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99.992% of Fully Vaccinated People Have Dodged COVID, CDC Data Shows

1 hour 1 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Cases of COVID-19 are extremely rare among people who are fully vaccinated, according to a new data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among more than 75 million fully vaccinated people in the US, just around 5,800 people reported a "breakthrough" infection, in which they became infected with the pandemic coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated. The numbers suggest that breakthroughs occur at the teeny rate of less than 0.008 percent of fully vaccinated people -- and that over 99.992 percent of those vaccinated have not contracted a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The figures come from a nationwide database that the CDC set up to keep track of breakthrough infections and monitor for any concerning signs that the breakthroughs may be clustering by patient demographics, geographic location, time since vaccination, vaccine type, or vaccine lot number. The agency will also be keeping a close eye on any breakthrough infections that are caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants, some of which have been shown to knock back vaccine efficacy. [...] The extraordinary calculation that 99.992 percent of vaccinated people have not contracted the virus may reflect that they all simply have not been exposed to the virus since being vaccinated. Also, there are likely cases missed in reporting. Still, the data is a heartening sign. As for the "breakthroughs," the agency says many of them occurred in older people, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. There are some scattered through every age group, but more than 40 percent were in people ages 60 and above. "We see [breakthroughs] with all vaccines," top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said in a press briefing earlier this week. "No vaccine is 100 percent efficacious or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine."

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Categories: Technology

Amazon Tried To Coerce Ecobee Into Collecting Private User Data, the WSJ Reports

4 hours 1 min ago
Amazon tried to use its power to coerce Ecobee into using its smart home products to collect user data by threatening Ecobee's ability to sell its products on Amazon, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The Verge reports: As of now, Ecobee's products can still be purchased on Amazon, but the WSJ claims that negotiations between Ecobee and Amazon are ongoing. According to the WSJ, the online retail giant asked Ecobee to share data from its Alexa-enabled smart thermostats, even when the customer wasn't actively using the voice assistant. Ecobee reportedly refused to have its devices constantly report back to Amazon about the state of the user's home, including data on which doors were locked or unlocked and the set temperature. The reasoning being that enabling its devices to report this data to Amazon would be a violation of its customer's trust. Ecobee may have also been concerned that Amazon wanted the data to build competing products. The retail giant has a reputation for taking non-public sales data and using it to develop products -- something that's come up in antitrust investigations in the US and EU. Amazon has also been accused of using this sales data to directly copy and compete with other companies using its Amazon Basics brand.

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Categories: Technology

Massachusetts Wants To Pull the Plug On Robinhood

7 hours 1 min ago
Regulators in Massachusetts are seeking to revoke Robinhood's broker-dealer license in the state, after accusing the company of failing to properly account for fractional shares traded by customers on its platform. They also say the company "continues to entice and induce inexperienced customers into risky trading." CNN reports: The battle began in December when regulators in Massachusetts filed a 24-page complaint against Robinhood accusing the company of violating state law and regulations by failing to protect customers and safeguard its system. Officials alleged Robinhood lured inexperienced investors to its platform with gaming elements such as colorful confetti -- a practice that the company recently said it is getting rid of. The amended complaint filed Thursday says Robinhood has continued a pattern of aggressively enticing customers, including some with "little or no investment experience." It cites news reports indicating Robinhood has expanded margin lending and sought to persuade customers to deposit their stimulus checks by offering "free cash" for deposits. Robinhood's conduct since the complaint was filed in December "poses a substantial and continued risk to Massachusetts investors," the complaint said. Massachusetts regulators said Robinhood has failed to report its fractional share trade executions for over a year, "demonstrating its inability to follow the most basic requirements" required of broker-dealers. In a blog post, Robinhood sharply criticized what it described as "unfounded, politicized allegations and unreasonable demands" from regulators in Massachusetts and warned that revoking its license would block access for millions of customers. "The Massachusetts Securities Division's attempt to prevent Massachusetts residents from choosing how they invest is elitist and against everything we stand for," Robinhood said. "We don't believe our customers are naive as the Massachusetts Securities Division paints them to be." Robinhood fired back by filing a complaint and motion in Massachusetts State Court for a preliminary injunction that would stop the regulatory case against the company. Robinhood is arguing that the regulator's new fiduciary rule "exceeds its authority" under both state and federal law. "By trying to block Robinhood, the division is attempting to bring its residents back in time and reinstate the financial barriers that Robinhood was founded to break down," Robinhood said in the blog post.

