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Elon Musk Begins Hosting 'Saturday Night Live' - As the World Watches

Slashdot - Sun, 2021-05-09 03:29
This afternoon Elon Musk tweeted a special URL allowing viewers outside the U.S. to simultaenously livestream his 90-minute appearance on Saturday Night Live for the first time in more than 100 countries, starting at 11:30 p.m. EST. The A.V. Club had a sardonic reaction to the livestreaming on YouTube: Good news for anyone looking at tonight's upcoming broadcast of Saturday Night Live — in which labor-busting vaccine skeptic Elon Musk will be given a platform to broadcast his techno-dystopian brain contents to the world — and thought, "Wow, there's not enough Google involved here." Well, not anymore. Musk has already appeared in a two promos for the show. (Though CNN quips that the tonight's live show means NBC is "relying on Musk to filter his thoughts in real time, despite little evidence, historically, of him holding back on just about anything he wants to say — even when under scrutiny by federal regulators.") And the rest of the world is getting ready too. While Tesla brought the Cybertruck prototype to its New York City store, Lucid Air made plans to broadcast an ad for its coming 500-mile-range electric car that will compete with cars from Musk's Tesla. Meanwhile, Bleeping Computer reports that Twitter scammers have been hacking into verified Twitter accounts and changing the profiles to impersonate SNL's, then replying to Musk's tweets with URL's lead to cryptocurrency giveaway scams. "We have determined that the scammers have made at least $97,054.62 over the past two days. The Ethereum giveaway scams also earned them $13,758." And the Dogecoin scammers netted at least $42,456. And this week also Slate noted a spike in the price of Dogecoin. The joke cryptocurrency based on a shiba inu meme is up — uh, let me check — about 20 percent since this time Tuesday, has just about doubled in price since April 27, and as of this moment is up about 26,000 percent for the year (lol). It's trading around 64 cents as I type this... [I]t's probably not worth overthinking this. We're living in the stonks era. Elon is going on a sketch comedy show and is hinting that he might bring up a dumb digital token that everyone finds inherently funny. Now CNBC is hauling on experts to illuminate what the hell is going on, and members of the financial media are having to write earnest explainers about why you should invest in the dog money with caution, as if a single sane person would think otherwise. What makes the whole rally uniquely amusing, compared with, say, the rise of Bitcoin, is that it's a willfully dumb affront not just to traditional finance, but also to the broader crypto community — which has, shall we say, mixed feelings about Dogecoin, mostly because they think it makes their project, which they tend to treat with self-righteous seriousness, look very silly... Dogecoin is the, well, underdog of the crypto world, the currency that was looked down upon by much of the Bitcoin- and Ethereum-boosting elite. Except now it has an $82 billion market cap. The dogecoiners — basically the sweet, dumb, bong-ripping frat of the crypto world — find all this hilarious. So what will happen tonight? Ultimately castmember Michael Che, who co-hosts the show's parody newscast segment Weekend Update, joked that while some of the show's performers objected to Musk's appearance, he saw the selection of Musk as both "polarizing" and "exciting." "You know, what's funny is that I would say I know about 20 to 25% of the white people that get to host the show anyway. So Elon, I was like, 'Oh, I know who he is at least.'" Share your own reactions in the comments.

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Does XKCD's Cartoon Show How Scientific Publishing Is a Joke?

