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10-19-2017 Politics
Another last-ditch effort to tackle Obamacare stalls within hours of its release

Yet another last-ditch effort to tackle the nation’s health-care system stalled within hours of its release by a bipartisan pair of senators Tuesday, with President Trump sending mixed signals and Republicans either declining to endorse the proposal or outright opposing it.

The week began on Capitol Hill with a renewed sense of urgency to craft legislation following Trump’s decision last week to end key payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage but that the president argued were illegal under the Affordable Care Act.

The compromise offered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday proposes authorizing those payments for two years in exchange for granting states greater flexibility to regulate health coverage under the ACA. Those payments help offset deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers who obtain insurance through the law; critics of Trump’s decision said eliminating the subsidies would cause insurers to back out of marketplaces across the country.

The measure presented congressional Republicans with an uncomfortable choice between helping sustain coverage for many Americans and making good on a long-standing campaign promise — and paying the consequences — by allowing the ACA to falter.

Senate Republican leaders did not immediately endorse the proposal. Influential House Republicans panned the blueprint, and Trump offered conflicting reviews. The discord swiftly cast the plan’s viability into serious doubt.

In an address at a Heritage Foundation dinner in Washington on Tuesday, Trump commended “the bipartisan work” of Alexander and Murray but suggested that a different kind of fix is needed.

“I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day, at a joint news conference with the prime minister of Greece, Trump sounded positive notes about the plan. “Yes, we have been involved, and this is a short-term deal,” Trump said. He said the proposal would “get us over this intermediate hump” and allow Republicans to later revisit efforts to aggressively undo the ACA.

In between those two appearances, the president tweeted: “Any increase in ObamaCare premiums is the fault of the Democrats for giving us a ‘product’ that never had a chance of working.”

Trump stopped the CSR payments last week, arguing that the subsidies were illegal because they were not explicitly authorized under the ACA, and he instructed Congress to decide whether to appropriate the funding.

“None of our guys voted for Obamacare,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally of House GOP leadership, said in an interview. “They’re not very interested in sustaining it.” ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Wahington Post

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology

Adobe’s best photography management and editing app is evolving in a big way today. The company announced an all-new cloud-connected version of Lightroom with a more approachable look and feel, and a deep connection to the mobile app that will let you progressively edit a photo in near real time across multiple devices. It’s called Lightroom CC, a reference to the company’s Creative Cloud subscription service launched in 2012.

Lightroom CC is going to be available a few ways, all starting today. It can be purchased on a standalone $10 per month subscription, which comes with 1 terabyte of cloud storage. This is the option Adobe expects most new users, or ones who don’t need access to Adobe’s other programs (like Photoshop or Bridge), to select.

Adobe is also adding it to the current Creative Cloud photography subscription plan (which does include Photoshop, Bridge, and the current version of Lightroom) with 20GB of storage. And if those users want to upgrade to the full terabyte cloud backup option, they’ll only have to pay $5 more a month. There are a few more plans available on Adobe’s website.

Photographers who love (or love to hate) the existing version of Lightroom won’t lose that app. Instead, it’s being rebranded to Lightroom Classic CC. It’s also getting some updates today, like faster boot speed, file imports, and image previews, and some better masking tools. Adobe understands that many photographers are too deeply tied to the workflow, file system, and look and feel of the “old” Lightroom, so it isn’t going to just pull the rug out from underneath them.

Lastly, Photoshop CC is getting an update as well, with better connection to the cloud backend, added support for HEIF format images, 360 panorama workflows, and more. Lightroom Classic CC will keep the square logo, while the new Lightroom CC’s has rounded corners and is slightly bluer.

A quick recap, because those naming choices are quite confusing: there’s a new, cloud-connected version of Lightroom that’s cleaner, easier to use, and syncs edits across devices called Lightroom CC. The old version of Lightroom stays mostly the same and will be called Lightroom Classic CC. But Photoshop CC, while remaining mostly the same like Lightroom Classic CC, won’t get the “Classic” designation, since Adobe’s not creating a new, second version of the app.

Got it?

