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Comments:18 | Votes:46

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday September 10, @11:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the leveling-the-playing-field dept.

The City of Bonavista has taken a new approach to dealing with airbnb hosts who represent unfair competition for hotels and bread-and-breakfast ins because they don't pay business taxes. They cut your sewer and water lines.

Bonavista cuts off services for Airbnb operators with unpaid business tax bills.

"We have gone to some pretty serious measures to collect. We have literally dug up driveways and turned off water (and) sewer service until the bill is paid, cutting them off completely from all municipal services.

-- Mayor John Norman

If people can't even drive their car onto your property, take a shower, use the toilet, you're pretty motivated to pony up.

The mayor said the taxation method has been successful, but he acknowledges not all Airbnb owners are pleased.

"I don't think some are happy about it, but it is what it is."

This is a pretty effective fix to unfair competition by airbnb hosts. The next question is, how can we apply the same thinking to uber and lyft?

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 10, @10:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the 🗹⠀I-am-not-a-robot dept.

Deep learning excels at learning statistical correlations, but lacks robust ways of understanding how the meanings of sentences relate to their parts.

At TED, in early 2018, the futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, currently a director of engineering at Google, announced his latest project, "Google Talk to Books," which claimed to use natural language understanding to "provide an entirely new way to explore books." Quartz dutifully hyped it as "Google's astounding new search tool [that] will answer any question by reading thousands of books."

If such a tool actually existed and worked robustly, it would be amazing. But so far it doesn't. If we could give computers one capability that they don't already have, it would be the ability to genuinely understand language. In medicine, for example, several thousand papers are published every day; no doctor or researcher can possibly read them all. Drug discovery gets delayed because information is locked up in unread literature. New treatments don't get applied, because doctors don't have time to discover them. AI programs that could synthesize the medical literature–or even just reliably scan your email for things to add to your to-do list—would be a revolution.

[...] The currently popular approach to AI doesn't do any of that; instead of representing knowledge, it just represents probabilities, mainly of how often words tend to co-occur in different contexts. This means you can generate strings of words that sound humanlike, but there's no real coherence there.

[...] We don't think it is impossible for machines to do better. But mere quantitative improvement—with more data, more layers in our neural networks, and more computers in the networked clusters of powerful machines that run those networks—isn't going to cut it.

Instead, we believe it is time for an entirely new approach that is inspired by human cognitive psychology and centered around reasoning and the challenge of creating machine-interpretable versions of common sense.

Reading isn't just about statistics, it's about synthesizing knowledge: combining what you already know with what the author is trying to tell you. Kids manage that routinely; machines still haven't.

From Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust, by Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis.

If Computers Are So Smart, How Come They Can't Read?

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Tuesday September 10, @08:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the autonomous-car-turbo-button dept.

California Democrats are poised to pass landmark employment legislation over the objections of two of the companies that would be most affected: Silicon Valley ride-sharing giants Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc.

The bill already passed the State Assembly 59-15 and is expected to be voted on in the state Senate before the legislative session ends on Friday, possibly as soon as Monday night. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he would sign the bill, which intends to force companies that rely on “gig workers” to reclassify them as employees, likely upending the business model of those companies.

Uber and Lyft have spent much of the year pushing lawmakers to alter the bill or exempt them. That effort has failed against opposition from labor unions and a large Democratic majority in Sacramento. The companies have argued the bill would introduce new costs and logistical challenges that would be bad for them and many of their employees, who prefer job flexibility. If the measure becomes law, it is expected to have national repercussions given California’s economic importance and history of creating precedent-setting business regulations.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @06:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-the-hell-was-that? dept.

Scientists Discover More Evidence of That Dinosaur-killing Asteroid

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Scientists discover more evidence of that dinosaur-killing asteroid

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have found "hard evidence" of the asteroid that killed off dinosaurs. The research, published Monday and reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal, shows the asteroid caused wildfires and tsunamis after hitting with the impact of 10 billion WWII-era atomic bombs.

Inside an impact crater off the Gulf of Mexico were charcoal and soil, which were swept inside by the backflow of the tsunami in the first 24 hours, the research said. This showed how the blast ignited trees and plants thousands of miles away from the impact zone, and triggered a far-reaching inland tsunami across the Americas.

But no sulfur was found in the core of the impact crater -- meaning around 325 billion metric tons of sulfur was released into the atmosphere that day, the scientists said. This destroyed Earth's existing climate, blocking out the sun and causing a global cooling period that caused the "mass extinction" of the dinosaurs.

