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12-18-2017 Science&Technology
Google is shutting down its ambitious project to reinvent smartphone cameras

Tango, one of Google's earliest experiments in augmented reality, will shut down in March 2018.

Tango let developers build cool, immersive camera-based apps for Android — but needed manufacturers to include pricey, specialized Tango cameras in their phones, which hamstrung the project.

Tango is succeeded by ARcore, a Google technology that accomplishes much of the same thing, but will work on a wider array of existing smartphone cameras.

Google has announced that it will be "turning down" Tango, its ambitious augmented-reality project for redefining what a smartphone camera can do, in March 2018.

First launched in 2014, Tango (formerly Project Tango) was a design for a camera that could actually detect depth and motion, opening up all kinds of new applications. The problem, and Tango's biggest obstacle to success, was that you needed a special, high-tech, Tango-compatible camera to take advantage — a normal camera just wouldn't do.

At the basic level, Tango let you do things like use a smartphone as a tape measure, since it could accurately measure distance in front of you. More advanced Tango applications would actually draw a line in a store aisle in front of you to take you straight to the item you need, or turn your real-life motion into movement in a video game.

Tango had a notable pedigree at Google, too: In 2012, it was the first graduate from Google X, the search giant's skunkworks program (now known simply as X). Then, in 2015, it became the first graduate from Google ATAP, the search giant's other skunkworks.

Tango finally came to market in 2016, as the flagship feature in the Lenovo Phab2 Pro smartphone. In 2017, Asus released the ZenFone AR, which also sported a Tango camera. However, neither phone was a particular sales sensation, and Tango failed to attract a huge number of developers.

In the meanwhile, Tango has given way to Google ARcore, a new technology in Android that does much of the same thing, letting developers built apps that project digital imagery over the real-world. However, ARcore doesn't need a special camera to work, and it's already supported on high-end Android phones like the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung's Galaxy S8.

"Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices," writes Google in a developer blog entry discussing the shutdown of Tango. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Business Insider

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12-18-2017 Politics
Mueller unlawfully obtained emails, Trump transition team says

An organization that was part of President Trump’s transition team claimed Saturday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III improperly obtained a trove of transition emails as part of the inquiry into Russian influence in the 2016 election and other matters.

The batch of emails totaling thousands of pages of communications was improperly provided to Mueller by the federal General Services Administration, the organization claimed in a letter delivered to congressional investigators.

“This morning we sent a letter to Congress concerning the unauthorized sharing of private and transition emails with the Mueller team,” lawyer Kory Langhofer said in an interview.

Details of the letter and the allegations from the transition organ known as Trump for America were first reported by Reuters.

[Inside Trump’s legal team: Trying to protect the president from Mueller’s ‘killers’]

The letter from Langhofer, who was counsel to Trump for America, alleged that career employees of the GSA improperly provided privileged communications to investigators working for Mueller.

The material included tens of thousands of emails, the organization alleged.

Mueller’s investigation is looking at whether any crimes were committed as part of what U.S. intelligence agencies say was systematic Russian meddling in the election Trump won.

Trump has consistently said there was “no collusion” with Russia, an assertion he repeated Friday.

Trump for America alleges that Mueller acquired private records without a warrant or subpoena.

“When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office.

[Trump calls conduct at the FBI ‘disgraceful’ in latest criticism of bureau]

Transition documents are private property, not government records, the organization contends. The letter invokes federal law and decades of precedent to argue that Mueller overstepped.

The transfer of transition documents is “unlawful conduct that undermines the Presidential Transition Act of 1963,” the letter said, “and will impair the ability of future presidential transition teams to candidly discuss policy and internal matters that benefit the country as a whole.”

The Trump transition alleges that the handover was done by “career staff at the General Services Administration” and suggested that those employees may have had political motives.

Mueller’s team, the letter said, “has extensively used the materials in question, including portions that are susceptible to claims of privilege, and without notifying TFA or taking customary precautions to protect TFA’s rights and privileges.” ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Washington Post

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12-18-2017 Business
Uber accused of espionage, bribery and hacking by former employee

The $1.86 billion legal battle between ride-hailing giant Uber and Alphabet’s self-driving unit Waymo reached a pivotal moment today as the judge in the case released a damning letter based on the account of a former Uber employee. The letter alleges that a special division within Uber was responsible for acts of corporate espionage, the theft of trade secrets, the bribery of foreign officials and various means of unlawful surveillance.