Whether or not you do (and it’s fine if you don’t; even Adobe admits “there will be some confusion”), we should talk more about the actual new version of Lightroom, Lightroom CC. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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10-19-2017 Politics

Kim Jong Un is becoming less prone to appear in public and, when he does, he prioritizes his country’s military activities.

The North Korean leader appeared in public only 75 times between January 1 and October 17, almost twice a week on average, according to data released by South Korea’s unification ministry on Wednesday and reported in South Korean media.

The figure is down 24.2 percent from the 99 appearances made over the same period last year, continuing a downward trend in Kim’s public engagements. These have been steadily decreasing in number since 2013, when he conducted more than 200 public activities compared to just 133 in 2016.

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Almost half of Kim’s engagements (49 percent) so far this year related to military activities, the highest level recorded since he took power at the end of 2011. Kim dedicated just over a fifth (22.7 percent) of his activity to the economy, the lowest portion to date, indicating a shift in the regime’s priorities.

Emblematic of Kim’s focal change is the data for July and August, in which Kim conducted no economy-related public activity at a time of frequent missile testing activity and disappeared from public view for weeks at a time.

In July, North Korea successfully tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on separate occasions for the first time in its history, demonstrating its potential to hit the U.S. mainland with its rockets. Kim supervised both launches and reportedly celebrated the rocket scientists with lavish banquets.

Kim then escalated tensions with the U.S. when appearing to review military plans to strike the island of Guam, home to key American military bases, with four Hwasong-12 rockets, ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic missiles. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Newsweek

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology
Facebook Building 8 Head Regina Dugan Is Leaving The Company...

... Future Of Proposed Mind Reading Device Uncertain

Facebook's experimental hardware laboratory, Building 8, is going to lose a key person. Regina Dugan, the lab's head, has announced that she's leaving the company after just 18 months.

Regina Dugan Leaves Facebook's Building 8

Dugan announced her exit plans on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and in a new Facebook post she explains why, saying she'll be leaving the company to focus on a new endeavor, but will remain working with Facebook's leadership over the next several months to help with a smooth transition into 2018.

"This was a difficult decision for me. Together, we have already done so much good work. And there are many people that I will miss, personally, and professionally," wrote Dugan.

What remains unclear is who'll occupy Dugan's position once she's gone. Facebook recently promoted Andrew Bosworth to be in charge of all the company's hardware projects, but that includes Oculus-branded hardware and peripherals, not just Building 8.

Dugan claims she feels that there's a "tidal shift" occurring in Silicon Valley, and that people like her inside the industry now have greater responsibilities than ever before. She says the timing of her exit "feels right," and she's now looking forward to what's next and thinking about "new ways to contribute in times of disruption."

News of Dugan coming to Facebook in early 2016 made headlines, not only because it signaled Facebook's evident interest in developing its own hardware, but also because Dugan herself has quite a resume.

What Has Regina Dugan Been Up To?

Dugan was the head of Google's Advanced Technology and Products division, which, during her time there, produced innovations such as modular smartphones, apparel equipped with micro-sensors, and Google's highly sophisticated augmented reality platform, Tango. But before joining Google, Dugan was the director of DARPA, which develops new technology for the U.S. military.

Dugan's most notable project inside Building 8 was something called "Silent Voice First," which sought to allow computers to read users' mind, announced back in April during the company's F8 developer conference. Theoretically, a device like that could allow anyone to post to Facebook without using their hands — and most importantly — it could help people with physical or mobility impairments. Really, though — a mind-reading device, not to mention one that's powered and run by Facebook? Crazy.

What Happens To Facebook's Mind Reading Device?

It's still not clear exactly why Dugan is leaving Facebook's experimental hardware research lab, but Building 8 seems on track to unveil exciting new things next year. As Business Insider reports, one of the first projects from the lab will be revealed in 2018, reportedly somehow related to drones, since it's being headed by drone expert Frank Dellaert. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology

Aspec bump and a size bump for a laptop should be the easiest story in the world to tell. For example: Microsoft's Surface Book 2 has new processors, new graphics cards, slightly tweaked designs, and is now also available with a new 15-inch screen. Simple.

