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posted by martyb on Saturday June 23, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the unfortunate dept.

According to this article on MSN:

Police in Tempe, Arizona said evidence showed the "safety" driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber was distracted and streaming a television show on her phone right up until about the time of a fatal accident in March, deeming the crash that rocked the nascent industry "entirely avoidable."

A 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, released late on Thursday in response to a public records request, said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up just a half second before the car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night.

According to the report, Vasquez could face charges of vehicle manslaughter. Police said that, based on testing, the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention.

Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming television shows and movies, which showed Vasquez's account was playing the television talent show "The Voice" the night of the crash for about 42 minutes, ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," the report says.

It is not clear if Vasquez will be charged, and police submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @01:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the another-cup-please dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Caffeine consumption has been associated with lower risks for multiple diseases, including type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but the mechanism underlying these protective effects has been unclear. A new study now shows that caffeine promotes the movement of a regulatory protein into mitochondria, enhancing their function and protecting cardiovascular cells from damage. The work, publishing 21 June in the open access journal PLOS Biology [...] found that the protective effect was reached at a concentration equivalent to consumption of four cups of coffee, suggesting the effect may be physiologically relevant.

The authors have previously shown that at physiologically relevant concentrations (i.e. levels reached after four or more cups of coffee) caffeine improved the functional capacity of endothelial cells, which line the interior of blood vessels, and that the effect involved mitochondria, the cell's energy powerhouses.

Here, they showed that a protein called p27, known mainly as an inhibitor of the cell cycle, was present in mitochondria in the major cell types of the heart. In these cells, mitochondrial p27 promoted migration of endothelial cells, protected heart muscle cells from cell death, and triggered the conversion of fibroblasts into cells containing contractile fibers -- all crucial for repair of heart muscle after myocardial infarction. They found that caffeine induced the movement of p27 into mitochondria, setting off this beneficial chain of events, and did so at a concentration that is reached in humans by drinking four cups of coffee. Caffeine was protective against heart damage in pre-diabetic, obese mice, and in aged mice.

Journal Reference: Niloofar Ale-Agha, et al. CDKN1B/p27 is localized in mitochondria and improves respiration-dependent processes in the cardiovascular system—New mode of action for caffeine. PLOS Biology, 2018; 16 (6): e2004408 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2004408

-- submitted from IRC

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @11:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the only-got-to-ask dept.

The Supreme Court on Friday put new restraints on law enforcement's access to the ever-increasing amount of private information about Americans available in the digital age.

In the specific case before the court, the justices ruled that authorities generally must obtain a warrant to gain access to cell-tower records that can provide a virtual timeline and map of a person's whereabouts.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the 5 to 4 decision, in which he was joined by the court's liberal members. Each of the dissenting conservatives wrote separate opinions.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @09:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the cost-of-making-money dept.

One of Canada's largest utilities is planning to make blockchain companies bid for access to electricity.

Hydro Quebec says it will set aside a 500MW block of power that will be reserved for companies that are "using cryptography as applied to blockchain technology." Access to that block will be subject to a bidding process and companies that want to operate their servers and miners will be required to make bids in order to get power.

The starting rate for the bids will be an increase of 1 cent per kilowatt hour above the current price.

The move is an effort by Hydro Quebec to get a handle on an explosion of blockchain related activity (read: cryptocoin mining) that has caused a power crunch in Quebec. The company said earlier this month that it needed to take emergency measures to limit consumption and that "demand exceeds Hydro-Québec’s short and medium-term capacity."

The process will not just be based on how much money companies are willing to spend. Hydro Quebec says it will also consider job implications in the bids, and companies that plan to hire people in Quebec and deliver higher paying jobs (calculated in payroll per MW) will get higher consideration.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @06:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the self-inflicted dept.

Hardware hacker Bunnie Huang has written concrete details in his blog about how the new US tariffs are anti-maker and will promote offshoring. However, it is not quite too late ... yet. With the right pushback it might be possible to salvage the situation.

The new 25% tariffs announced by the USTR, set to go into effect on July 6th, are decidedly anti-Maker and ironically pro-offshoring. I've examined the tariff lists (List 1 and List 2), and it taxes the import of basic components, tools and sub-assemblies, while giving fully assembled goods a free pass. The USTR's press release is careful to mention that the tariffs "do not include goods commonly purchased by American consumers such as cellular telephones or televisions."