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Categories: Technology

Striking Charter Workers Build ISP Where 'Profits Are Returned To Users'

10 hours 31 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Charter Communications employees who have been on strike since 2017 are building an Internet service provider in New York City called "People's Choice." "People's Choice Communications is an employee-owned social enterprise launched by members of IBEW Local #3 to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic," the ISP's website says. "We are the workers who built a large part of New York City's Internet infrastructure in the first place. We built out [Charter] Spectrum's cable system, until in 2017, the company pushed us out on strike by taking away our healthcare, retirement, and other benefits. It's now the longest strike in US history." So far, People's Choice says it has completed rooftop antenna installations at two schools in the Bronx and installed "hardline connections to wireless access points connecting 121 units" at housing for survivors of domestic violence who have disabilities. A Gizmodo article said the system is equipped to offer minimum speeds of 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, meeting a broadband standard that has been used by the Federal Communications Commission since 2015. "We have a big portion of most of the Bronx covered with our antenna," IBEW Local #3 steward Troy Walcott told Gizmodo. "Now we have to go building by building to let people know we're out there and start turning them on." "A few dozen Spectrum strikers have been actively involved in the installations, but Walcott expects that at least one hundred workers are waiting in the wings for the project to scale up," the Gizmodo article said. "We work in affordable housing, supportive housing, co-op housing, NYCHA [NYC Housing Authority], homeless shelters, and regular old apartment complexes," the webpage notes. You can fill out this form if you're interested in bringing broadband to your building. "After we build out a network in your building, it transfers to cooperative ownership, so profits are returned to users," the People's Choice website says. "We are able to provide high-speed service in most cases for $10-$20/month. No more cable company ripping you off, and as an owner, you have a vote in policies like data privacy."

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Categories: Technology

California To Hunt Greenhouse Gas Leaks and Superemitters With Monitoring Satellites

11 hours 59 min ago
California and its partners are set to launch by 2023 two satellites to spot and monitor plumes of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. "If all goes right, dozens more could follow," reports Science Magazine. From the report: The $100 million Carbon Mapper project, announced today and financed by private philanthropists including Michael Bloomberg, will advance efforts to track concentrated emissions of greenhouse gases, which rise from fossil fuel power plants, leaky pipelines, and abandoned wells. Previous satellites have lacked the resolution and focus to monitor point sources rigorously. [...] The satellites will be built and managed by Planet, a California company that already operates a constellation of Earth-imaging satellites. The spacecraft will rely on "hyperspectral" imaging spectrometers developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Rather than gathering light in just a few discrete wavelength channels, like the human eye, these spectrometers capture reflected sunlight and subdivide it into more than 400 wavelength channels across the visible and into the infrared. The intensity of light across these channels can be tied to specific chemistries and reflect the abundances of certain gases in the air molecules below. The satellites won't just measure gases in the air; they will also detect chemical signatures on the ground. By measuring the intensity of green chlorophyll or detecting the signatures for excess salts or fungus, for example, researchers will be able to evaluate the health of crops and forests. They can prospect for minerals in remote regions. They can map and identify different coral and algae species, and they can track dust and soot. Even snow and ice pops out in these sensors, says Robert Green, a remote-sensing scientist at JPL. "Snow is one of the most colorful materials on Earth if you look beyond visible light." The first two Carbon Mapper satellites will each be roughly the size of a washing machine, weighing up to 200 kilograms. They will provide imagery with a resolution of 30 meters but won't offer global coverage at first. Instead, they will target regions known to host superemitters, like power plants, oil and gas drilling, or livestock operations. The regions will be revisited every few weeks to start. All emission data, calculated from the plume intensity and length, will be made publicly available -- in the hopes that governments and businesses will do more to staunch leaks and tamp down discharges. [...] Should Carbon Mapper's first two satellites prove successful, Planet envisions building a commercial constellation of similar satellites that would revisit every spot on the planet once a day, and selling those data to regulators and companies.

