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2018-04-23 01:43:55 UTC
2018-04-24 13:05:25 UTC
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A Copenhagen court has sentenced eccentric inventor Peter Madsen to life in prison over the murder of Kim Wall, a journalist who was killed after joining Madsen on his submarine last August. Parts of Wall's body were recovered after Madsen claimed he "buried her at sea." The case has captivated Denmark and drawn international headlines, with its shocking and gruesome details, and Madsen's wildly shifting explanations for what happened.
The submarine had left a dock in Copenhagen's harbor on Aug. 10, 2017. But one day later, the sub sank. Madsen was rescued; he initially told police he had let Wall off of the sub after just a few hours. But it was also noted that he had fresh scratches on both arms. No sign of Wall was found until some of her remains washed ashore. After the submarine was recovered and brought on land, blood in the craft was matched to Wall's DNA. The discovery of Wall's body prompted Madsen to say that a horrible accident killed Wall — but Danish authorities were skeptical of that story.
[...] "Prosecutors have said they do not know exactly how Wall did die, but that the murder seemed to be premeditated judging from the range of unusual instruments found on board. Much of the case against Madsen was built on his untrustworthiness, a psychological evaluation that found him narcissistic and lacking in empathy, and torture videos found on his computer."
The court ordered Madsen to pay about $19,700 to Ole Stobbe, Kim Wall's boyfriend. Wall had been pursuing an interview with Madsen for months, and was a few days away from moving to Beijing with Stobbe when Madsen texted her. The court also ordered the recovered submarine to be destroyed.
Also at Ars Technica.
Previously: Submarine Builder Charged With Manslaughter After Burying Journalist at Sea
Search of "Rocket" Madsen's Space Lab Finds Footage of Woman's Decapitation
Submarine Builder Peter Madsen Admits to Dismembering Journalist
A project to sequence the genomes of all complex/eukaryotic species on Earth is moving forward:
The central goal of the Earth BioGenome Project is to understand the evolution and organization of life on our planet by sequencing and functionally annotating the genomes of 1.5 million known species of eukaryotes, a massive group that includes plants, animals, fungi and other organisms whose cells have a nucleus that houses their chromosomal DNA. To date, the genomes of less than 0.2 percent of eukaryotic species have been sequenced.
The project also seeks to reveal some of the estimated 10 million to 15 million unknown species of eukaryotes, most of which are single cell organisms, insects and small animals in the oceans. The genomic data will be a freely available resource for scientific discovery and the resulting benefits shared with countries and indigenous communities where biodiversity is sourced. Researchers estimate the proposed initiative will take 10 years and cost approximately $4.7 billion.
In a perspective paper [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1720115115] [DX] published today (April 23) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 24 interdisciplinary experts comprising the Earth BioGenome Project Working Group, provide a compelling rationale for why the project should go forward and outline a roadmap for how it can be achieved.
The Smithsonian Institution is on board:
Assembling the species will be a massive undertaking, which is why partnerships with institutions that procure and preserve the Earth's biodiversity, such as natural history museums, botanical gardens, zoos and aquaria, will be crucial for success. The Smithsonian herbarium, for example, contains around 300,000 species.
"Many scientists at the Smithsonian Institution with its 19 museums and nine research institutes are applying genomics technologies in their research to increase our understanding of the natural world. The strength of biodiversity genomics at the Smithsonian is a good indicator of the vital role the institution will play in furthering the goals of the Earth BioGenome Project," Kress said.
A competitive card game based on the CIA's declassified training game: Collection Deck has launched a kickstarter. The card game was developed to train operatives and has been declassified. Having been produced by federal employees, it is under the public domain and can be polished by this kickstarter.
The original FOIA files were collected by Muckrock and available online to show what the card game is like. The estimated date for completion of the kickstarter is November this year.
Weighing in on a fierce, long-standing climate debate, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., said yesterday the agency will now define wood as a "carbon-neutral" fuel for many regulatory purposes.
The "announcement grants America's foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at an event in Cochran, Georgia, The Washington Post reports. But many environmental groups and energy experts decried the move, arguing the science is far from settled on whether wood is a climate-friendly fuel.