Slashdot - Sun, 2021-05-09 01:34
"An XKCD comic — and its many remixes — perfectly captures the absurdity of academic research," writes the Atlantic (in an article shared by Slashdot reader shanen). It argues that the cartoon "captured the attention of scientists — and inspired many to create versions specific to their own disciplines. Together, these became a global, interdisciplinary conversation about the nature of modern research practices." It depicts a taxonomy of the 12 "Types of Scientific Paper," presented in a grid. "The immune system is at it again," one paper's title reads. "My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it," declares another. The gag reveals how research literature, when stripped of its jargon, is just as susceptible to repetition, triviality, pandering, and pettiness as other forms of communication. The cartoon's childlike simplicity, though, seemed to offer cover for scientists to critique and celebrate their work at the same time... You couldn't keep the biologists away from the fun ("New microscope!! Yours is now obsolete"), and — in their usual fashion — the science journalists soon followed ("Readers love animals"). A doctoral student cobbled together a website to help users generate their own versions. We reached Peak Meme with the creation of a meta-meme outlining a taxonomy of academic-paper memes. At that point, the writer and internet activist Cory Doctorow lauded the collective project of producing these jokes as "an act of wry, insightful auto-ethnography — self-criticism wrapped in humor that tells a story." Put another way: The joke was on target. "The meme hits the right nerve," says Vinay Prasad, an associate epidemiology professor and a prominent critic of medical research. "Many papers serve no purpose, advance no agenda, may not be correct, make no sense, and are poorly read. But they are required for promotion." The scholarly literature in many fields is riddled with extraneous work; indeed, I've always been intrigued by the idea that this sorry outcome was more or less inevitable, given the incentives at play. Take a bunch of clever, ambitious people and tell them to get as many papers published as possible while still technically passing muster through peer review ... and what do you think is going to happen? Of course the system gets gamed: The results from one experiment get sliced up into a dozen papers, statistics are massaged to produce more interesting results, and conclusions become exaggerated. The most prolific authors have found a way to publish more than one scientific paper a week. Those who can't keep up might hire a paper mill to do (or fake) the work on their behalf. The article argues the Covid-19 pandemic induced medical journals to forego papers about large-scale clinical trials while "rapidly accepting reports that described just a handful of patients. More than a few CVs were beefed up along the way." But pandemic publishing has only served to exacerbate some well-established bad habits, Michael Johansen, a family-medicine physician and researcher who has criticized many studies as being of minimal value, told me. "COVID publications appear to be representative of the literature at large: a few really important papers and a whole bunch of stuff that isn't or shouldn't be read." Unfortunately, the Atlantic adds, "none of the scientists I talked with could think of a realistic solution."

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Emails, Text Messages Can Be Retrieved From Smartphones Synced to Vehicles

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 22:34
Slashdot reader ytene writes: As reported by The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection have just spent $456,063 for a package of technology specifically designed to access smartphone data via a motor vehicle. From the article: "...part of the draw of vacuuming data out of cars is that so many drivers are oblivious to the fact that their cars are generating so much data in the first place, often including extremely sensitive information inadvertently synced from smartphones." This data can include "Recent destinations, favorite locations, call logs, contact lists, SMS messages, emails, pictures, videos, social media feeds, and the navigation history of everywhere the vehicle has been, when and where a vehicle's lights are turned on, and which doors are opened and closed at specific locations" as well as "gear shifts, odometer reads, ignition cycles, speed logs, and more. This car-based surveillance, in other words, goes many miles beyond the car itself." Perhaps the most remarkable claim, however, was, "We had a Ford Explorer we pulled the system out, and we recovered 70 phones that had been connected to it. All of their call logs, their contacts and their SMS." Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is quoted as saying, "Whenever we have surveillance technology that's deeply invasive, we are disturbed," he said. "When it's in the hands of an agency that's consistently refused any kind of attempt at basic accountability, reform, or oversight, then it's Defcon 1."

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Astronomers Search For Answers To Origins of Interstellar Visitors Like 'Oumuamua

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 21:38
"Getting to another extrasolar planet is never going to happen in my lifetime, or that of Western civilisation," says Alan Jackson, an astronomer and planetary scientist at Arizona State University. "But we can have nature deliver pieces of them to us that we can actually see up close." Slashdot reader boudie2 shares this article from BBC Future, which notes that astronomers spent decades looking for objects from outside our solar system — until two arrived at once. "'Oumuamua has not yet been definitively classified as a comet or an asteroid — it might be something else entirely," the article points out. For one thing, 'Oumuamua didn't have a comet-like tail: Two things in particular fixated scientists. The first was its mysterious acceleration away from the Sun, which was hard to reconcile with many ideas about what it might have been made of. The second was its peculiar shape — by some estimates, it was 10 times as long as it was wide. Before 'Oumuamua, the most elongated known space objects were three times longer than they were wide... [F]inally, earlier this year Jackson and his colleague Steven Desch came up with an explanation that seems to explain 'Oumuamua's quirky features, without the need for any alien technology... "We just realised that nitrogen ice could supply exactly the amount of push it needs — and it's observed on Pluto," he says. To corroborate the idea, they calculated how shiny the surface of 'Oumuamua was and compared it to the reflectivity of nitrogen ice — and found that the two were more or less exact matches. The team concluded that the object was likely to be a chunk of nitrogen ice, which was chipped off the surface of a Pluto-like exoplanet around a young star. Based on the evolution of our own solar system, which started out with thousands of similar planets in the icy neighbourhood of the Kuiper belt, they suggested that the fragment may have broken off around half a billion years ago... Though the object would have finally reached the very outermost edge of the Solar System many years ago, it would have taken a long time to travel to the balmy, central region where it was first discovered — and been gradually worn down into a pancake as it approached. This explains its unusual shape and its acceleration in one go, because the evaporating nitrogen would have left an invisible tail that propelled it forwards. "Our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and you can see though it," says Jackson. "Nitrogen gas is difficult to detect." Again, not everyone is happy with this suggestion. Luckily, the second interstellar object, 2I/Borisov "has turned out to be emphatically less difficult to decipher than its cosmic companion. It's been recognised as the first interstellar comet ever found."