[...] There is a sliver of good news in all of this for American Makers. The list of commodities targeted in the trade war is not yet complete. The "List 2" items – which include all manner of microchips, motors, and plastics (such as 3D printer PLA filament and acrylic sheets for laser cutting) that are building blocks for small businesses and Makers – have yet to be ratified. The USTR website has indicated in the coming weeks they will disclose a process for public review and comment.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @05:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the be-vewwy-vewwy-quiet...-we're-hunting-weapons dept.

AI can detect signs of nuclear weapons testing banned under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, according to research from the US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. A group of scientists have built a neural network to sniff out any unusual nuclear activity. Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), one of the United States Department of Energy national laboratories, decided to see if they could use deep learning to sort through the different nuclear decay events to identify any suspicious behavior.

The lab, buried beneath 81 feet of concrete, rock and earth, is blocked out from energy from cosmic rays, electronics and other sources. It means that the data collected is less noisy, making it easier to pinpoint unusual activity.

The system looks for electrons emitted and scattered from radioactive particles decaying, and monitor the abundance of argon-37, a radioactive isotope of argon-39 that is created synthetically through nuclear explosions.

Argon-37 which has a half-life of 35 days, is emitted when calcium captures excess neutrons and decays by emitting an alpha particle. Emily Mace, a scientist at PNNL, said she looks for the energy, timing, duration and other features of the decay events to see if it's from nuclear testing.

"Some pulse shapes are difficult to interpret," said Mace. "It can be challenging to differentiate between good and bad data."

Deep learning makes that process easier. Computer scientists collected 32,000 pulses and annotated their properties, teaching the system to spot any odd features that might classify a signal as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

"Signals can be well behaved or they can be poorly behaved," said Jesse Ward. "For the network to learn about the good signals, it needs a decent amount of bad signals for comparison." When the researchers tested their system with 50,000 pulses and asked human experts to differentiate signals, the neural network agreed with them 100 per cent of the time. It also correctly identified 99.9 per cent of the pulses compared to 96.1 per cent from more conventional techniques.

[...] The results were presented at the Methods and Applications of Radioanalytical Chemistry conference in Hawaii this year.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @03:38AM   Printer-friendly
from the there's-another-app-for-that dept.

Google Podcasts App Launches, Years After It Canceled a Similar App

Google Podcasts is all about suggesting new shows

Google has officially entered into the podcatching space with a new Android-only app called Google Podcasts.

The app has the typical sorts of offerings when it comes to the more furnished dedicated podcatching apps out there such as a mosaic of top choices, a trending section and search. Google Podcasts syncs across all devices from Google Home to Android phones and tablets, letting users continue from where they left [off]. Specific to Google is a suggestion feature powered by Google Assistant that will proffer other shows in the same genre or on the same network.

Two competitors are Apple Podcasts and Pocket Casts.

Google announcement. Also at The Verge and Wired.

See also: Making sense of Google's podcast flip-flop, which discusses the ill-fated Google Listen.

Pocket Casts

Suddenly, the podcast management/discovery competition heats up:

Pocket Casts, the incredibly popular podcast application, announced today that it is opening up a public beta program for Android users. This will allow any interested user access to the app's newest features, with the caveat that builds might be broken or unstable. If you'd like to sign up for the public beta on Android, you can do so at this Google Play link.

[...] It's likely not a coincidence that this announcement comes on the heels of Google's introduction of its own app, called Google Podcasts.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @02:05AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-illegal-but-immoral dept.

The Norwegian Competition Authorities has fined Norway's largest telecoms provider Telenor 788 million kroner ($96 million) for abusing its dominant position on the country's mobile market.

The watchdog's director general, Lars Soergard, says Telenor made "a serious infringement of competition law" when creating "barriers for the development of a third mobile network in Norway." The watchdog agency said Telenor introduced amendments to the network access agreement with the intention of limiting further investments in the third mobile network in Norway in 2010.

[...] In a statement, Telenor CEO Berit Svendsen said the group had not violated any laws, adding the group likely would file an appeal.

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posted by janrinok on Saturday June 23, @12:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the hearts-all-a-flutter dept.

Google has updated a mobile framework that targets Android, iOS, and the in-development Google Fuchsia OS:

On Wednesday, Google's cross-platform mobile framework Flutter reached Preview Release 1, a designation that places the code somewhere between buggy beta and less buggy 1.0.

"The shift from beta to release preview signals our confidence in the stability and quality of what we have, and our focus on bug fixing and stabilization," said Google group product manager Tim Sneath in a blog post.

Introduced in May 2017, Flutter provides a way for Linux, macOS and Windows developers to create mobile apps in the Dart programming language that can run on Android, iOS or Google Fuchsia, an operating system that Google is working on.