But for Panos Panay, the head of Microsoft's Surface division, nailing that story is a struggle. He can enthuse about the intricacies of the updated hardware design of this powerful machine, which is designed with a snake-like hinge that allows you to remove the screen and use it as a tablet. He will tell you about its upgraded, eighth-generation quad-core Intel processors, Nvidia graphics cards, and improved battery life. He's unafraid to mention his primary competitor, the MacBook, by name, and he'll claim these laptops beat Apple's in several categories.

When we sat at a conference table in Microsoft's headquarters earlier this month to look at the new Surface Books, Panay did all of those things, but none of those things are really a story. So we sat in that room for spell, and as I messed around with the laptop, Panay talked about who it was meant for and what it was capable of. None of the stories were gelling, if I'm being honest, and I think he knew it, too.

So we bailed on the conference room, and he took me to see how the laptop was made and, just as importantly, how the story gets made.

ere's what I learned in that conference room: for the Surface Book 2, Microsoft is stepping up to the eighth-generation Intel processors, which essentially means there are quad-core options available. The 13-inch version comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of graphics memory. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 has the GTX 1060 with 6GB of graphics memory. There are, of course, a multitude of different configuration options, but prices for the 13-inch model start at $1,499, and at $2,499 for the 15-inch version.

The Surface Book, if you're not familiar, was Microsoft's first "true" laptop, introduced in 2015. Since then, it's seen a few minor spec bumps, but not major changes. This year's Surface Book 2 also doesn't really introduce major changes — at least not when it comes to the basic look and feel of the device.

The most unique part of the Surface Book is the hinge, which uncoils like a tread rolling off a tank. It's designed to increase the horizontal depth of the base of the laptop, which is necessary because the screen is heavier than usual. It's heavier than usual because you can detach it and use it as a standalone tablet. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology
Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus: Which camera is better?

Google says the camera on its Pixel 2 can beat the iPhone 8 Plus. Yet again. Last year's comparison proved the single lens on the Pixel was capable of producing better shots than the two lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus in most categories.

To find out which 2017 phone's camera is better, we put them to the test at Pier 39 in San Francisco. The phones were mounted on a rig that lined up the lenses at almost the same angle. Most shots were taken on the default camera settings with auto HDR unless we say otherwise.


As impressed as we were last year with the overall results on the Pixel, portraits were terrible. Like portrait mode on the iPhone, the Pixel's Lens Blur mode attempted to create a background-blur bokeh effect around the subject similar to what you would get on a DSLR. The actual result was a mess of blurred limbs and hair, at least on most shots.

This year Google overhauled its background blur effect on the Pixel 2 and renamed it portrait mode. It combines 3D-sensing data from the sensor, image processing and face-detection AI technology to isolate a photo subject then blur what's behind. The iPhone 8 Plus still uses information from the wide and telephoto lenses and software to achieve the same effect.

Portrait mode setup

To activate portrait mode on the iPhone you just swipe left on the main camera interface. Because the iPhone uses the telephoto lens for portraits, subjects appear closer than on regular shots so you have to step back to activate the effect. You know portrait mode is on when you see a yellow box around the subject that says "depth effect".

On the Pixel 2, it's not as simple. Activating portrait mode on the Pixel 2 takes two taps: first tap the menu icon on the bottom left and then tap and select the mode. The Pixel doesn't require the telephoto lens like the iPhone 8 Plus does, so you can get closer to your subject. You should see an X in place of the menu icon on the button left of the viewfinder, but it's so subtle that I had a hard time figuring out when I was taking a shot in portrait mode and kept leaving it on by mistake on some of my landscape shots. The iPhone applies the portrait mode as you're composing shots, so you're unlikely to forget it's active.


When the Pixel 2 gets it right, it can produce even better portraits than the iPhone 8 Plus. The colors in this shot of Frisco Fred are more accurate, there's more detail in his face, and I liked having a wider angle to chose from. But getting it right on the Pixel was a challenge. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Cnet

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology
The Microsoft Treehouse Is Real: Built For Employees Who Like Working Outdoors

Here's a quirky and cool perk for Microsoft employees: the chance to work in real treehouses at the company's Redmond, Washington headquarters.