The “Jacobs letter” was written by the attorney for Richard Jacobs, who previously worked as Uber’s manager of global intelligence before being fired in April. The highly detailed account brings about accusations of systematic illegal activity inside Uber’s Strategic Services Group (SSG) which allegedly sought to surface other companies’ trade secrets through eavesdropping and data collection. The letter alleges that some of the information gathered was relayed to then-CEO Travis Kalanick.

In a statement to TechCrunch, an Uber spokesperson said, “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter—and, importantly, any related to Waymo—our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”

The 37-page letter details the actions of the SSG and the Marketplace Analytics (MA) group which it claims “exists expressly for the purpose of acquiring trade secrets, codebase, and competitive intelligence… from major ride-sharing competitors globally.” The Jacobs letter also alleges that the group used ephemeral encrypted chat apps and “non-attributable” devices to keep evidence of their actions hidden.

The heavily-redacted letter lays out the alleged processes with clear and unrelenting detail.

A report in Gizmodo earlier this week says just as much, highlighting Uber’s systematic data scraping of competitors’ platforms via automated collection systems that were running constantly, amassing millions of records.

While much of the “hacking” or other forms of surveillance seemed to rely on these types of automated systems, the company also allegedly engaged in physical surveillance, including wiretaps, in order to discover competitors’ advantages or weaknesses.

The company “used undercover agents to collect intelligence against the taxi groups and local political figures. The agents took rides in local taxis, loitered around locations where taxi drivers congregated, and leveraged a local network of contacts with connections to police and regulatory authorities,” the letter alleges. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Crunch

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12-18-2017 Politics

North Korea’s neighbors Russia and China have conducted computer-generated air defense drills in a move that Moscow claims has made the relationship between the two nations even stronger.

The five day drill drafted servicemen from both militaries and was headed by the deputy chief of the Russian air force, Pavel Kurchenko, and the Chinese air force’s top commander, Ma Zhenjun.

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Russia's Ministry of Defense issued a statement commending the drill, which officially finished Saturday, but did not reveal any details of the scenario it addressed.

"The leaders of the exercises stressed that all the tasks assigned to the military specialists of both countries were fully met, and a completely new level of interaction between all levels of command and control from headquarters to unit commanders was achieved," the statement from Russia’s ministry to state news agency Itar-Tass reported.

Russian forces in the country’s far east have had a busy year, with official figures released by the military earlier this month showing that the Pacific fleet has spent four times longer at sea than planned.

Moscow gave no reason for this, but noted that the single busiest region where it was taking place was Primorye, Russia's only territory bordering North Korea.

The North Korean regime has carried out a series of missile tests this year, stoking fears that its deteriorating relationship with the U.S. and its nearby allies could descend into war.

Russia and China have presented a united front on North Korea so far, claiming that they object to Pyongyang's nuclear military program but refusing to sever ties with the state. Both have called for the U.S. to pledge that it will also scale back its military presence in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev, said at the start of the month that Moscow is “preparing” should war erupt around North Korea but stressed: “We must not allow this.”

Commentary from North Korea's official news agency has said in the past that only the country's missiles are intended to specifically deter the U.S., not Europe or any country, even if they are in range.

Read Original Article     ON:   News Week

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12-18-2017 Entertainment
The Last Jedi spoiler talk: Mark Hamill discusses the secrets of Luke Skywalker's return

Star Wars fans have waited for more than three decades to hear Luke Skywalker speak again. Now it’s Mark Hamill’s turn to talk about what The Last Jedi reveals about the farmboy-turned-exile.

On Friday night, as the movie was opening worldwide, I interviewed the actor alongside the filmmakers at a post-screening Q&A at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They delved deep into many of the twists and turns in the story, so those who haven’t watched it yet should venture no further.

To protect this major spoiler, let’s jump to the next page to hear more about Luke’s return …


Right at the start of our Q&A, we talked about what it was like for writer-director Rian Johnson to deliver a conclusion for one of the most iconic characters of the galaxy far, far away.