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Deepfake Satellite Imagery Poses a Not-so-Distant Threat

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 20:34
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes the Verge's warning about "deepfake geography: AI-generated images of cityscapes and countryside." Specifically, geographers are concerned about the spread of fake, AI-generated satellite imagery. Such pictures could mislead in a variety of ways. They could be used to create hoaxes about wildfires or floods, or to discredit stories based on real satellite imagery... Deepfake geography might even be a national security issue, as geopolitical adversaries use fake satellite imagery to mislead foes... The first step to tackling these issues is to make people aware there's a problem in the first place, says Bo Zhao, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Washington. Zhao and his colleagues recently published a paper on the subject of "deep fake geography," which includes their own experiments generating and detecting this imagery... As part of their study, Zhao and his colleagues created software to generate deepfake satellite images, using the same basic AI method (a technique known as generative adversarial networks, or GANs) used in well-known programs like ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. They then created detection software that was able to spot the fakes based on characteristics like texture, contrast, and color. But as experts have warned for years regarding deepfakes of people, any detection tool needs constant updates to keep up with improvements in deepfake generation.

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'Ghost Gun' Loophole Leads US Justice Dept to Propose New Definition of 'Firearm'

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 19:34
America's Justice Department proposed a new rule Friday to update the definition of "firearm" for the first time since 1968, in an effort to close the so-called "ghost gun" loophole. UPI reports: Attorney General Merrick Garland said the modernized definition would require retailers to perform background checks on customers before selling some ready-made kits that allow people to build their own guns. Such guns are known as "ghost guns" because they don't have serial numbers and can't be traced. "Criminals and others barred from owning a gun should not be able to exploit a loophole to evade background checks and to escape detection by law enforcement," Garland said... Under the proposed rule, manufacturers must include a serial number on the firearm frame or receiver in a kit. Firearm dealers also must add serial numbers to 3D-printed guns or other un-serialized firearms they take into their inventory.

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'Despite Chip Shortage, Chip Innovation Is Booming'

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 18:34
The New York Times reports on surprising silver linings of the global chip shortage: Even as a chip shortage is causing trouble for all sorts of industries, the semiconductor field is entering a surprising new era of creativity, from industry giants to innovative start-ups seeing a spike in funding from venture capitalists that traditionally avoided chip makers. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung Electronics, for example, have managed the increasingly difficult feat of packing more transistors on each slice of silicon. IBM on Thursday announced another leap in miniaturization, a sign of continued U.S. prowess in the technology race. Perhaps most striking, what was a trickle of new chip companies is now approaching a flood. Equity investors for years viewed semiconductor companies as too costly to set up, but in 2020 plowed more than $12 billion into 407 chip-related companies, according to CB Insights. Though a tiny fraction of all venture capital investments, that was more than double what the industry received in 2019 and eight times the total for 2016. Synopsys, the biggest supplier of software that engineers use to design chip, is tracking more than 200 start-ups designing chips for artificial intelligence, the ultrahot technology powering everything from smart speakers to self-driving cars. Cerebras, a start-up that sells massive artificial-intelligence processors that span an entire silicon wafer, for example, has attracted more than $475 million. Groq, a start-up whose chief executive previously helped design an artificial-intelligence chip for Google, has raised $367 million. "It's a bloody miracle," said Jim Keller, a veteran chip designer whose resume includes stints at Apple, Tesla and Intel and who now works at the A.I. chip start-up Tenstorrent. "Ten years ago you couldn't do a hardware start-up...." More companies are concluding that software running on standard Intel-style microprocessors is not the best solution for all problems. For that reason, companies like Cisco Systems and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have long designed specialty chips for products such as networking gear. Giants like Apple, Amazon and Google more recently have gotten into the act. Google's YouTube unit recently disclosed its first internally developed chip to speed video encoding. And Volkswagen even said last week that it would develop its own processor to manage autonomous driving.