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Categories: Technology

Google Researchers Boost Speech Recognition Accuracy With More Datasets

12 hours 36 min ago
What if the key to improving speech recognition accuracy is simply mixing all available speech datasets together to train one large AI model? That's the hypothesis behind a recent study published by a team of researchers affiliated with Google Research and Google Brain. They claim an AI model named SpeechStew that was trained on a range of speech corpora achieves state-of-the-art or near-state-of-the-art results on a variety of speech recognition benchmarks. VentureBeat reports: In pursuit of a solution, the Google researchers combined all available labeled and unlabelled speech recognition data curated by the community over the years. They drew on AMI, a dataset containing about 100 hours of meeting recordings, as well as corpora that include Switchboard (approximately 2,000 hours of telephone calls), Broadcast News (50 hours of television news), Librispeech (960 hours of audiobooks), and Mozilla's crowdsourced Common Voice. Their combined dataset had over 5,000 hours of speech -- none of which was adjusted from its original form. With the assembled dataset, the researchers used Google Cloud TPUs to train SpeechStew, yielding a model with more than 100 million parameters. In machine learning, parameters are the properties of the data that the model learned during the training process. The researchers also trained a 1-billion-parameter model, but it suffered from degraded performance. Once the team had a general-purpose SpeechStew model, they tested it on a number of benchmarks and found that it not only outperformed previously developed models but demonstrated an ability to adapt to challenging new tasks. Leveraging Chime-6, a 40-hour dataset of distant conversations in homes recorded by microphones, the researchers fine-tuned SpeechStew to achieve accuracy in line with a much more sophisticated model. Transfer learning entails transferring knowledge from one domain to a different domain with less data, and it has shown promise in many subfields of AI. By taking a model like SpeechStew that's designed to understand generic speech and refining it at the margins, it's possible for AI to, for example, understand speech in different accents and environments.

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Categories: Technology

Bezos Says Amazon Workers Aren't Treated Like Robots, Unveils Robotic Plan To Keep Them Working

13 hours 16 min ago
In his final letter to shareholders as Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos said that the company has to "do a better job for our employees." But, as The Verge points out, the outlined strategy includes "a robotic scheme that will develop new staffing schedules using an algorithm." From the report: Bezos pushed back on the idea that, according to news reports, Amazon doesn't care for its employees. "In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That's not accurate,â he wrote. To address concerns about working conditions, Bezos said the company will develop new staffing schedules "that use sophisticated algorithms to rotate employees among jobs that use different muscle-tendon groups to decrease repetitive motion and help protect employees from MSD risks." The technology will roll out throughout 2021, he said. In addition to giving a nod to working conditions at Amazon, the letter is the first time Bezos has publicly addressed the failed union drive at its Bessemer, Alabama plant. "Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn't," Bezos wrote. "I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it's clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees -- a vision for their success."