As you know from seeing the film (and if you haven’t, this is your final spoiler warning), Luke demonstrates that there’s much more to the Force than lightsaber swordplay and hurling objects when he manifests a phantom version of himself to confront Kylo Ren in a showdown on the mineral planet of Crait.

Skywalker manages to stall the First Order while the decimated Resistance scrambles away in an escape, and he also pushes the buttons of his volatile Dark Side nephew, promising: “If you strike me down in anger, I will always be with you. Just like your father.”

But of course Kylo Ren can’t strike him down. Luke isn’t really there.

The act of sending a projection of himself across the galaxy so taxes the real Luke Skywalker that he later succumbs and evanesces away while looking out at the binary suns on the horizon – an echo of his younger self from the original 1977 film, staring at the twin suns of Tatooine while dreaming of adventure.

As Luke vanishes, the same theme from John Williams’ original score plays. The Jedi’s journey has ended.

“I had huge hesitance,” Johnson says of ending one of the most beloved characters in movie history. “I was terrified. It was a growing sense of dread when I realized this was going to make sense in that chapter.”

Johnson said he discussed it extensively with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and members of the Star Wars story group before committing to it.

“It was not like I wrote the script and dropped it on their desk. It was very important to me that I was collaborating with the folks at Lucasfilm from the word go,” he said. “I moved to San Francisco for a few months and would go in a few times a week to keep them up to date, spewing my ideas out, especially the big ones.”

“Can’t you wait…?”

Johnson’s goal was creating a finale for Luke “that pushes the audience and thus the character.” ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Entretainment Weekly

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12-18-2017 Science&Technology
The difference between good and bad Facebooking

ocial media” is a clumsy term that entangles enriching social interaction with mindless media consumption. It’s a double-edged sword whose sides aren’t properly distinguished. Taken as a whole, we can’t decide if it “brings the world closer together” like Facebook’s new mission statement says, or leaves us depressed and isolated. It does both, but our opportunity and the tech giants’ responsibility is to shift usage toward “time well spent.”

Thankfully, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems ready to embrace that responsibility. “Time spent is not a goal by itself. We want the time people spend on Facebook to encourage meaningful social interactions,” he said on its most recent earnings call.

[Update 12/15/17: Further showing Facebook’s interest, today it published its own “Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?” blog post with more research to the same conclusion as the science I cite below: it’s passive social media usage that depresses us, so we need to engage.

Facebook notes it’s pledged $1 million towards youth technology usage and well-being research. It’s formally launching a Snooze feature we spotted testing in September that lets you hide a person, Page or Group for 30 days if you need some peace. And it announcing it will host a summit next year for academics and industry leaders to examine digital distraction, multi-tasking, and focus. But the post only suggests highly indirect ways of addressing mindless consumption, rather than any purposeful interventions.]

It’s not just a Facebook issue. Notification-spamming mobile app developers, video platforms like Netflix and YouTube and video games from Candy Crush to Call of Duty need to wake up to how their design choices can squander our attention and stifle our sanity. But Facebook, with its ubiquity, roaring business, idealistic leadership and opportunity to promote what’s positive about technology is uniquely positioned to sound the alarm.

To change behavior, we first need to explore the research and measure the difference between connection and distraction.

Active versus passive Facebooking

Late at night or lacking energy or losing focus, I and many others often turn to Facebook. Scrolling its endless feed can deliver delightful little doses of dopamine. A photo of a friend or a news link gives us the momentary sensation of accomplishing something, even if it’s just learning some tiny bit of information, no matter how irrelevant. We know we could be getting ready for bed, or contacting someone we care about or getting work done, but nothing’s easier than giving in to craving for another digital content snack. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Crunch

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12-18-2017 Health
Pregnant Women Who Live Near Fracking Sites More Likely To Have Underweight Babies

There might finally be some evidence toward fracking being directly linked to health hazards.

Pregnant women who reside near fracking sites are 25 percent more likely to give birth to children that are underweight, or less than what's considered as a healthy weight for a newborn.

Exactly why this phenomenon occurs remains a mystery, but the researchers behind the study speculate that it roots from environmental pollution, which may be negatively affecting pregnancies.

What Is Fracking?