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Ransomware Cyberattack Forces Major US Pipeline Company to Halt Operations

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 17:34
"Colonial Pipeline, which accounts for 45% of the East Coast's fuel, said it has shut down its operations due to a cyberattack," reports ZDNet. "The attack highlights how ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasingly a threat to real-world infrastructure. "The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military." UPDATE: Saturday the company confirmed that the attack involved ransomware. The Associated Press reports: Colonial Pipeline said the attack took place Friday and also affected some of its information technology systems. The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company said it hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack and has also contacted law enforcement and federal agencies. "Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue," the company said in a late Friday statement. "At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline." Oil analyst Andy Lipow said the impact of the attack on fuel supplies and prices depends on how long the pipeline is down. An outage of one or two days would be minimal, he said, but an outage of five or six days could causes shortages and price hikes, particularly in an area stretching from central Alabama to the Washington, D.C., area. Lipow said a key concern about a lengthy delay would be the supply of jet fuel needed to keep major airports operating, like those in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina. The precise nature of the attack was unclear, including who launched it and what the motives were... Mike Chapple, teaching professor of IT, analytics and operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business and a former computer scientist with the National Security Agency, said systems that control pipelines should not be connected to the internet and vulnerable to cyber intrusions. "The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls, or the right degree of security controls weren't in place," Chapple said... The article also points out the U.S. government says it's "undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks....to ensure that control systems serving 50,000 or more Americans have the core technology to detect and block malicious cyber activity. The White House has announced a 100-day initiative aimed at protecting the country's electricity system from cyberattacks by encouraging owners and operators of power plants and electric utilities to improve their capabilities for identifying cyber threats to their networks. It includes concrete milestones for them to put technologies into use so they can spot and respond to intrusions in real time. The Justice Department has also announced a new task force dedicated to countering ransomware attacks...

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Cyberattack Forces Major US Pipeline Company to Halt Operations

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 17:34
"Colonial Pipeline, which accounts for 45% of the East Coast's fuel, said it has shut down its operations due to a cyberattack," reports ZDNet. "The attack highlights how ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasingly a threat to real-world infrastructure. "The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military." The Associated Press reports: Colonial Pipeline said the attack took place Friday and also affected some of its information technology systems. The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company said it hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack and has also contacted law enforcement and federal agencies. "Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue," the company said in a late Friday statement. "At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline." Oil analyst Andy Lipow said the impact of the attack on fuel supplies and prices depends on how long the pipeline is down. An outage of one or two days would be minimal, he said, but an outage of five or six days could causes shortages and price hikes, particularly in an area stretching from central Alabama to the Washington, D.C., area. Lipow said a key concern about a lengthy delay would be the supply of jet fuel needed to keep major airports operating, like those in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina. The precise nature of the attack was unclear, including who launched it and what the motives were. A Colonial Pipeline spokeswoman declined to say whether the company had received a ransom demand, as is common in attacks from cyber criminal syndicates... Mike Chapple, teaching professor of IT, analytics and operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business and a former computer scientist with the National Security Agency, said systems that control pipelines should not be connected to the internet and vulnerable to cyber intrusions. "The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls, or the right degree of security controls weren't in place," Chapple said... The article also points out the U.S. government says it's "undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks....to ensure that control systems serving 50,000 or more Americans have the core technology to detect and block malicious cyber activity. The White House has announced a 100-day initiative aimed at protecting the country's electricity system from cyberattacks by encouraging owners and operators of power plants and electric utilities to improve their capabilities for identifying cyber threats to their networks. It includes concrete milestones for them to put technologies into use so they can spot and respond to intrusions in real time. The Justice Department has also announced a new task force dedicated to countering ransomware attacks...