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Categories: Technology

Ireland Opens GDPR Investigation Into Facebook Leak

13 hours 59 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook's lead data supervisor in the European Union has opened an investigation into whether the tech giant violated data protection rules vis-a-vis the leak of data reported earlier this month. Here's the Irish Data Protection Commission's statement: "The Data Protection Commission (DPC) today launched an own-volition inquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act 2018 in relation to multiple international media reports, which highlighted that a collated dataset of Facebook user personal data had been made available on the internet. This dataset was reported to contain personal data relating to approximately 533 million Facebook users worldwide. The DPC engaged with Facebook Ireland in relation to this reported issue, raising queries in relation to GDPR compliance to which Facebook Ireland furnished a number of responses. The DPC, having considered the information provided by Facebook Ireland regarding this matter to date, is of the opinion that one or more provisions of the GDPR and/or the Data Protection Act 2018 may have been, and/or are being, infringed in relation to Facebook Users' personal data. Accordingly, the Commission considers it appropriate to determine whether Facebook Ireland has complied with its obligations, as data controller, in connection with the processing of personal data of its users by means of the Facebook Search, Facebook Messenger Contact Importer and Instagram Contact Importer features of its service, or whether any provision(s) of the GDPR and/or the Data Protection Act 2018 have been, and/or are being, infringed by Facebook in this respect." "We are cooperating fully with the IDPC in its enquiry, which relates to features that make it easier for people to find and connect with friends on our services," Facebook said in a statement. "These features are common to many apps and we look forward to explaining them and the protections we have put in place."

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Categories: Technology

EFF Partners With DuckDuckGo

14 hours 41 min ago
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today announced it has enhanced its groundbreaking HTTPS Everywhere browser extension by incorporating rulesets from DuckDuckGo Smarter Encryption. According to the digital rights group's press release, HTTPS Everywhere is "a collaboration with The Tor Project and a key component of EFF's effort to encrypt the web and make the Internet ecosystem safe for users and website owners." From the press release: "DuckDuckGo Smarter Encryption has a list of millions of HTTPS-encrypted websites, generated by continually crawling the web instead of through crowdsourcing, which will give HTTPS Everywhere users more coverage for secure browsing," said Alexis Hancock, EFF Director of Engineering and manager of HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot web encrypting projects. "We're thrilled to be partnering with DuckDuckGo as we see HTTPS become the default protocol on the net and contemplate HTTPS Everywhere's future." EFF began building and maintaining a crowd-sourced list of encrypted HTTPS versions of websites for a free browser extension -- HTTPS Everywhere -- which automatically takes users to them. That keeps users' web searching, pages visited, and other private information encrypted and safe from trackers and data thieves that try to intercept and steal personal information in transit from their browser. [...] DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine, also joined the effort with Smarter Encryption to help users browse securely by detecting unencrypted, non-secure HTTP connections to websites and automatically upgrading them to encrypted connections. With more domain coverage in Smarter Encryption, HTTPS Everywhere users are provided even more protection. HTTPS Everywhere rulesets will continue to be hosted through this year, giving our partners who use them time to adjust. We will stop taking new requests for domains to be added at the end of May.

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Categories: Technology

FreeBSD 13 Released

Thu, 2021-04-15 23:40
"FreeBSD, the other Linux, reached version 13," writes long-time Slashdot reader undoman. "The operating system is known for its stable code, native ZFS support, and use of the more liberal BSD licenses." Phoronix highlights some of the major new improvements: FreeBSD 13.0 delivers on performance improvements (particularly for Intel CPUs we've seen in benchmarks thanks to hardware P-States), upgrading to LLVM Clang 11 as the default compiler toolchain, POWER 64-bit support improvements, a wide variety of networking improvements, 64-bit ARM (AArch64) now being a tier-one architecture alongside x86_64, EFI boot improvements, AES-NI is now included by default for generic kernel builds, the default CPU support for i386 is bumped to i686 from i486, and a variety of other hardware support improvements. Various obsolete GNU tools have been removed like an old version of GNU Debugger used for crashinfo, obsolete GCC 4.2.1 and Binutils 2.17 were dropped from the main tree, and also switching to a BSD version of grep. The release announcement can be found here.