For the uninitiated, fracking is the process of drilling down into the Earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. It's a technique designed to extract gas and oil from shale rock, and it's become quite controversial among environmentalists, who say that fracking may cause carcinogenic chemicals to escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. Yet, proponents of fracking argue that bad practice is what's causing pollution, not the act of fracking itself.

Fracking Causes Underweight Babies

The researchers analyzed over 1 million births in Pennsylvania spanning 2004 through 2013, before and after fracking began. Pregnant women who lived nearest to a fracking site had the largest impacts, as detailed in the paper published in Science Advances on Wednesday, Dec. 13, as "Hydraulic Fracturing and Infant Health: New Evidence from Pennsylvania."

Infants born within a kilometer (0.64 miles) of a fracking site were 25 percent more likely have low birth weights than those born 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) away from a site, the study found — less than 5.5 pounds, or around 2.5 kilograms.

Low birth weight is a cause for concern because it has many negative outcomes, including infant mortality, deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, lower test scores, lower schooling attainment, and many others, the researchers noted.

The Princeton University, University of Chicago, and University of California, Los Angeles researchers found little evidence of health effects for babies born beyond distances of 3 kilometers, which might suggest that fracking effects are highly local.

Other Effects Of Fracking

Previous studies have shown other harmful effects of fracking, with some suggesting that the practice causes air pollution that are hazardous to babies, and that residing nearby fracking sites is linked to premature births. The latest study in question adds to the growing evidence that fracking potentially triggers some serious human health hazards.

In 2014, a study showed that pregnant women who live near fracking sites give birth to children who may have a higher risk of developing heart defects.

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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12-18-2017 Science&Technology
RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Shuts Down After More Than 20 Years

America Online Instant Messenger, more commonly known as AIM, is officially dead. After more than 20 years of activity, AIM shut down on Friday, Dec. 15.

In this day and age, there is a slew of messaging applications that keep people connected and offer all sorts of features. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and several others are currently dominating the scene, but things were very different in the past.


Back in the 90s, the internet was more of a luxury and there weren't as many messaging apps as there are now. AIM launched back in 1997 and for many years, it was the go-to solution to talk to friends and family online.

Back in October, Oath, the Verizon unit that now owns AOL, announced plans to shutter AIM on Dec. 15 because the service was no longer necessary. AOL noted that people now have other means of communication, and AIM is no longer among the preferred options.

"AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," Michael Albers, Oath VP of Communications and Product, explained at the time.

The announcement sparked nostalgia, but it also made sense. AIM has been forsaken for years, so its demise was a matter of time. AIM continued to be available after the announcement, but with an expiry date.

AIM Shutting Down: What Happens To AIM Data?

That day has now come and on Friday, Dec. 15, AIM officially shut down for good. Visiting now simply redirects users to a support page that offers more information on the shutdown. Users can no longer access or sign into AIM services on any platform.

Those who still have email addresses, meanwhile, will still be able to handle emails as usual, but that's it. The AIM buddy lists are gone for good, as the company offered no tools to save or export it. All AIM data is now deleted as of Dec. 15.

Those who managed to manually save their AIM files and images prior to this day will get to keep their memories, but those who didn't do it will have no option to get them now. The same goes for chat logs - if they were not saved before Dec. 15, they're gone for good.

For those who caught the early ages of consumer internet access and used AIM as their main way to chat online, it's the end of an era. RIP, AIM.

Read Original Article     ON:   Tech Times

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12-16-2017 Entertainment
'X-Men,' 'Fantastic Four' in Flux After Fox-Disney Deal

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get a lot bigger, but some fear that it may become too crowded.

The announced Disney-Fox deal is a big step forward in Marvel reclaiming many of the characters it lost in the 1990s as it licensed them out to stave off bankruptcy. The respective characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes will finally join the Marvel Studios fold.

On one level, it could not have come at a more precipitous time. After the release of Avengers 4 in 2019, Marvel Studios' deals with some of its marquee actors are set to expire, including those of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, among others who have been around since the MCU’s big bang, and whose salaries have become astronomical.

The inbound characters, whether in stand-alone movies or fancy crossovers, are bound to give an injection of freshness to the MCU and the comic book movie genre in general, but fans should know this wish fulfillment is a double-edged sword.