Scientists Discover New Evidence of the Asteroid That Killed Off the Dinosaurs

An Anonymous Coward has submitted the following story from IRC:

[...] The sediments also offer chemical evidence that the cataclysm blew hundreds of billions of tons of sulfur from pulverized ocean rock into the atmosphere, triggering a global winter in which temperatures world-wide dropped by as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit for decades, the scientists said.

"It tells us what went on inside the crater on that day of doom that killed the dinosaurs," said Jay Melosh, a geophysicist at Purdue University who studies impact craters and wasn't a member of the drilling team. "All of this mayhem is directly recorded in the core."

The scientists in the drilling consortium, led by geophysicist Sean Gulick at the University of Texas in Austin, who was co-chief of the $10 million project, published their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The project was sponsored by the International Ocean Discovery Program and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.

[...] The scientists worked aboard a drilling ship called Lifeboat Myrtle anchored offshore from the Mexican port of Progreso. In 2016, they drilled into the crater's inner rim for the first time, buried in the seafloor under about 1,500 feet of limestone deposited in the millions of years since the impact.

Geologists study rocks as a record of compressed time, with ticks of the geologic clock typically measured in layers that accumulate over thousands of years. In the Chicxulub crater, though, hundreds of feet of sediments built up rapidly, recording impact effects like a high-speed stop-action camera, the scientists said.

"Here we have 130 meters in a single day," said Dr. Gulick. "We can read it on the scale of minutes and hours, which is amazing."

The asteroid blasted a cavity between 25 and 30 miles deep in the first seconds of impact, creating a boiling cauldron of molten rocks and super-heated steam, according to the scientists' interpretation of the rock. Rebounding from the hammer blow, a plume of molten rock splashed up into a peak higher than Mount Everest.

Within minutes, it collapsed into itself, splashing gigantic waves of lava outward that solidified into a ring of high peaks, the scientists said.

About 20 minutes or so later, sea water surged back over the newly formed peaks, covering them in a blanket of impact rocks, the scientists said. As minutes became hours, waves choked with shards of volcanic glass and splintered rock rippled back and forth, coating the peaks in a layer of impact rock called suevite, the scientists said. As the hours passed, the backwash of waves added more and more finely graded debris.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the can't-leaf-things-alone dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Many of the problems human engineers face have already been solved by nature, so why not use those as a jumping off point? Making artificial versions of the humble leaf has been an ongoing area of research for decades and in a new breakthrough, researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) have fine-tuned their artificial leaf design and used it to produce drugs for the first time.

[...] The new artificial leaf design from TUE builds on the team’s previous prototype, presented in 2016. Back then, the device was made of silicon rubber, but in the new version that’s been replaced with Plexiglas for several reasons.

“This material is cheaper and easy to make in larger quantities,” says Timothy Noël, lead researcher on the team. “It also has a higher refractive index, so that the light stays better confined. But the most important thing is that we can add more types of light-sensitive molecules in (Plexiglas). As a result, in principle all chemical reactions are now possible in this reactor across the entire width of the visible light spectrum.”

The leaf has started to earn its keep, too. The team put it to the test and found that it was able to successfully produce two different drugs: artimensinin, which is effective against malaria, and ascaridole, which is used against certain parasitic worms.

[...] The research was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. An explainer of the artificial leaf can be seen in the video below.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @03:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the grabs-popcorn dept.

Get ready to be probed by the Antitrust Voltron, Google: Attorneys general combine from Texas, New York, Maine, Arizona, Missouri...

From IRC we get the following story:

The attorneys general of 50 US states and territories are teaming up to probe Google for possible antitrust violations, Ken Paxton, the AG for Texas, announced on Monday.

The bipartisan push involves 48 states, with only Alabama and California – the latter being the home of Google and Silicon Valley – declining to take part. Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, a US protectorate, have stepped up, though, bringing the total number of prosecutors to 50.

California Assemblyman member Jordan Cunnigham (R-San Luis Obispo) expressed disappointment that California's State Attorney Xavier Becerra isn't part of the monopoly probe. "Attorney General Becerra's refusal to join the bipartisan investigation into the tech giants is embarrassing. California deserves to be at the table," he said.

Paxton will be leading the probe, described as "a multistate investigation into whether large tech companies" – cough, cough, Google – "have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers."