As Science contributing correspondent Warren Cornwall reported last year, the forest products industry has long been pushing for the carbon neutral definition in a bid to make wood an attractive fuel for generating electricity in nations trying to move away from fossil fuels. The idea is "attractively simple," Cornwall reported:
The carbon released when trees are cut down and burned is taken up again when new trees grow in their place, limiting its impact on climate. ...
Yet moves by governments around the world to designate wood as a carbon-neutral fuel—making it eligible for beneficial treatment under tax, trade, and environmental regulations—have spurred fierce debate. Critics argue that accounting for carbon recycling is far more complex than it seems. They say favoring wood could actually boost carbon emissions, not curb them, for many decades, and that wind and solar energy—emissions-free from the start—are a better bet for the climate. Some scientists also worry that policies promoting wood fuels could unleash a global logging boom that trashes forest biodiversity in the name of climate protection.
Lundgren realized that people were simply discarding old computers and buying new ones, rather than trying to restore Windows. He decided to begin manufacturing restore CDs that could be sold to computer repair shops for a quarter each.
[...] However, things began to go downhill after US Customs got ahold of a shipment of these disks in 2012. They charged Lundgren with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, as well as criminal copyright infringement. The premise here was that Lundgren was providing users with a copy of the Windows operating system on these restore disks, but that was untrue. The users needed to have a previously purchased license, or the restore disks wouldn't work.
[...] While Lundgren argued that these disks had zero value, Microsoft claimed (through a letter and an expert witness) that these were "counterfeit operating systems" and that they had the potential to hurt Microsoft's sales. The pricing was set at $25 a piece, which was what Microsoft claimed it charged repair shops for these disks. The catch here is that this is the price for a fully licensed operating system, not Lundgren's version.
From The Verge:
Microsoft issued this statement to The Verge on the ruling:
"Microsoft actively supports efforts to address e-waste and has worked with responsible e-recyclers to recycle more than 11 million kilograms of e-waste since 2006. Unlike most e-recyclers, Mr. Lundgren sought out counterfeit software which he disguised as legitimate and sold to other refurbishers. This counterfeit software exposes people who purchase recycled PCs to malware and other forms of cybercrime, which puts their security at risk and ultimately hurts the market for recycled products."
The Right to Repair has been hotly debated in recent months, particularly because California proposed a law that would require electronics manufacturers to make repair information and parts available to product owners and to third-party repair shops and services. Seventeen other states have proposed similar legislation. Most major tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, are opposed to the idea of letting users fix their own devices on the grounds that it poses a security risk to users, which we can see in Microsoft's above statement. Although as Lundgren's case demonstrates, the companies are likely more concerned over a loss in profit than anything else.
The Verge reports that Match.com reactivated a bunch of old profiles, without asking. This raises many concerns about user data for those that might have missed the Facebook discussions recently.
In a proof-of-principle study, Stanford scientists and their colleagues used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system to modify genes in coral, suggesting that the tool could one day aid conservation efforts. [...] "Up until now, there hasn't been a way to ask whether a gene whose expression correlates with coral survival actually plays a causative role," Cleves said. "There's been no method to modify genes in coral and then ask what the consequences are."
[...] Corals pose a bit of a problem when it comes to CRISPR because of their spawning cycles. Most corals, including the Acropora millepora that was the focus of the study, breed only once or twice a year, during October and November in the Great Barrier Reef, cued by the rise of a full moon. During this fleeting window, corals release their sex cells into the ocean. When the eggs and sperm meet, they form zygotes, or fertilized single cells. During the narrow time window before these cells begin to divide, a researcher can introduce CRISPR by injecting a mixture of reagents into these zygotes to induce precise mutations in the coral DNA.
Retrieving the zygotes is quite a logistical challenge, Cleves acknowledged. Fortunately, his collaborators in Australia have the timing down pat; they can predict when the moon spawn will occur within a couple of days, allowing them to take coral samples from the reef to gather zygotes for experimentation.
CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in a reef-building coral (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1722151115) (DX)
The UK may deploy its own constellation of navigation satellites due to being excluded from the European Union's Galileo project:
Britain is considering setting up a satellite navigation system to rival the European Union's Galileo project amid a row over attempts to restrict Britain's access to sensitive security information after Brexit, the Financial Times reported.