For one, it's unclear whether the actors who portray fan-favorite heroes — be it Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique or Michael Fassbender as Magneto — would take part in the new movies. Both actors, who star in next summer’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, inked expensive, one-off deals. A return in a greater Marvel universe could cost even more.

Also, Marvel head Kevin Feige has said he has 22 more movies planned to start rolling out over the next decade as Phase 4 of the MCU begins. The merging of the universe complicates that rollout not just from a development point of view, but also a distribution point of view. Just how many Marvel movies can Disney release in a year?

Insiders are already expecting casualties.

Fox’s The New Mutants is opening April 13, 2018, and director Josh Boone has a trilogy planned. But does a movie like that, with a smaller budget and rising stars, fit in a slate that includes big-budget live-action remakes such as Jungle Book and Cinderella, Star Wars movies, Pixar and Walt Disney offerings, and Avengers?

“If Disney is an NFL team, then every movie on the calendar is like a Heisman Trophy winner,” says one insider. “This raises the bar of what is a theatrical release.”

Thus, the thinking is that future installments or non-event Marvel content could be put into the silo for Disney's planned streaming service (of course, all bets are off if New Mutants becomes a hit and audience demand forces more theatrical releases).

The long-gestating Gambit movie starring Channing Tatum is finally due to begin shooting in late February 2018 for a February 2019 release. What will be the box-office threshold for Disney to consider that movie a hit, thus warranting a sequel? The answers will lie in a re-evaluation of the projects down the line to see how and if it fits into a broader Marvel strategy, according to sources.

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12-16-2017 Science&Technology
Record Breaker! 8th Alien Planet Found Around Distant Star

Our solar system is not alone atop the planet-harboring heap anymore.

Scientists have discovered another world orbiting the star Kepler-90, bringing that system's tally of confirmed planets to eight — the same number as in Earth's solar system (at least according to the International Astronomical Union, which stripped Pluto of its "ninth planet" status back in 2006).

That's one more than the previous extrasolar record, which had been held jointly by Kepler-90 and the TRAPPIST-1 system. [Images: Discovery of 8th Planet in Kepler-90 System with Google AI]

The research team found the new planet, known as Kepler-90i — as well as another world in a different system — after analyzing archival data from NASA's Kepler mission using Google machine-learning techniques.

"Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them," Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. "This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come."

The Kepler space telescope launched in March 2009. During its four-year original mission, the spacecraft scanned 150,000 stars continuously, searching for the tiny brightness dips caused by planets crossing the stars' faces. In 2014, Kepler shifted to a second mission known as K2, during which it hunts for exoplanets on a more limited basis but also makes a variety of other observations.

This planet-hunting work has been incredibly successful. To date, Kepler has discovered more than 2,500 confirmed alien worlds — about two-thirds of all known planets beyond our solar system — as well as more than 2,000 "candidates" that await confirmation by follow-up observations or analysis. (The vast majority of these finds have come from the original-mission observations; the K2 confirmed-planet tally stands at 184.)

But the two new discoveries suggest that many more alien worlds may lurk undiscovered in Kepler's data sets.

Researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg — a senior software engineer with Google AI and an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin, respectively — trained a computer to recognize weak, as-yet-unnoticed exoplanet signals in Kepler data. The duo used a machine-learning approach, basing it on the networks of neurons that populate the human brain.

"In my spare time, I started googling for ‘finding exoplanets with large data sets’ and found out about the Kepler mission and the huge data set available," Shallue said in the same statement. "Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves."

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12-16-2017 Science&Technology
Tesla was under federal investigation over Model 3, may still be, report says

PALO ALTO — The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Tesla over the way it was selling its Model 3 sedan, but the company failed to tell investors about the probe, and may still be under federal investigation, according to a new report.

The firm led by CEO Elon Musk was under formal investigation by the securities regulator from June 2016 to May 2017, according to SEC documents.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Palo Alto electric car maker’s process for selling the Model 3 — a $35,000 sedan aimed at the mass market — involved taking $1,000 deposits, for future delivery. Hundreds of thousands of would-be Tesla owners have put up money for the Model 3.

The SEC investigation into the company ended in May with no enforcement action taken. But the regulator’s refusal, on law enforcement grounds, to provide certain other records suggested that “there is at least one other unresolved SEC probe” into Tesla, according to investment-research firm Probes Reporter, which obtained and published the SEC records. The research firm noted that Tesla had not told investors it was the subject of an SEC probe.