Microsoft, like many technology companies, has provided a fun office atmosphere for its workers. Building treehouses, however, gives a whole new meaning to an "open working environment."

Microsoft Treehouses: A New Kind Of Workplace

Microsoft discussed its new treehouses through a post on its official blog, revealing that they were created by Pete Nelson from the Treehouse Masters TV show.

There are three treehouses planned for the Redmond headquarters, and two of them are already accessible to all Microsoft employees. The third one, which will be a sheltered lounge space, will open within the year.

The treehouses are over 12 feet from the ground, and feature amenities that include skylights, fireplaces, charred-wood walls, and wooden canopies. The treehouses are not simple boxes though, as they also function as complete working spaces with hidden electrical outlets and an outdoor Wi-Fi network.

In addition to the treehouses, Microsoft is adding outdoor spaces to other buildings on its campus. For example, the indoor cafeteria will soon also have an outdoor area with rocking chairs, where workers can eat their lunch under the peaceful sky.

Benefits Of Working Outdoors

The decision to provide its workers with more outdoor spaces is not just a design choice though. As Microsoft explained in its blog post, scientists have found plenty of connections between the well-being of people and their amount of exposure to the outdoors.

Microsoft cited Eva M. Selhub, a Harvard physician who co-wrote Your Brain on Nature, as saying that nature stimulates the brain by turning off the stress response. In turn, this lowers the person's cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, while improving the immune response.

To illustrate how this works, Microsoft narrated an experience of one employee who was enjoying the new outdoor space provided by the company. She was sitting, legs crossed, on a grassy knoll just below one of the treehouses. The employee simply sat there, with her eyes closed and breathing in the outdoor air deeply. She then opened her laptop and furiously typed, seemingly empowered by the environment to finish her work. The employee then set the laptop aside and went back to her meditation.

People who love working outdoors might want to give a Microsoft job application a shot, as apparently, the company is just starting with its process of making its campus more in tune with the environment.

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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10-19-2017 Science&Technology
Scientists witness huge cosmic crash, find origins of gold

Even in the normally mind-blowing science of astronomy, this discovery was special.

Two months ago, scientists for the first time detected both the ripples in space and time and the light produced and emitted during the same cosmic event: the spectacular collision of two neutron stars.

The discovery would soon reveal secrets of the cosmos, including how gold was created.

Neutron stars, formed when massive stars explode in supernovas, are the smallest, densest stars known to exist. A teaspoon of a neutron star has a mass of about a billion tons.

The collision of neutron stars is known as a kilonova — an explosion similar to a supernova but on a smaller scale.

The crash generated a fierce burst of gamma rays and a gravitational wave, a faint ripple in the fabric of space and time first theorized by Albert Einstein a century ago.

"This is the one we've all been waiting for," said David Reitze of CalTech in Pasadena, Calif., calling the collision “the most spectacular fireworks in the universe.”

"This is extremely exciting science," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. "Now, for the first time, we've seen light and gravitational waves produced by the same event."

This particular violent merger, which occurred 130 million years ago in a galaxy near our own (NGC 4993) and seen from Earth in the Hydra constellation, is the source of the gravitational waves detected on Aug. 17.

The signal arrived on Earth after traveling 130 million light-years. A light-year is 5.88 trillion miles.

This is the fifth source of gravitational waves to be detected — the first one was discovered in September 2015, for which three founding members of the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) collaboration were awarded the Nobel prize in physics two weeks ago.

Measurements of the light and other energy emanating from the crash have helped scientists explain how planet-killing gamma ray bursts are born, how fast the universe is expanding and where heavy elements like platinum and gold come from.

“This is getting everything you wish for,” said Syracuse University physics professor Duncan Brown, one of more than 4,000 scientists involved in the blitz of science that the crash kicked off. “This is our fantasy observation.”