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Categories: Technology

The Looming Software Kill-Switch Lurking In Aging PlayStation Hardware

Thu, 2021-04-15 23:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Unless something changes, an issue lurking in older PlayStations' internal timing systems threatens to eventually make every PS4 game and all downloaded PS3 games unplayable on current hardware. Right now, it's not a matter of if but when this problem will occur. [...] The root of the coming issue has to do with the CMOS battery inside every PS3 and PS4, which the systems use to keep track of the current time (even when they're unplugged). If that battery dies or is removed for any reason, it raises an internal flag in the system's firmware indicating the clock may be out of sync with reality. After that flag is raised, the system in question has to check in with PSN the next time it needs to confirm the correct time. On the PS3, this online check happens when you play a game downloaded from the PlayStation Store. On the PS4, this also happens when you try to play retail games installed from a disc. This check has to be performed at least once even if the CMOS battery is replaced with a fresh one so the system can reconfirm clock consistency. Why does the PlayStation firmware care so much about having the correct time? On the PS3, the timer check is used to enforce any "time limits" that might have been placed on your digital purchase (as confirmed by the error message: "This content has a time limit. To perform this operation go to settings date and time settings set via internet"). That check seems to be required even for downloads that don't have any actual set expiration date, adding a de facto one-time online check-in requirement for systems after their internal batteries fail. On the PS4, though, the timing check is apparently intended to make sure PSN trophy data is registered accurately and to prevent players from pretending to get trophies earlier than they actually had. You'd think this check could be segregated from the ability to load the non-trophy portions of the game, but player testing has shown that this seems to be a requirement to get PS4 games to load at all. Last month, Sony shut down PlayStation Store access for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation Portable. Sony will eventually shut off the PSN servers that power the timing check for hardware it no longer considers important. "After that, it's only a matter of time before failing CMOS batteries slowly reduce all PS3 and PS4 hardware to semi-functional curios," adds Ars. Sony could release a firmware update that limits the system functions tied to this timing check, but Sony hasn't publicly indicated it has any such plans.

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Categories: Technology

Apple Wins New Trial in $506 Million Patent-Damages Award

Thu, 2021-04-15 22:20
A federal judge tossed a $506.2 million damages award against Apple after ruling the iPhone maker should have been able to argue that patent owner Optis Wireless Technology was making unfair royalty demands, though he refused to throw out the liability finding. From a report: Optis and its partners in the case, PanOptis Patent Management and Unwired Planet, claimed that Apple's smartphones, watches, and tablets that operate over the LTE cellular standard were using its patented technology. U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap said the jury should have been allowed to consider whether the royalty demand was consistent with a requirement that standard-essential patents be licensed on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory," or FRAND, terms. The patent trial in August, one of the few held during the pandemic, was part of an unusual sweep of verdicts in Texas that collectively resulted in $3.7 billion in damages against tech companies like Apple and Intel Corp. Apple was also hit with damages awards of $502.8 million in a decade-long battle over security communications technology, and $308.5 million in a case over digital rights management.

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Categories: Technology

Singapore's Most Expensive Facebook Link

Thu, 2021-04-15 21:45
An anonymous reader shares a report: On November 7, 2018, Leong Sze Hian, a financial advisor and blogger, shared an article on his Facebook page, without comment. The article, published by Malaysian website The Coverage, alleged that Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had become a target of ongoing investigations in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, a massive case of graft in Malaysia that drew in banks in Singapore, Hollywood stars, and Saudi royalty. The article claimed that Malaysia, under former Prime Minister Najib Razak, had signed unfair deals with Singapore in return for help to launder stolen funds. These were serious allegations, particularly in Singapore, where the government is ultra-sensitive to any suggestion of corruption. The response, unsurprisingly, was strong and swift: the law and home affairs minister issued a clear rebuttal, Singapore's High Commission in Kuala Lumpur described the article as libelous, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore lodged a police report against the author of a similar article published in the States Times Review, a website run by a Singaporean in Australia who is highly critical of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party. The Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore's media regulator, told Leong to remove the link from his Facebook page; he did. But it was already too late to save him from trouble. Two days later, he found out that Prime Minister Lee was going to sue him for defamation. Last month, the High Court ruled that Leong did defame Lee and ordered him to pay almost $100,000 (133,000 Singapore dollars) in damages. It's an extraordinary sum for a simple Facebook link that stayed up for only three days. But there's a particular legal precedent in Singapore: public leaders are usually awarded higher damages when they win defamation suits related to their character or integrity. In his judgment, Justice Aedit Abdullah quoted a previous case in which the courts stated that public "leaders are generally entitled to higher damages also because of their standing in Singapore society and devotion to public service."