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New Studies Show Covid-19 Vaccines' Effectiveness Against Variants

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 16:34
CNN recently reported on "a batch" of new studies published Wednesday — with one quantifying how much immunity improves after the second dose, and others showing how well coronavirus vaccines work against new variants of the virus: The first nationwide study of coronavirus vaccination, done in Israel, showed Pfizer/BioNtech's vaccine works far better after two doses. Two shots of the vaccine provided greater than 95% protection from infection, severe illness and death, Dr. Eric Haas of the Israel Ministry of Health and colleagues reported in the Lancet medical journal. "Two doses of BNT162b2 are highly effective across all age groups in preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19-related hospitalizations, severe disease, and death, including those caused by the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant," they wrote. The B.1.1.7 variant, first seen in Britain, has spread widely and is now the most common new variant seen in the US. It was also common in Israel when the study was done... "By 14 days after vaccination, protections conferred by a second dose [of the Pfizer vaccine] increased to 96.5% protection against infection, 98% against hospitalization, and 98.1% against death," the team wrote. But people who got only one dose of the vaccine were far less protected. One dose alone gave just 57.7% protection against infection, 75.7% against hospitalization, and 77% against death.... Separately, a team in the Gulf state of Qatar looked at the efficacy of Pfizer's vaccine in the population there when B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 were both circulating. They found reassuring results. "The estimated effectiveness of the vaccine against any documented infection with the B.1.1.7 variant was 89.5% at 14 or more days after the second dose. The effectiveness against any documented infection with the B.1.351 variant was 75%," the researchers wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine... Vaccine maker Moderna reported Wednesday that a booster shot delivering a half-dose of its current vaccine revs up the immune response against both B.1.351 and P.1. And a booster dose formulated specifically to match B.1.351 was even more effective, Moderna said in a statement... In another study, vaccine maker Novavax confirmed earlier findings that showed its vaccine protects against B.1.351.

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New Audio From Mars Captures Sounds of Ingenuity Helicopter's Flight

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 15:34
"A ghostly hum has been echoing across the plains of Mars' Jezero Crater," reports Business Insider. Slashdot reader quonset writes: NASA has released a short video of Ingenuity's fourth flight on Mars. However, a bountiful side effect is they were able to hear the hum of its rotors. Perseverance's microphone was turned on during the flight, and despite Ingenuity being over 260 feet away, it was able to capture both sight and sound of the historic event. While the majority of sound is Martian wind rustling against the microphone, NASA enhanced the sound to make the rotor sounds more audible. They are most apparent when Ingenuity returns to its takeoff spot and the rotor hum dies down when the blades come to a halt. "We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly," said NASA's science lead for the Perseverance rover's microphone. "We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance. This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere."

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Facebook Criticized For 'Arbitrary' Suspension of Trump -- by Its Own Oversight Board

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 14:34
"It never occurred to me that a Facebook-appointed panel could avoid a clear decision about Donald Trump's heinous online behavior," writes a New York Times technology reporter. "But that is what it's done..." They call the board's decision "kind of perfect, actually, since it forces everyone's hand — from the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to our limp legislators in Congress..." The editor of the conservative National Review adds: If Facebook had set out to demonstrate that it has awesome power over speech in the United States, including speech at the core of the nation's political debate, and is wielding that power arbitrarily, indeed has no idea what its own rules truly are or should be, it wouldn't have handled the question any differently... The oversight board underlines the astonishing fact that in reaching its most momentous free-speech decision ever in this country, in determining whether a former president of the United States can use its platform or not, Facebook made it up on the fly. "In applying this penalty," the board writes of the suspension, "Facebook did not follow a clear, published procedure." This is like the U.S. Supreme Court handing down decisions in the absence of a written Constitution, or a home-plate umpire calling balls and strikes without an agreed-upon strike zone... John Samples, a member of the Oversight Board, has even said explicitly that their decision was not about former president Trump — but about Facebook itself. The Washington Post reports: Samples said the board found that Facebook enforced a rule that didn't exist at the time. Trump was suspended indefinitely, rather than permanently or for a specific period of time, as defined by the company's own rules. "In a sense we were being tough with them," Samples said. Other members said the board's call should reassure anyone concerned that Facebook wields too much control over online speech. "Anyone who's concerned about Mark Zuckerberg's power and his company's power over our speech online should actually praise this decision," Julie Owono, executive director of Internet Sans Frontières, said at a virtual event hosted by the Stanford Cyber Policy Center. "The board refused to support an arbitrary suspension..." The flurry of media appearances marked a critical moment in the board's existence, as it tries to prove its legitimacy, define its powers and establish its relationship with Facebook. NPR notes that Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a board co-chair, even called Facebook "a bit lazy" for failing to set a specific penalty in the first place... "What we are telling Facebook is that they can't invent penalties as they go along. They have to stick to their own rules," Thorning-Schmidt said in an interview with Axios. The board's criticism didn't stop at Facebook's imposing what it called a "vague, standardless penalty." It slammed the company for trying to outsource its final verdict on Trump. "Facebook has a responsibility to its users and to its community and to the broader public to make its own decisions," Jamal Greene, another board co-chair and constitutional law professor at Columbia, said Thursday during an Aspen Institute event. "The board's job is to make sure that Facebook is doing its job," he said. Tensions between the board's view of the scope of its role and Facebook's were also evident in the board's revelation that the company wouldn't answer seven of the 46 questions it asked about the Trump case. The questions Facebook refused to answer included how its own design and algorithms might have amplified the reach of Trump's posts and contributed to the Capitol assault. "The ones that the company refused to answer to are precisely related to what happened before Jan. 6," Julie Owono, an oversight board member and executive director of the digital rights group Internet Sans Frontières, said at the Aspen Institute event. "Our decision says that you cannot make such an important decision, such a serious decision for freedom of expression, freedom of speech, without the adequate context."