NASA’s Fermi telescope, which detects gamma rays, sent out the first alarm. Then, 1.7 seconds later, gravity wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington state that are a part of the LIGO Laboratory detected the crash.

Soon telescopes worldwide were focused on what became the most well-observed astronomical event in history. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   10 News

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10-18-2017 Science&Technology
China’s first space lab will soon crash to Earth. No one knows where it’ll hit.

Sometime within the next few months, the heavens will come crashing down.

Tiangong 1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace," is China's first space laboratory, launched in September 2011, serving as a prototype for a permanent space station that it aims to eventually build and launch. But six years after it first went into orbit, the 8½-ton laboratory is soon expected to meet a fiery and uncontrolled end, hurtling down to Earth and crashing somewhere — anywhere — on the planet.

In September 2016, Chinese officials confirmed that they had lost control of the space lab and that it would crash into Earth sometime in the latter half of 2017. In May, China told the United Nations that the lab would reenter Earth between October and April 2018.

Much of the space lab, which measures 34 feet in length, is expected to burn up during its reentry. But Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told the Guardian that pieces weighing up to 220 pounds could make it to the Earth's surface.

Where exactly the craft will fall is anyone's guess. Even slight changes in atmospheric conditions can alter the landing site "from one continent to the next," McDowell told the Guardian.

“You really can’t steer these things,” he said. “Even a couple of days before it reenters, we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.”

Uncontrolled crashes of larger spacecraft, while rare, have happened before. The Soviet Salyut 7 space station crashed to Earth in 1991, while NASA's Skylab space station fell over Western Australia in 1979.

China launched Tiangong 2, its second experimental station, in September 2016. China is aiming to have a permanently manned space station in orbit by 2020.

The 2011 launch of Tiangong 1 was seen by some as a "potent political symbol" that marked an important step forward in China's expanding space program. It was regarded as a geopolitically significant event, part of China's broader space program through which it wants to assert its emergence as a new superpower.

Tiangong 1 ended its service in March after it had "comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission," Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, was quoted as saying at a news conference by Xinhua, China's state news agency. The lab had served as a base for space experiments for four and a half years, two years longer than originally planned. It hosted two three-person crews, including China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Washington Post

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10-18-2017 Politics
US urges calm as Kirkuk crisis escalates

The US has called for "calm" after Iraqi government forces seized the northern city of Kirkuk and key installations from Kurdish control.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged all parties to "avoid further clashes".

Iraqi soldiers moved into Kirkuk three weeks after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum.

They are aiming to retake areas under Kurdish control since Islamic State militants swept through the region.

Residents of Kurdish-controlled areas, including Kirkuk, overwhelmingly backed secession from Iraq in a vote on 25 September.

While Kirkuk is outside Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish voters in the city were allowed to take part.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had denounced the vote as unconstitutional. But the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) insisted it was legitimate.´

What's the US stance in the developing crisis?

In a statement on Monday, Ms Nauert said Washington was "very concerned by reports of violence around Kirkuk".

"We support the peaceful exercise of joint administration by the central and regional governments, consistent with the Iraqi constitution, in all disputed areas."

Ms Nauert said the US was working with officials from all parties to "encourage dialogue", warning that "there is still much work to be done to defeat Isis (Islamic State) in Iraq".

Earlier, President Donald Trump said US officials were "not taking sides".

"We don't like the fact that they're clashing," he added.

Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned the Iraqi government of "severe consequences" if US-supplied weaponry was misused in operations against Kurdish forces.

"The United States provided equipment and training to the government of Iraq to fight (Islamic State) and secure itself from external threats - not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments." he said.

What about Baghdad and Kurdish officials?

Mr Abadi said in a statement on Monday that the operation in Kirkuk was necessary to "protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition" because of the referendum.

"We call upon all citizens to co-operate with our heroic armed forces, which are committed to our strict directives to protect civilians in the first place, and to impose security and order, and to protect state installations and institutions," he added.

On Monday, the Iraqi military said its units had taken control of the K1 military base, the Baba Gurgur oil and gas field, and a state-owned oil company's offices. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   BBC

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10-18-2017 Entertainment
Weinstein criminal probes growing in New York and London, but so far no cases in L.A.