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Categories: Technology

Schwab Sues Former Client After Accidental Transfer of $1.2 Million

Thu, 2021-04-15 21:05
An anonymous reader writes: Charles Schwab is suing one of its former customers after the retail brokerage allegedly sent more than $1.2 million to an account of the Louisiana woman and then could not get the money back. Schwab meant to send $82.56 to Kelyn Spadoni's Fidelity Brokerage Services account in February, but a computer glitch caused it to erroneously transfer more than $1.2 million, according to the lawsuit. Schwab tried to get the money back, but repeated calls and texts to Spadoni, who lives in a suburb of New Orleans, were not returned, the brokerage said in the lawsuit. "We are fully cooperating with authorities in an effort to resolve this issue," Schwab said in a statement on Tuesday. Fidelity declined comment. After receiving the money in her account, Spadoni transferred a quarter of the money to another account, after which she bought a house and a car using the funds, Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Captain Jason Rivarde said in an interview on Tuesday. "Obviously you are not planning to give the money back if you spent it," he said. When Spadoni signed up with Schwab in January, the agreement she signed included a section that said any overpayment of funds must be returned, said the lawsuit, filed March 30.

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Intel, Nvidia, TSMC Execs Agree: Chip Shortage Could Last Into 2023

Thu, 2021-04-15 20:22
How many years will the ongoing chip shortage affect technology firms across the world? This week, multiple tech executives offered their own dismal estimates as part of their usual public financial disclosures, with the worst one coming in at "a couple of years." From a report: That nasty estimate comes from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who offered that vague timeframe to The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday. He clarified that was an estimate for how long it would take the company to "build capacity" to potentially address supply shortages. The conversation came as Intel offered to step up for two supply chains particularly pinched by the silicon drought: medical supplies and in-car computer systems. In previous statements, Gelsinger pointed to Intel's current $20 billion plan to build a pair of factories in Arizona, and this week's interview added praise for President Joe Biden's proposed $50 billion chip-production infrastructure plan -- though Gelsinger indicated that Biden should be ready to spend more than that. TSMC CEO C.C. Wei offered a similarly dire estimate to investors on Thursday, saying that the Taiwan-based company hoped to "offer more capacity" for meeting retail and manufacturing demand "in 2023." TSMC, coincidentally, is moving forward with a manufacturing plant of its own in Arizona, which Bloomberg claims could cost "up to $12 billion," despite the company clarifying that it intends to prioritize research, development, and production in its home nation.

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Apple Launches $200 Million 'Restore Fund' To Target Carbon Removal

Thu, 2021-04-15 19:44
Apple on Thursday announced it's launching a $200 million "Restore Fund" that will "make investments in forestry projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating a financial return for investors." From a report: The move is the latest step by the world's largest tech companies to invest in climate initiatives, including a number of efforts to finance technologies and methods to not only cut emissions, but remove atmospheric CO2.

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Japan Scraps Mascot Promoting Fukushima Wastewater Dump

Thu, 2021-04-15 19:05
The Japanese government has been forced to quickly retire an animated character it had hoped would win support for its decision this week to release more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea. From a report: Although the water will be treated before being discharged, it will still contain tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope represented on a government website by a cute fish-like creature with rosy cheeks. The character's appearance in an online flyer and video on the reconstruction agency's website angered Fukushima residents. "It seems the government's desire to release the water into the sea takes priority over everything," Katsuo Watanabe, an 82-year-old Fukushima fisher, told the Kyodo news agency. "The gap between the gravity of the problems we face and the levity of the character is huge." Riken Komatsu, a local writer, tweeted: "If the government thinks it can get the general public to understand just by creating a cute character, it is making a mockery of risk communication." Social media users named the character Tritium-kun -- or Little Mr Tritium -- an apparent reference to Pluto-kun, who appeared in the mid-1990s to soften the image of plutonium on behalf of Japan's nuclear industry. The reconstruction agency, which oversees recovery efforts in the region destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, removed the promotional material on Wednesday, a day after it first appeared. Experts say tritium is harmful to humans only in large doses, and that with dilution the treated water poses no scientifically detectable risk.