"Now, more than ever, information is power, and the most important source of information in Americans' day-to-day lives is the internet. When most Americans think of the internet, they no doubt think of Google," said Attorney General Paxton.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @01:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the can't-tell-you,-it's-secret dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

When Microsoft asked US lawmakers to explain the threat [from Huawei], they've been too vague for Smith's liking. Huawei is a major customer of his company: Its laptops come with Microsoft's Windows operating system.

"Oftentimes, what we get in response is, 'Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us'," Smith told Bloomberg. "And our answer is, 'Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That's the way this country works.' " 

[...] Smith, who's also Microsoft's chief legal officer, said his company argued that the department should limit its ban to sales that pose national security risks, such as universities with Chinese military links -- an approach he compared to a "scalpel" rather than its current "meat cleaver" method.

Neither Huawei nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @12:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-been-weighing-on-my-mind dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Why people gain weight as they get older

The scientists studied the fat cells in 54 men and women over an average period of 13 years. In that time, all subjects, regardless of whether they gained or lost weight, showed decreases in lipid turnover in the fat tissue, that is the rate at which lipid (or fat) in the fat cells is removed and stored. Those who didn't compensate for that by eating less calories gained weight by an average of 20 percent, according to the study which was done in collaboration with researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden and University of Lyon in France.

The researchers also examined lipid turnover in 41 women who underwent bariatric surgery and how the lipid turnover rate affected their ability to keep the weight off four to seven years after surgery. The result showed that only those who had a low rate before the surgery managed to increase their lipid turnover and maintain their weight loss. The researchers believe these people may have had more room to increase their lipid turnover than those who already had a high-level pre-surgery.

"The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during ageing in a way that is independent of other factors," says Peter Arner, professor at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study's main authors. "This could open up new ways to treat obesity."

Prior studies have shown that one way to speed up the lipid turnover in the fat tissue is to exercise more. This new research supports that notion and further indicates that the long-term result of weight-loss surgery would improve if combined with increased physical activity.

"Obesity and obesity-related diseases have become a global problem," says Kirsty Spalding, senior researcher at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Karolinska Institutet and another of the study's main authors. "Understanding lipid dynamics and what regulates the size of the fat mass in humans has never been more relevant."

P. Arner, Adipose lipid turnover and long-term changes in body weight. Nature Medicine, 2019; 25 (9): 1385 DOI: 10.1038/s41591-019-0565-5

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @10:42AM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-out-of-a-tight-scrape dept.

Web Scraping Doesn't Violate Anti-Hacking Law, Appeals Court Rules :

Scraping a public website without the approval of the website's owner isn't a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an appeals court ruled (pdf) on Monday. The ruling comes in a legal battle that pits Microsoft-owned LinkedIn against a small data-analytics company called hiQ Labs.

HiQ scrapes data from the public profiles of LinkedIn users, then uses the data to help companies better understand their own workforces. After tolerating hiQ's scraping activities for several years, LinkedIn sent the company a cease-and-desist letter in 2017 demanding that hiQ stop harvesting data from LinkedIn profiles. Among other things, LinkedIn argued that hiQ was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's main anti-hacking law.

This posed an existential threat to hiQ because the LinkedIn website is hiQ's main source of data about clients' employees. So hiQ sued LinkedIn, seeking not only a declaration that its scraping activities were not hacking but also an order banning LinkedIn from interfering.

A trial court sided with hiQ in 2017. On Monday, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court agreed with the lower court, holding that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act simply doesn't apply to information that's available to the general public.

"The CFAA was enacted to prevent intentional intrusion onto someone else's computer—specifically computer hacking," a three-judge panel wrote. The court notes that members debating the law repeatedly drew analogies to physical crimes like breaking and entering. In the 9th Circuit's view, this implies that the CFAA only applies to information or computer systems that were private to start with—something website owners typically signal with a password requirement.

Information wants to be free.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 10, @09:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the leave-it-to-the-fish-to-complain-about-free-imports dept.

Plastic debris makes up about 80% of the litter on Great Lakes shorelines. Nearly 22 million pounds enter the Great Lakes each year—more than half of which pours into Lake Michigan, according to estimates calculated by the Rochester Institute of Technology. Regardless of size, as plastics linger in the water, they continue to break down from exposure to sunlight and abrasive waves.