Sex crimes detectives in New York and London are investigating allegations from at least five women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted by movie producer Harvey Weinstein, but so far no police reports have been filed in Los Angeles.

Two sources not authorized to discuss the inquiries said the New York Police Department has opened an investigation into a 2004 allegation of forced oral copulation and is reexamining a more recent accusation of sexual groping that was previously rejected by prosecutors.

Since the New York Times first published allegations against Weinstein less than two weeks ago, dozens of women have publicly accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape.

The new investigation, which launched last week, involves a then-college student’s allegation that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Miramax office. Lucia Evans told the New Yorker that he assaulted her during a meeting in 2004.

New York police detectives have sought out the alleged victim, but because the case is old, it can be charged only if physical force was used and the crime was deemed aggravated. There is no statute of limitation in New York for a first-degree criminal sex act.

The second case in New York involves model Ambra Battilana-Gutierrez, who reported the incident to police in March 2015. She cooperated with an undercover sting operation and in a secret recording obtained by the New Yorker, Weinstein appeared to acknowledge touching her breasts.

Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus R. Vance declined to file charges in the case. In a statement last week, Vance called the acts "sickening" but noted it was not a provable case.

Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any allegations of nonconsensual sex, his representative Sallie Hofmeister said.

In Britain, investigators are looking into an alleged attack in the 1980s and others in 1992, 2010 and 2011, authorities said.

One case being investigated by London’s Metropolitan Police involves British soap opera actress Lysette Anthony, who filed a formal crime report in London on Wednesday, alleging that she was raped by the movie mogul at her London home in late 1980s.

Anthony tweeted about reporting the incident to police and even provided a photo with the case number. “Truth will always out,” she wrote, and included a link to the British Sunday Times in which she detailed the incident. She said she answered the door of her London home, and Weinstein attacked her. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Los Angeles Times

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10-18-2017 Science&Technology
Apple To Release iPhone With Apple Pencil Support In 2019: Here’s Why Steve Jobs Would Be Pissed

Steve Jobs famously hated using a stylus to navigate a phone. Onstage in 2007 when he was unveiling what would become the first iPhone, he said the device was going to be controlled by something humans are all born with: fingers. He literally called styluses "yuck."

But since Jobs passed away in 2011, things have changed rapidly at Apple. Tim Cook, for starters, took the CEO role. The newest iPhone has no home button anymore and has a wide notch at the top of the screen — design changes fans argue Jobs wouldn't approve. But Make no mistake: Apple remains as one of the world's most valuable tech companies. But change is to be expected.

The iPhone Will Have Its Own Stylus

One of these changes, as new reports suggest, include Apple finally warming up to styluses. The company is certainly no stranger to them, releasing the Apple Pencil in 2015 for compatible iPad models, which for the most part made the iPad akin to Wacom tablets. But according to rumors, Apple might also be considering adding a stylus to its iPhone.

The rumor comes from The Korea Herald via The Investor, citing what it claims to be industry sources saying that Apple engineers "have recently been working" on a new iPhone that "comes with a digital pen," with a potential launch date in 2019.

Sources said the stylus will likely be a "supercapacitor stylus type" for price benefits. By contrast, the Galaxy Note line, which is famous for its built-in stylus, uses electromagnetic resonance technology that requires additional components to be properly installed under the display. Apple's approach will be cheaper and offer "a more pen-like feel," according to the sources.

In addition to the stylus, the sources said Apple's A-series chip could be upgraded to support handwriting features.

What Will The iPhone Stylus Be Called?

It remains uncertain what Apple plans to call its rumored stylus, but Apple executives and Cook have repeatedly avoided calling the Apple Pencil as a stylus, with Cook saying "we launched a pencil not a stylus" in an interview last year. This will likely be the same scenario for the iPhone's own stylus, but time will tell. By contrast, Samsung calls its stylus as the "S Pen."