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Google Earth Now Shows Decades of Climate Change in Seconds

Thu, 2021-04-15 18:28
Google Earth has partnered with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service, and Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab to bring users time-lapse images of the planet's surface -- 24 million satellite photos taken over 37 years. Together they offer photographic evidence of a planet changing faster than at any time in millennia. Shorelines creep in. Cities blossom. Trees fall. Water reservoirs shrink. Glaciers melt and fracture. From a report: "We can objectively see global warming with our own eyes," said Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth. "We hope that this can ground everyone in an objective, common understanding of what's actually happening on the planet, and inspire action." Timelapse, the name of the new Google Earth feature, is the largest video on the planet, according to a statement from the company, requiring 2 million hours to process in cloud computers, and the equivalent of 530,000 high-resolution videos. The tool stitches together nearly 50 years of imagery from the U.S.'s Landsat program, which is run by NASA and the USGS. When combined with images from complementary European Sentinel-2 satellites, Landsat provides the equivalent of complete coverage of the Earth's surface every two days. Google Earth is expected to update Timelapse about once a year.

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Social Media Plays Key Role for Domestic Extremism, FBI Director Says

Thu, 2021-04-15 17:42
Social-media companies play a central role in disseminating the messaging of domestic violent extremists in the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday, likening the role platforms play in the spread of extremist thought to foreign-backed online political disinformation. From a report: "Social media has become, in many ways, the key amplifier to domestic violent extremism just as it has for malign foreign influence," Mr. Wray said in an annual worldwide-threats hearing held by the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The same things that attract people to it for good reasons are also capable of causing all kinds of harms that we are entrusted with trying to protect the American people against." Mr. Wray's comments came as the Biden administration jump-starts efforts to combat domestic terrorism, which took on greater urgency after supporters of former President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 claiming falsely that the 2020 election had been stolen from him. Mr. Wray's remarks were among the most strident comments from a senior U.S. intelligence official about how social media fuels the problem. Mr. Wray stopped short of blaming Silicon Valley companies for aiding domestic extremism, instead urging Americans "to understand better what the information is that they are reading" and approach it with a "greater level of discerning skepticism." The nature of social media -- an "echo chamber" in which like-minded people rarely hear from outside voices and are isolated because of the Covid-19 pandemic -- has contributed to the problem, he said.

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Dell Announces Long-Awaited Spinoff of VMware

Thu, 2021-04-15 17:06
Dell has announced the long-expected spinoff of VMware, the computing virtualization company it has majority-owned since it bought then-owner EMC Corp. in 2016. From a report: The computing giant said it will spin off its 81% equity ownership in VMware, creating two standalone companies when the move is completed in the fourth quarter of this year. That timing depends on conditions such as a favorable Internal Revenue Service opinion that the transaction qualifies for tax-free status for Dell shareholders. The idea is to simplify the companies' capital structures, since arguably investors have valued both companies' stocks lower than they might have because of the uncertainties related to the complex capital structures. Dell's shares rose about 9% in after-hours trading, while VMwareâ(TM)s shares rose about 1.6% in late trading. Under the spinoff, which Dell had signaled last year, VMware will distribute a cash dividend of about $11.5 billion to $12 billion to shareholders, which of course include publicly held Dell itself. Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Dell, along with financial partner Silver Lake Partners, own 60% of Dell shares. Dell will get $9.3 billion to $9.7 billion of that dividend, which the company said will help it get more investment-grade ratings and enable it to pay down debt it has gradually been reducing since buying EMC.

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