Microplastics have been observed in the guts of many Lake Michigan fish, in drinking water and even in beer. Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is that the impact of microplastics on human health remains unclear. Plastics are known to attract industrial contaminants already in the water, like PCBs, while expelling their own chemical additives intended to make them durable, including flame retardants.

[...] Matthew Hoffman, the lead author of the Rochester Institute of Technology estimate, said population centers like Chicago and Milwaukee are large contributors to plastics pollution in Lake Michigan. In addition to trash that can drift into the water from beaches, wastewater treatment facilities are significant sources of microplastics.

Before a federal ban in 2017, some soaps and facial scrubs contained microbeads that were rinsed down the drain into waterways. The majority of microplastics are tiny fibers that break off from synthetic fabrics when people do laundry.

Once plastics enter the lake, they follow lake currents, potentially migrating to other states but largely remaining trapped at the southern end.

"Things from Chicago might end up on the shores in the state of Michigan," Hoffman said. "In the Great Lakes, plastic could move to different states, different lakes, different countries. So that can be an interesting challenge if you want to clean up. Now you have to look at interstate regulations."

What goes into Lake Michigan typically stays there. While water from the other Great Lakes moves downstream, Lake Michigan's only major outflow is the Chicago River (and the water it intermittently exchanges with Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac). As a result, a drop of water that enters Lake Michigan stays for about 62 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Because some municipal sewage sludge is applied to farm fields, agricultural runoff can also be a significant contributor. Farmers who may use plastic materials to cover their seed beds (to regulate the soil temperature and moisture) may also be partly responsible for microplastics.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 10, @07:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the A76-is-more-than-anyone-needs dept.

Anonymous Coward writes:

Just a couple of days ago, Huawei rolled out the Kirin 990 SoC. Designed by Huawei's HiSilicon unit and manufactured by TSMC using its 7nm+ EUV process, each chip contains 10.3 billion transistors and has an integrated 5G modem chip. The component will be powering the new Mate 30 line and the delay in releasing the foldable Mate X has allowed Huawei to stuff that device with its new chipset as well. Originally, the Kirin 980 SoC was designed into the niche device.

The Kirin 990 has eight CPU cores; four are powerful Cortex-A76 cores (with two running at a clock speed of 2.86GHz and the other two at 2.34GHz). And there are four Cortex-A55 cores with a clock speed of 1.9GHz for general housekeeping. The one question that many are asking is why Huawei didn't include ARM's latest and greatest Cortex-A77 core inside the Kirin 990. And when that question was asked of Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer group, he gave some interesting responses according to GizChina. And no, it has nothing to do with the U.S. supply chain ban.

The Huawei executive said that since the performance of the Kirin 990 is "beyond the user's needs," trading additional power in exchange for a shorter battery life is not worth it according to Yu. Even though ARM says that the Cortex-A77 provides a 20% boost in performance with no additional power consumption, Huawei's testing contradicts ARM's claims.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 10, @05:55AM   Printer-friendly

Anonymous Coward writes:

The Milky Way could be teeming with interstellar alien civilizations — we just don't know about it because they haven't paid us a visit in 10 million years.

A study published last month in The Astronomical Journal[$] posits that intelligent extraterrestrial life could be taking its time to explore the galaxy, harnessing star systems' movement to make star-hopping easier.

The work is a new response to a question known as the Fermi paradox, which asks why we haven't detected signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @04:26AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

We are volunteers who make and take care of the Python programming language. We have decided that January 1, 2020, will be the day that we sunset Python 2. That means that we will not improve it anymore after that day, even if someone finds a security problem in it. You should upgrade to Python 3 as soon as you can.

We need to sunset Python 2 so we can help Python users.

We released Python 2.0 in 2000. We realized a few years later that we needed to make big changes to improve Python. So in 2006, we started Python 3.0. Many people did not upgrade, and we did not want to hurt them. So, for many years, we have kept improving and publishing both Python 2 and Python 3.

But this makes it hard to improve Python. There are improvements Python 2 can't handle. And we have less time to work on making Python 3 better and faster.

And if many people keep using Python 2, then that makes it hard for the volunteers who use Python to make software. They can't use the good new things in Python 3 to improve the tools they make.

We did not want to hurt the people using Python 2. So, in 2008, we announced that we would sunset Python 2 in 2015, and asked people to upgrade before then. Some did, but many did not. So, in 2014, we extended that sunset till 2020.