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10-13-2017 Science&Technology
Google ditches Home Mini's top-touch panel feature after spying blunder

Google has now permanently removed the touch-to-activate Google Assistant feature on its Home Mini smart speaker, after temporarily disabling it in response to privacy concerns.

As ZDNet reported yesterday, Google's first firmware update for the Home Mini switched off the touch function after it was found that a unit handed out at the Made by Google launch was recording almost everything it heard and transmitting the data to Google. ´

Artem Russakovskii discovered the Home Mini was "inadvertently spying on me 24/7 due to a hardware flaw".

According to Google, some of the Home Mini devices were registering "phantom" touches on the touch panel, which incorrectly woke up Google Assistant, in Russakovskii's case thousands of times a day. Prior to the update, users could activate Google's artificially intelligence assistant by either touching the panel or by saying "OK Google".

A support note describing Home Mini's controls said the touch feature was "temporarily disabled", suggesting Google was working on a solution to reenable it.

But Google has now decided to kill the feature for good.

"We take user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously. Although we only received a few reports of this issue, we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to ZDNet.

"We have made the decision to permanently remove all top-touch functionality on the Google Home Mini. As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying 'OK Google' or 'Hey Google', which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products. You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device."

The new status of the tap feature has been updated in the Home Mini controls support page. Removing all top-touch functionality also means you can't tap the device to control music, alarms, and timers.

Google help page for the issue notes that it removed the function to "avoid confusion" and reassure users when using the Mini. The touch feature will be permanently removed in an update that should be complete by October 15.

Google launched the Home Mini on October and expects the first pre-order devices to ship by October 18. The $50 smart speaker is its answer to Amazon's $50 Echo Dot. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   ZD Net

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10-12-2017 Science&Technology
Alphabet To Restore Puerto Rico Cellular Service With Balloons: Will Project Loon Succeed?

Google parent Alphabet has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to try to restore cellular services in Puerto Rico through a network of balloons.

The purpose of the emergency license for Alphabet's Project Loon is to enable communication within Puerto Rico and for those overseas wishing to establish contact with their loved ones in the islands, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month.

Project Loon In Puerto Rico

The emergency license issued by the FCC became effective on Oct. 6 and will last until April 4, 2018. It was given to Ben Wojtowicz, a software engineer under Alphabet's X lab, which has Project Loon under its belt.

The high-flying helium balloons will look to provide LTE cellular reception to the citizens and local governments of Puerto Rico, to improve the coordination of relief and restoration efforts and to reestablish communication within the island and the outside world. The balloons will also do the same for the similarly tragedy-stricken US Virgin Islands.

It is unclear how many Project Loon balloons will be deployed for the endeavor, and how expansive the coverage of the emergency LTE signal will be. The start date of the deployment of the balloons over the areas is also unknown.

The high-flying balloons were able to help Peru earlier in the year amid significant floods in the country, and so success in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is largely expected. Ensuring this is the fact that Alphabet has made great strides with Project Loon, with machine learning able to keep the balloons up in the air for over three months and further advances in artificial intelligence requiring less balloons to provide service to particular regions.

However, before it is able to proceed with its plan in Puerto Rico, Project Loon will first need to find a carrier that is willing to partner with it for the endeavor. Alphabet spokeswoman Libby Leahy said that it is making good progress in that regard.

Helping Puerto Rico

Private companies and governments of other countries have extended their hand to help Puerto Rico, as the island looks to recover from the ruins left behind by Hurricane Maria.

Elon Musk, the visionary founder of Tesla and SpaceX, is one of the people who have offered aid to Puerto Rico, though at a much larger scale than most. He recently offered to rebuild the Puerto Rico power grid using solar panels, which prompted Governor Ricardo Rossello to give Musk a chance to talk about making the island the flagship project for Musk's alternative energy efforts.

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10-11-2017 Environment
At least 10 dead in Northern California fires and blocks of homes destroyed in Santa Rosa BY RYAN LI


Wildfires driven by powerful winds tore through Northern California’s famed wine country Monday, killing at least 10, leveling neighborhoods and forcing thousands of residents to grab what they could and flee from fast-moving walls of flames.