[...] "The UK's preference is to remain in Galileo as part of a strong security partnership with Europe. If Galileo no longer meets our security requirements and UK industry cannot compete on a fair basis, it is logical to look at alternatives," she said.
The European Commission has started to exclude Britain and its companies from sensitive future work on Galileo ahead of the country's exit from the EU in a year's time, a move which UK business minister Greg Clark said threatened security collaboration.
"We have made it clear we do not accept the Commission's position on Galileo, which could seriously damage mutually beneficial collaboration on security and defence matters," he said in an emailed statement.
Although basic Galileo services are supposedly free and open to everyone with no risk of being disabled or degraded, higher-precision capability is available only to paying commercial users.
Now we have GPS, Galileo, BeiDou/COMPASS, GLONASS, IRNSS/NAVIC, QZSS, and possibly a British satnav system in the future. Devices can use multiple systems to achieve greater precision. Check out this comparison of systems.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
This is not a great time to be tone deaf about privacy. Between Facebook's rapid fall from grace to the grand launch of the EU's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) privacy legislation next month, people are more sensitive than ever about their personal information.
Into this climate, Warsaw-based GOG -- Good Old Games, owned by CD Projekt Group -- launched a user profiles feature that many feel lacks important privacy guards, such as the ability to completely hide your profile, as well as the fact that it's opt-out rather than opt-in, and that the site announced it in a forum post (where many won't see it) rather than a blast email.
By analysing the K2 short-cadence data from Campaign 14 we detect phase-curve modulation in the light curve of the hot-Jupiter host star WASP-104. The ellipsoidal modulation is detected with high significance and in agreement with theoretical expectations, while Doppler beaming and reflection modulations are detected tentatively. We show that the visual geometric albedo is lower than 0.03 at 95% confidence, making it one of the least-reflective planets found to date. The light curve also exhibits a rotational modulation, implying a stellar rotational period likely to be near 23 or 46 days. In addition, we refine the system parameters and place tight upper limits for transit timing and duration variations, starspot occultation events, and additional transiting planets.
Also at ScienceAlert.
Amazon has unveiled a Kids Edition of its Echo Dot smart speaker:
The $79 Echo Dot Kids Edition takes the original device's design and wraps it in a kid-friendly, colorful case. Otherwise, the hardware is the same as the tiny smart speaker that debuted in 2016. While the regular, $49 Dot is considered a more affordable and accessible version of the regular Echo speaker, the Kids Edition costs more thanks to its bundled software. Amazon includes a two-year warranty plus a one-year subscription to the new Amazon FreeTime Unlimited service, an expanded version of Amazon's new FreeTime for Alexa.
FreeTime gives users "family-focused features" and new parental controls that adults can use to restrict what their kids can do with Alexa. Family features include "Education Q&A," allowing kids to ask Alexa science, math, spelling, and definition questions, "Alexa Speaks 'Kid,'" which gives Alexa kid-appropriate answers to nebulous statements that kids may say such as, "Alexa, I'm bored." Parents can also limit the times during which kids can speak to Alexa (like no talking to it after bedtime), restrict the skills kids can use, filter out songs with explicit lyrics, and more.
[...] But even with the added parental controls, some will be wary of a speaker designed to listen to their children. Like the original Dot, the Kids Edition has a mute button and parents can put the device in "sleep mode" to prevent it from responding to commands. However, the mic will always be listening for its wake-word just like other Echo devices.
In the new Parent Dashboard in the Alexa app and online, parents can monitor how kids are using their Echos (including all their utterances, or the phrases Alexa thinks it heard before trying to respond) and limit their abilities. According to a Buzzfeed report, Amazon claims it isn't making back-end profiles for users with data harvested from Alexa. While the virtual assistant can now recognize voices and provide personalized answers based on who's talking, the company maintains that data is only being used to make Alexa smarter and more tailored to each user.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, racked up $7.7 billion in capital expenditures for the first three months of 2018 on everything from real estate to undersea cables.
The company reported strong growth in sales and profit for the quarter on Monday, fueled by the strength of its advertising business and helped by a lower tax rate. But its staggering investments appear to be rattling Wall Street. Google's stock fell as much as 5% in early trading Tuesday.