Apps would be bundled with the Flutter engine:

Flutter is Google's second swing at a mobile SDK (the first being a little platform called "Android"). Flutter's claim to fame is that it's cross-platform—Flutter apps run on Android and iOS—and it's really fast. Flutter apps sidestep the app platforms of Android and iOS and instead run on the Flutter rendering engine (written in C++) and Flutter framework (written in Google's Dart language, just like Flutter apps). When it's time to ship a Flutter app off to Google's and Apple's respective app stores, the requisite Flutter engine code gets bundled up with the app code, and the Flutter SDK spits out Android and iOS versions of your single code base. Each version comes complete with built-in app themes for Android or iOS, so they still feel like native apps. Along with Android and iOS, Flutter is also the platform used for apps in Google's experimental Fuchsia OS.

Related: Google's New Non-Linux OS: Fuchsia
Google's Not-So-Secret New OS
Google Fuchsia UI Previewed
Google to Add Swift Language Support to Fuchsia OS

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday June 22, @11:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the something-that-kills-something-might-be-bad-for-you dept.

In the first trial of its kind, a Californian dying of cancer is suing US agrochemical giant Monsanto, claiming its popular herbicide Roundup caused his disease—a case that could have sweeping ramifications.

The stakes are high for Monsanto, which could face massive losses should it have to pay out damages over the product, whose main ingredient is glyphosate, a substance which some say is dangerously carcinogenic.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old father of two, says he is sick because of contact with Roundup, which he used for two years from 2012 as a groundskeeper for the Benicia school district near San Francisco, his lawyer Timothy Litzenburg told AFP.

Thousands of lawsuits targeting Monsanto are currently proceeding through the US court system, according to American media.

Litzenburg says he represents hundreds of people who also say they are victims of glyphosate.

Whether the substance causes cancer has been the source of endless debate among government regulators, health experts and lawyers.

"A major part of that job was spraying Roundup or Ranger Pro (a similar Monsanto product)... He sprayed it 20 to 40 times per year, sometimes hundreds of gallons at a time on the school properties," Litzenburg said.

In 2014, Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that affects white blood cells. Two years later, and no longer able to work, he filed suit against Monsanto, which he accuses of hiding its product's dangers.

"His case has been expedited because he currently has only a few months to live," his lawyer said.

Wikipedia entry on glyphosate.

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posted by martyb on Friday June 22, @09:28PM   Printer-friendly
from the start-selling-Cabbage^WGarbage-Patch-Kids? dept.

Few people consider used plastic to be a valuable global commodity. Yet China has imported 106 million tons of old bags, bottles, wrappers and containers worth $57.6 billion since 1992, the first year it disclosed data. So when the country announced last year that it finally had enough of everybody else's junk, governments the world over knew they had a problem. They just didn’t know exactly how large it was. 

Now they know. By 2030, an estimated 111 million metric tons of used plastic will need to be buried or recycled somewhere else—or not manufactured at all. That's the conclusion of a new analysis of UN global trade data by University of Georgia researchers.

[...] As the industry matured and the negative effects on public health and the environment became clear, China got more selective about the materials it was willing to buy. A "Green Fence" law enacted in 2013 kept out materials mixed with food, metals or other contaminants. Exports consequently dropped off from 2012 to 2013, a trend that continued until last year, when the world's biggest buyer warned that its scrap plastic purchases would stop altogether.

[...] The world’s plastic problem has been building for decades. Since mass production began in the early 1950s, annual output has grown from about 2 million tons to 322 million produced in 2015, the authors said. Current production rates are exceeding our ability to dispose of the stuff effectively—and supply is expected only to grow. “Without bold new ideas and management strategies, current recycling rates will no longer be met, and ambitious goals and timelines for future recycling growth will be insurmountable,” they wrote.

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posted by martyb on Friday June 22, @07:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the everybody-self-reports,-right? dept.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that states can require retailers to collect and remit sales taxes on out-of-state purchases. The 5-to-4 decision reversed decades-old decisions that protected out-of-state vendors from sales tax obligations unless the vendor had a physical presence in the state.

Those earlier decisions, one half a century ago, the other a quarter-century ago, date back to a time when mail-order sales were relatively small and online sales were all but nonexistent. As the justices acknowledged Thursday, however, the court back then "could not have envisioned" a world in which e-commerce sales have revolutionized the dynamics of the national economy.

Writing for the five-justice majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the previous decisions "were flawed," and in the modern economy, they "create, rather than resolve market distortions." In today's context, he said, the physical presence rule is "an extraordinary imposition by the judiciary on the states' authority to collect taxes and perform critical public functions."