Two huge fires in Sonoma and Napa counties were part of a series of blazes that raged across the north state, from Yuba and Nevada counties in the east to Mendocino and Lake counties in the west. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said bone-dry conditions and high winds combined to whip sparks into firestorms.

“To be honest, pretty much anywhere in the state today (is threatened), and that’s not an exaggeration,” Pimlott said at a midday news conference.

Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 in central Sonoma County, experienced some of the worst urban damage from a wildfire in Northern California since the massively destructive Oakland Hills fire of October 1991, which resulted in the loss of 25 lives and 2,900 structures.

In the early morning hours Monday, the 27,000-acre Tubbs fire raced down the hillsides above Santa Rosa and struck the flat, densely populated landscape of the northern city. It jumped across Highway 101, destroying hundreds of homes. It burned down a Kmart store, a Trader Joe’s market and a McDonald’s restaurant. And it engulfed a large Hilton hotel in towering flames.

Fires continued to rage throughout the day, with huge plumes of black smoke suddenly erupting from commercial buildings and homes. Fire crews raced to each new emergency, pouring water onto rooftops. The northern part of the city was a post-apocalyptic scene of deserted streets, smoldering ruins and wailing sirens. Thick smoke hung in the air.

“It’s challenging in this urban environment because it’s really like a firestorm inside,” Pimlott said. All of the combustible materials in a city function as fuel, he said. As of midday Monday, firefighting efforts had focused largely on saving lives by evacuating residents ahead of the blazes.

At a mobile home park in Santa Rosa called Journey’s End, around 100 homes were razed by the fire, leaving twisted metal skeletons. Next door, about 130 patients at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center were evacuated as flames and smoke from the burning mobile homes lit the night sky. Patients at Sutter Health’s medical center in Santa Rosa were also evacuated.

“An evacuation of this magnitude is unprecedented,” said Deborah Burger, a nurse at the Kaiser hospital and president of the California Nurses Association. “This is really pretty devastating.” ...

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10-11-2017 Science&Technology
There’s enough wind energy over the oceans to power human civilization, scientists say

New research published on Monday finds there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilization scale power” — assuming, that is, that we are willing to cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines, and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments.

It’s very unlikely that we would ever build out open ocean turbines on anything like that scale — indeed, doing so could even alter the planet’s climate, the research finds. But the more modest message is that wind energy over the open oceans has large potential — reinforcing the idea that floating wind farms, over very deep waters, could be the next major step for wind energy technology.

“I would look at this as kind of a greenlight for that industry from a geophysical point of view,” said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Carnegie researcher Anna Possner, who worked in collaboration with Caldeira.

The study takes, as its outset, prior research that has found that there’s probably an upper limit to the amount of energy that can be generated by a wind farm that’s located on land. The limit arises both because natural and human structures on land create friction that slows down the wind speed, but also because each individual wind turbine extracts some of the energy of the wind and transforms it into power that we can use — leaving less wind energy for other turbines to collect.

“If each turbine removes something like half the energy flowing through it, by the time you get to the second row, you’ve only got a quarter of the energy, and so on,” explained Caldeira.

The ocean is different. First, wind speeds can be as much as 70 percent higher than on land. But a bigger deal is what you might call wind replenishment. The new research found that over the mid-latitude oceans, storms regularly transfer powerful wind energy down to the surface from higher altitudes, meaning that the upper limit here for how much energy you can capture with turbines is considerably higher.

“Over land, the turbines are just sort of scraping the kinetic energy out of the lowest part of the atmosphere, whereas over the ocean, it’s depleting the kinetic energy out of most of the troposphere, or the lower part of the atmosphere,” said Caldeira.

The study compares a theoretical wind farm of nearly 2 million square kilometers located either over the U.S. (centered on Kansas) or in the open Atlantic. And it finds that covering much of the central U.S. with wind farms would still be insufficient to power the U.S. and China, which would require a generating capacity of some 7 terawatts annually (a terawatt is equivalent to a trillion watts). ...

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149 Handelsblatt / Germany 150 The Daily Telegraph / Australia

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