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Honeywell Admits Sending F-35, F-22 Technical Drawings To China

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 13:00
schwit1 shares a report from UPI: The State Department announced it has reached a $13 million settlement with U.S. defense contractor Honeywell International over allegations it exported technical data concerning fighter jets and other military vehicles to foreign countries, including China. The settlement resolves 34 charges the State Department leveled against the company for disclosing dozens of engineering prints showing dimensions, geometries and layouts for manufacturing parts for aircraft, gas turbine engines and military electronics. Honeywell voluntarily informed the department in two disclosures that it had violated arms export control laws by sending the technical drawings to foreign countries, the State Department said in a statement. Honeywell had identified 71-controlled drawings that it had exported to Canada, Ireland, China and Taiwan between July 2011 and October 2015. "The U.S. government reviewed copies of the 71 drawings and determined that exports to and retransfers in the PRC of drawings for certain parts and components for the engine platforms for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, B-1B Lancer Long-Range Strategic Bomber and the F-22 Fighter Aircraft harmed U.S. national security," the document said. In a statement emailed to UPI, Honeywell explained it "inadvertently shared" the technology that was assessed as impacting national security during "normal business discussions" but remarked that the schematics were commercially available worldwide. "No detailed manufacturing or engineering expertise was shared," it said. The company has agreed to pay the fine and have an external compliance officer oversee the consent agreement for at least 18 months as well as conduct an external audit of its compliance program.

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Bayer Loses Fight Over Chemicals EU Blamed For Killing Bees

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 10:00
Bayer AG lost its fight to topple a European Union ban on controversial insecticides that regulators blame for killing honeybees. Bloomberg reports: The EU Court of Justice dismissed the appeal, finding there were no legal errors in the European Commission's decision to impose restrictions on the substances' use, based on concerns that the chemicals posed "high acute risks for bees" and "the survival and development of colonies in several crops." Bayer and Syngenta AG in 2018 already lost a first round in court after telling judges that the EU ban on three so-called neonicotinoids forced farmers to revert to potentially more harmful chemicals. Bayer appealed one more time. The EU's decision five years earlier imposed limits on the use of three neonics -- clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam -- saying they were "harmful" to Europe's honeybee population when used to treat flowering plants with nectar that attracts the insects. The court ruled on Thursday the commission "is entitled to consider that a risk to the colonies could not be ruled out" even if there is "scientific uncertainty at this stage as to the rate of mortality of individual bees." EU governments in 2018 voted in favor of widening the ban of neonicotinoids to apply everywhere, except for greenhouses. The commission has described the chemicals as "systemic," causing the entire plant to become toxic to bees.

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Amazon Is Turning Hit Sci-Fi Podcast 'From Now' Into a TV Show

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 07:00
From Now is one of the most popular sci-fi podcasts on the market that is now being turned into a TV series, thanks to Amazon Studios. Engadget reports: From Now, which debuted in December, stars Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Marvel's Eternals) and Brian Cox (Succession) as identical twins separated by time. Madden plays astronaut Edward Fitz, whose spacecraft unexpectedly shows up in Earth's orbit after disappearing 35 years previously. The story deals with the aftermath of the brothers' reunion, with Edward appearing to be the same age as when he left and his twin now an old man. From Now shot up to number two in the overall Apple Podcast charts. From Now creators Rhys Wakefield and William Day Frank, are adapting the podcast for TV. It's unclear whether Madden and Cox will reprise their roles, but they'll act as executive producers. Madden is already working with Amazon. He's currently filming Citadel, an ambitious-sounding Prime Video spy series from the Russo brothers.

