Would Allow Residents To Pay Taxes In Bitcoin (investopedia.com) 109

In a bid to attract businesses involved in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, Arizona lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow the state's citizens to pay their taxes in bitcoin. "Arizona State Rep. Jeff Weninger, who introduced the bill, said it was a signal to everyone in the United States, and possibly throughout the world, that Arizona was going to be the place to be for blockchain and digital currency technology in the future," reports Investopedia. From the report: Weninger, a Republican, also cited the ease of making online payments through the cryptocurrency "while you're watching television," as another reason. But he did not divulge much detail about the implementation of such a system. That might be the reason why Weninger faces an uphill battle in getting the bill approved by the state legislature. Bitcoin's price volatility is already being cited as a possible roadblock to implementing such a measure by state legislators. Arizona state senator Steve Farley, a Democrat who's running for governor, said the bill puts the "volatility burden" of bitcoin's price on taxpayers who make payments in U.S. dollars. "It would mean that the money goes to the state and then the state has to take responsibility of how to exchange it," Farley said.
Businesses

Google's Parent Company Alphabet Is Buying Chelsea Market For $2 Billion (qz.com) 29

Alphabet is close to acquiring the iconic Chelsea Market in Midtown Manhattan for over $2 billion. The market totals 1.2 million square feet and sits across the street from the company's New York headquarters, a 2.9 million-square-foot building that it bought for $1.8 billion in 2010. Quartz reports: Google is already the Market's largest tenant, having steadily expanded its footprint to about 400,000 square feet. The tech giant hasn't revealed plans for the property, but according to The Real Deal, the company is expected to maintain the status quo. Alphabet's aggressive expansion in New York follows a growing trend of tech giants taking over cities. With their outsized share of the economy, tech companies are exerting increasing influence over urban infrastructure and development.
Businesses

Detroit Quietly Bans Airbnb (curbed.com) 197

A new zoning ordinance that quietly went into effect this week has residents trying to figure out what comes next for Airbnb's presence in Detroit. Many hosts have received notices that the city has outlawed Airbnb for R1 and R2 zoning. Curbed Detroit reports: The new zoning ordinance apparently went through the Planning Commission and City Council in 2017, and went into effect this week. The text added to the amendment states: "Use of a dwelling to accommodate paid overnight guests is prohibited as a home occupation; notwithstanding this regulation, public accommodations, including bed and breakfast inns outside the R1 and R2 Districts, are permitted as provided in Sec. 61-12-46 of this Code." The vast majority of Airbnb units in Detroit are in R1 and R2 districts. These do not include places like lofts, apartments, or larger developments. Airbnb has issued a statement saying: "We're very disappointed by this turn of events. Airbnb has served as an economic engine for middle class Detroiters, many of whom rely on the supplemental income to stay in their homes. We hope that the city listens to our host community and permits home sharing in these residential zones."
The Almighty Buck

Tesla Burns Through $2 Billion In 2017 (theverge.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla reported record revenue for 2017, floated by customer deposits of the recently announced Semi truck and Roadster sports car. Despite its optimistic sales numbers, Model 3 production issues and cash flow problems haunt the company, but Tesla insists its on track to meet its production goals of 5,000 cars a week by mid-2018. Tesla reported $3.3 billion in revenue, which was expected, but also posted a $771 million quarterly loss -- its largest quarterly loss ever. The company reported a negative free cash flow of $276.7 million. And it reported a net loss of $2.24 billion in 2017, a significant increase over the $773 million net loss it reported in 2016.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Won't Be the Dark Web's Top Cryptocurrency For Long (cnet.com) 79

Bitcoin has essentially become the poster child for cryptocurrencies, and that's a problem for cybercriminals dealing on the dark web. From a report: Researchers from Recorded Future, a threat intelligence company, looked through 150 of the dark web's top marketplaces and forums and found that bitcoin's boom is driving shady characters away from the cryptocurrency. The rise of bitcoin has brought cryptocurrency -- digital alternatives to government-issued money -- to the mainstream, enticing people who are looking to get rich quick. Last December, bitcoin hit its all-time high at nearly $20,000, but it has since slumped and as of Thursday is trading at a little over the $8,000 mark. But before it was a massive investment that millionaires bought, it was the dark web's currency of choice, thanks to its decentralized and anonymous structure.
Businesses

Salaries For Workers in Technology Roles, Including Software Engineers and Product Managers, Peak Around Age 45 (hired.com) 206

A report released on Thursday by the job marketplace Hired reveals that salaries for workers in technology roles, including software engineers, product managers, and data analysts, peak around age 45. After that, earnings level off or drop until retirement. According to the report, the average salary of US technology workers is about $135,000, with the highest pay in the San Francisco area.
Google

Google Executives Are Floating a Plan To Fight Fake News on Facebook and Twitter (qz.com) 305

Fake news, bots, and propaganda were hot topics at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, and Google executives there floated an intriguing idea to some fellow attendees -- what if the company could tell users whether information is trustworthy before they shared it on social networks like Facebook and Twitter? From a report: Representatives from Google and its parent company Alphabet eagerly discussed how the company can play a greater role in reducing misleading information online, several Davos attendees involved in and briefed on these conversations told Quartz. A notification system, perhaps via an optional extension for Google's Chrome browser, was an idea that these people said was broached more than once. Such a browser-based system controlled by Google could alert users on Facebook's or Twitter's websites when they're seeing or sharing a link deemed to be false or untrustworthy. Right now, this appears to be merely an idea company executives are discussing, not a product in development.
Businesses

Anti-China Bill Being Softened After US Companies Complain (reuters.com) 71

Proposed legislation in Congress aimed at preventing China from acquiring sensitive technology is being softened after protests by big U.S. companies who fear a loss in sales, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. From the report: Two bills in the House of Representatives and Senate would broaden the powers of the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in hopes of stopping Chinese efforts to acquire sophisticated U.S. technology. The bipartisan legislation has the support of President Donald Trump's administration. "We are concerned that it vastly expands the scope and jurisdiction (of CFIUS)," said Nancy McLernon, chief executive of the Organization for International Investment, a group that represents global companies with U.S. operations. Given the alarm that the legislation has caused, Senator John Cornyn's staff is drafting changes to address industry concerns, according to three sources. Cornyn's office did not respond to a request for comment.

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