"The big story from the results was the significant rise in expenses," Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research, wrote in an investor note Monday night.
Alphabet spent $2.4 billion in March to buy Cheslea Market in Manhattan to expand its office space in New York City. The company also said it invested in data centers, production equipment and undersea cables.
Gazette Day reports:
In the year 2016, there was a heatwave that affected many parts of the world. The extreme temperatures were especially felt in and around the continent of Australia. As a result of the heatwave, the waters around the Great Barrier Reef warmed considerably. Scientists were worried that with the oceans already warming due to global climate change, the additional heat stress might cause considerable damage to the Great Barrier Reef.
After the heatwave subsided, a team of scientists conducted tests to find out how the heatwave damaged the reef. Extensive aerial surveys were conducted. These surveys concluded that a great deal of the reef had bleaching that had killed off many parts of the reef. [...] The surveys found that 90 percent of the corals in the reef suffered at least some type of bleaching. The worst damage was on the northernmost third of the reef. In this section, much of the damage was caused by the initial rise in temperature.
The other damage occurred later. The coral reefs depend on a symbiotic relationship with a certain type of algae. Over the course of a few months after the heating event, the algae separated from the reef causing additional reef death.
During the heating event in 2016, one-third of the coral reefs in the world were bleached and damaged in some way. The reefs do have the ability to come back from this [heat-induced damage] as long as the damaging events are not too frequent.
A new RAND Corporation paper finds that artificial intelligence has the potential to upend the foundations of nuclear deterrence by the year 2040.
While AI-controlled doomsday machines are considered unlikely, the hazards of artificial intelligence for nuclear security lie instead in its potential to encourage humans to take potentially apocalyptic risks, according to the paper.
During the Cold War, the condition of mutual assured destruction maintained an uneasy peace between the superpowers by ensuring that any attack would be met by a devastating retaliation. Mutual assured destruction thereby encouraged strategic stability by reducing the incentives for either country to take actions that might escalate into a nuclear war.
The new RAND publication says that in coming decades, artificial intelligence has the potential to erode the condition of mutual assured destruction and undermine strategic stability. Improved sensor technologies could introduce the possibility that retaliatory forces such as submarine and mobile missiles could be targeted and destroyed. Nations may be tempted to pursue first-strike capabilities as a means of gaining bargaining leverage over their rivals even if they have no intention of carrying out an attack, researchers say. This undermines strategic stability because even if the state possessing these capabilities has no intention of using them, the adversary cannot be sure of that.
"The connection between nuclear war and artificial intelligence is not new, in fact the two have an intertwined history," said Edward Geist, co-author on the paper and associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. "Much of the early development of AI was done in support of military efforts or with military objectives in mind."
[...] Under fortuitous circumstances, artificial intelligence also could enhance strategic stability by improving accuracy in intelligence collection and analysis, according to the paper. While AI might increase the vulnerability of second-strike forces, improved analytics for monitoring and interpreting adversary actions could reduce miscalculation or misinterpretation that could lead to unintended escalation.
World IP Review reports
Inter partes reviews (IPRs) do not violate the US Constitution and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has authority to invalidate patents.
This is the holding of the US Supreme Court, which handed down its decision in Oil States Energy Services v Greene's Energy Group today.
In June last year, the court granted Oil States' petition for certiorari.
Oil States, a provider of services to oil and gas companies, had claimed that the IPR process at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) violates the right to a jury in an Article III court (a federal court established under Article III of the US Constitution).
The service provider added that although in certain situations non-Article III tribunals may exercise jurisdiction over disputes involving "public rights", this doesn't apply to IPRs because patents are private property rights.
The Supreme Court asked the government to weigh in--Noel Francisco, the acting solicitor general, submitted a brief on behalf of the US government in October 2017.
"Consistent with longstanding practice, the Patent Act authorises USPTO examiners within the executive branch to determine in the first instance whether patents should be granted. That allocation of authority is clearly constitutional", he said.
Siding with the US government, in a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Oil States' argument and found that patents are "public" rights, not "private" in an IPR context.
"The primary distinction between IPR and the initial grant of a patent is that IPR occurs after the patent has issued. But that distinction does not make a difference here", said the court.
 Paywall after first article, apparently.
Also at Ars Technica.