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You can listen right here to the sound of a robot helicopter flying on an alien world

TheRegister - Sat, 2021-05-08 06:39
NASA records, shares sound of Ingenuity drone on Mars, like we're in some kind of sci-fi flick

Video One of the microphones on Perseverance, NASA’s latest and greatest Mars rover, has recorded the sounds of its autonomous helicopter Ingenuity flying on the Red Planet, providing scientists with the first ever audio samples of an aircraft operating on another planet.…

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Nuclear Reactions Are Smoldering Again At Chernobyl

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Thirty-five years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in the world's worst nuclear accident, fission reactions are smoldering again in uranium fuel masses buried deep inside a mangled reactor hall. "It's like the embers in a barbecue pit," says Neil Hyatt, a nuclear materials chemist at the University of Sheffield. Now, Ukrainian scientists are scrambling to determine whether the reactions will wink out on their own -- or require extraordinary interventions to avert another accident. Sensors are tracking a rising number of neutrons, a signal of fission, streaming from one inaccessible room, Anatolii Doroshenko of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, reported last week during discussions about dismantling the reactor. "There are many uncertainties," says ISPNPP's Maxim Saveliev. "But we can't rule out the possibility of [an] accident." The neutron counts are rising slowly, Saveliev says, suggesting managers still have a few years to figure out how to stifle the threat. Any remedy he and his colleagues come up with will be of keen interest to Japan, which is coping with the aftermath of its own nuclear disaster 10 years ago at Fukushima, Hyatt notes. "It's a similar magnitude of hazard."

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Sinopharm: Chinese Covid Vaccine Gets WHO Emergency Approval

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 01:30
AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: The World Health Organization (WHO) has granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine made by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm. It is the first vaccine developed by a non-Western country to get WHO backing. The vaccine has already been given to millions of people in China and elsewhere. The WHO had previously only approved the vaccines made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. With little data released internationally early on, the effectiveness of the various Chinese vaccines has long been uncertain. But the WHO on Friday said it had validated the "safety, efficacy and quality" of the Sinopharm jab. The WHO said the addition of the vaccine had "the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk." It is recommending that the vaccine be administered in two doses to those aged 18 and over. A decision is expected in the coming days on another Chinese vaccine developed by Sinovac, while Russia's Sputnik vaccine is under assessment.

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Sennheiser Sells Its Consumer Audio Business To Hearing Aid Specialist Sonova

Slashdot - Sat, 2021-05-08 00:10
Sennheiser has sold its consumer electronics division to a Swiss company called Sonova that specializes in hearing care, Sennheiser has announced. Engadget reports: Sonova said it made the 200 million euro ($241 million) deal to expand its aging demographic to younger customers, particularly in the wireless in-ear segment. "Even if they don't have hearing loss, most of them will gradually get hearing loss with age, and devices like Sennheiser's allow us to have earlier consumer access to such people," Sonova chief Arnd Kaldowski told Reuters. The company said it would build on Sennheiser's HiFi expertise and "combine it with its own technology expertise and strengths in the field of innovative hearing solutions." As part of what the company called a "partnership," Sennheiser will completely transfer its consumer business to Sonova. Sennheiser said it had 600 employees in its consumer division, but made no mention of possible layoffs. Sennheiser's Co-CEOs, Andreas and Daniel Sennheiser, said Sonova "not only shares our passion for audio and a commitment to the highest product quality, but also very similar corporate values." Sonova will gain permanent licensing to the Sennheiser brand, giving it an entry into the consumer headphone segment. "Combining our audiological expertise with Sennheiser's know-how in sound delivery, their great reputation as well as their high-quality products will allow us to expand our offering," Kaldowski said.

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Tesla Autopilot is a lot dumber than CEO Musk claims, says Cali DMV after speaking to the software's boss

TheRegister - Fri, 2021-05-07 23:41
'Elon's tweet does not match engineering reality' states poorly redacted report

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's public statements about the state of his automaker's Autopilot assistive driving technology overestimate the system's capabilities, according to documents released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).…

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