Furthermore, Kennedy said, the previous decisions effectively functioned as a "judicially-created tax shelter" for out-of-state retailers, and put local businesses at a "competitive disadvantage."

The problems with these earlier decisions, Kennedy said, were made "all the more egregious" by technological innovation. "The Internet's prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy," he wrote in the majority opinion.

[...] The decision was a victory for South Dakota, which, like some other states, has no income tax and relies on sales taxes to fund most of the state's services. Because of dramatic fall-offs in state sales taxes, the state in 2016 enacted a law to test the physical presence rule. Three large online vendors, Wayfair, Newegg, and Overstock, challenged the law in court, and lost on Thursday.

[...] "The chessboard just looks a lot different now," said Stephanie Martz, general counsel for the National Retail Federation, which includes 18,000 businesses large and small. "Now our members are going to be able to figure out how to construct their businesses without worrying about whether putting a distribution center on this side of a state line or that side of the state line will result in a different tax implication."

While the court made clear that the states do not have unlimited power to require sales tax collection, "The court blessed South Dakota's law," said Carl Davis, research director for the Institute of Taxation and Economic policy.

The law specifically protects small businesses from collecting sales taxes if they have less than $100,000 in sales or fewer than 200 transactions in the state. The state also provides sales tax collection software for free for any business that wants it, and using that software immunizes the business from audit liability. Perhaps most importantly, the state law does not permit sales tax collection for past purchases, meaning that businesses don't have to worry about a huge tax bill that they never anticipated.

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posted by martyb on Friday June 22, @06:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the Wakanda's-secret-is-ICOnium dept.

Akon wants to found a 'real-life Wakanda' based around his cryptocurrency AKoin

Platinum-selling performer and philanthropist Akon wants to build his own city in Senegal and launch his own cryptocurrency as the central form of exchange. Speaking on Monday, June 18th, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, on a panel titled "Branding Africa: Blockchain, Entrepreneurship and Empowering the Future," the Grammy-nominated singer of "Don't Matter" and "I Wanna Love You" discussed his plans for AKoin, a branded form of cryptocurrency.

According to PageSix's panel report, Akon said blockchain technology and cryptocurrency could be "the savior for Africa in many ways" because of its high security factor. He said the app-based system "allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down."

An initial information blurb posted by ICO Impact Group lays out a much more ambitious plan: a "100% crypto-based city with AKoin at the center of transactional life," to be built in Senegal. (Akon was born in St. Louis, Missouri but is of Senegalese descent, and he spent significant parts of his childhood in Senegal.) The planned community would be called Akon Crypto City. [...] An extensive website for AKoin describes Akon Crypto City as "a real-life Wakanda," referring to the ultra high-tech fictional nation ruled by King T'Challa, aka the superhero Black Panther, in Marvel's Black Panther movie and comics.

Akon is an American singer, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor of Senegalese descent.

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posted by martyb on Friday June 22, @04:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the get-a-lawyer-*first* dept.

Tesla has sued an employee it accuses of illegally transferring company data to outsiders:

According to the civil complaint that was filed in federal court in Nevada, Tesla accused Martin Tripp, who began working in Sparks as a "process technician" in October 2017, of exporting company data:

Tesla has only begun to understand the full scope of Tripp's illegal activity, but he has thus far admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla's manufacturing operating system ("MOS") and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla data to outside entities. This includes dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla's manufacturing systems.

Beyond the misconduct to which Tripp admitted, he also wrote computer code to periodically export Tesla's data off its network and into the hands of third parties. His hacking software was operating on three separate computer systems of other individuals at Tesla so that the data would be exported even after he left the company and so that those individuals would be falsely implicated as guilty parties.

In a supposed email exchange with CEO Elon Musk after the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, the employee and Musk traded barbs. The employee claims to be a whistleblower bringing attention to battery, safety, and waste issues.

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posted by mrpg on Friday June 22, @03:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the nobody-think-of-the-airplanes dept.

SpaceX just sold the US Air Force the cheapest enormous rocket it's ever bought

SpaceX has won its first contract to launch a classified military satellite on its Falcon Heavy rocket, beating out rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The launch contract will cost the US Air Force $130 million, far less than the $350 million average cost of United Launch Alliance's Delta IV, previously the heaviest lifter in the US arsenal. SpaceX's disruptive business model has proven itself in the national security arena, where it has won five previous contracts since its rockets were certified to fly military missions.

The US Air Force decision signals confidence in the engineering behind the new rocket, which consists of three modified Falcon 9 cores strapped together and flew for the first time in February 2018 after seven years of development and testing.

Also at Ars Technica and Space News.

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