If people find catastrophic security problems in Python 2, or in software written in Python 2, then volunteers will not help you. If you need help with Python 2 software, then volunteers will not help you. You will lose chances to use good tools because they will only run on Python 3, and you will slow down people who depend on you and work with you.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @02:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-a-pain dept.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is expected to file for bankruptcy after settlement talks over the nation's deadly overdose crisis hit an impasse, attorneys general involved in the talks said Saturday.

The breakdown puts the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic on track to begin next month, likely without Purdue, and sets the stage for a complex legal drama involving nearly every state and hundreds of local governments.

Purdue, the family that owns the company and a group of state attorneys general had been trying for months to find a way to avoid trial and determine Purdue's responsibility for a crisis that has cost 400,000 American lives over the past two decades.

An email from the attorneys general of Tennessee and North Carolina, obtained by The Associated Press, said that Purdue and the Sackler family had rejected two offers from the states over how payments under any settlement would be handled and that the family declined to offer counterproposals.

"As a result, the negotiations are at an impasse, and we expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently," Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wrote in their message, which was sent to update attorneys general throughout the country on the status of the talks.

[...] The impasse in the talks comes about six weeks before the scheduled start of the first federal trial under the Cleveland litigation, overseen by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster. That trial will hear claims about the toll the opioid epidemic has taken on two Ohio counties, Cuyahoga and Summit.

A bankruptcy filing by Purdue would most certainly remove the company from that trial.

The bankruptcy judge would have wide discretion on how to proceed. That could include allowing the claims against other drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies to move ahead while Purdue's cases are handled separately. Three other manufacturers have already settled with the two Ohio counties to avoid the initial trial.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday September 10, @01:25AM   Printer-friendly
from the always-have,-always-will dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Departments of Motor Vehicles in states around the country are taking drivers' personal information and selling it to thousands of businesses, including private investigators who spy on people for a profit, Motherboard has learned. DMVs sell the data for an array of approved purposes, such as to insurance or tow companies, but some of them have sold to more nefarious businesses as well. Multiple states have made tens of millions of dollars a year selling data.

Motherboard has obtained hundreds of pages of documents from DMVs through public records requests that lay out the practice. Members of the public may not be aware that when they provide their name, address, and in some cases other personal information to the DMV for the purposes of getting a driver's license or registering a vehicle, the DMV often then turns around and offers that information for sale.

Many of the private investigators that DMVs have sold data to explicitly advertise that they will surveil spouses to see if they're cheating.

"You need to learn what they’ve been doing, when they’ve been doing it, who they’ve been doing it with and how long it has been going on. You need to see proof with your own eyes," reads the website of Integrity Investigations, one private investigator firm that buys data from DMVs.

"Under this MOU [memorandum of understanding], the Requesting Party will be provided, via remote electronic means, information pertaining to driver licenses and vehicles, including personal information authorized to be released," one agreement between a DMV and its clients reads.

Multiple DMVs stressed to Motherboard that they do not sell the photographs from citizens' driver licenses or social security numbers.

Some of the data access is done in bulk, while other arrangements allow a company to lookup specific individuals, according to the documents. Contracts can roll for months at a time, and records can cost as little as $0.01 each, the documents add.

“The selling of personally identifying information to third parties is broadly a privacy issue for all and specifically a safety issue for survivors of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking," Erica Olsen, director of Safety Net at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told Motherboard in an email. "For survivors, their safety may depend on their ability to keep this type of information private."

The sale of this data to licensed private investigators is perfectly legal, due to the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), a law written in the '90s before privacy became the cultural focus that it is today, but which critics believe should be changed. The process of becoming a licensed private investigator varies from state to state, and can be strict, according to multiple sources close to the industry. Some states, however, allow licensing to be granted on a local level or investigators to operate without a license.

The DPPA was created in 1994 after a private investigator, hired by a stalker, obtained the address of actress Rebecca Schaeffer from a DMV. The stalker went on to murder Schaeffer. The purpose of the law was to restrict access to DMV data, but it included a wide range of exemptions, including for the sale to private investigators.

"The DPPA is one of several federal laws that should now be updated," Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of privacy activism group EPIC, wrote in an email. "I would certainly reduce the number of loopholes," he added, referring to how the law might be changed.

[...] He added that if the DMV data has been abused by private investigators, "Congress should take a close look at the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and, if necessary, close loopholes that are being abused to spy on Americans."

Original Submission