SEC documents show the commission started investigating Tesla because it believed the company might have been “making false statements of material fact or failing to disclose material facts concerning the company’s Model 3 vehicle.”

Tesla was ordered to produce company documents related to Model 3 reservations, cancellations, and deposits, including how Tesla had used or planned to use the deposit money. The SEC also demanded names and credit card numbers of customers who pre-ordered Model 3s.

Tesla’s sales process for the Model 3 has been a way to create liquidity for the company, which is using a similar process with its new Roadster, said CFRA analyst Efraim Levy.

“They’re selling reservations that materially would benefit cash flow,” Levy said. “I don’t know of any crime there. It’s pretty straightforward: People are willing to wait on an open-ended time period on the potential to have a car.”

The demand by the regulator for Model 3 customers’ names appears likely to have been a way for the SEC to confirm that there were real people behind the reservation numbers Tesla was putting out, Levy said.

Tesla’s stated delivery targets for the Model 3 may have led it unintentionally to mislead customers about when they would get their vehicles, Levy said.

“As long as it was done in good faith, that’s not an issue,” he said, adding that Musk’s statements, in general, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

“He sets ambitious targets, and I think that’s part of his strategy to motivate his workforce to make them do better than they would have otherwise,” Levy said.

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12-16-2017 Science&Technology
Amazon is selling the Apple TV and Google Chromecast again will soon begin selling the Apple TV set-top box and Google Chromecast, two streaming devices that have been unavailable from the leading online retailer for over two years. Listings for both products have returned to the site, but Amazon isn’t accepting orders just yet. The company has directly confirmed to The Verge that it intends to do so in the near future. “I can confirm that we are assorting Apple TV and Chromecast,” a spokesperson said by email. The news was first reported by CNet.

Both the Apple TV and Chromecast were pulled from Amazon in late 2015. The company’s justification for the move was that consumers would be confused and frustrated if they purchased streaming devices that didn’t offer a direct, convenient way to view Amazon Prime Video content. In Apple’s case, that impasse lasted until earlier this month when Amazon finally released a Prime Video app for Apple TV. (The new software has been met with some unfavorable reviews.)

The Google situation is a bit more interesting for two reasons. First, Amazon Video still doesn’t support the extremely popular Chromecast. And second, Amazon and Google are embroiled in a feud. Google is angry at Amazon for failing to support Google Cast (the technology that powers Chromecast) and for the retailer’s long-running refusal to sell Google-branded products and some newer devices from its Nest subsidiary. (Google Home, for example, is still completely absent from

Things got pretty ugly and unnecessarily petty. If you asked an Echo device to order a Chromecast, Amazon would automatically put a Fire Stick in your cart instead. In retaliation to Amazon’s moves, Google recently pulled YouTube from the Echo Show and announced plans to remove the app from Fire TV streaming devices as of January 1st. Amazon claims this amounts to “selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”

Amazon’s restoration of Chromecast sales can be seen as a way of easing the escalating tensions between two tech giants. Perhaps Google might rethink its decision as a result and allow Fire TV owners to keep YouTube after all. The companies would do well to work things out: earlier today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai referenced the public spat between Amazon and Google in his remarks during the commission’s vote to kill net neutrality.

Read Original Article     ON:   The Verge

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12-14-2017 Economics
If Disney buys Fox assets, your TV, movie and sports watching could change

Playing soon: A deal between two U.S. entertainment icons that could change what sports you watch at home and even what superheroes battle it out on the big screen.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS) is expected to be the acquirer of 21st Century Fox (FOX) assets put up for sale by Fox's Murdoch family as it streamlines Fox's holdings and focuses on the news business.

The asset sale, which may be worth up to $60 billion in a deal CNBC says could come Thursday, would shift some Fox television- and movie-making studios to the acquirer as well as rights to some characters from the Marvel comic book universe that Fox now holds.

Such a deal would bulk up the kinds of shows Disney can provide viewers over one of its forthcoming streaming networks, essential as Disney gets ready to yank its shows off Netflix in 2019. It could give Disney a bigger stake in television-streaming service Hulu, and give it part-ownership of an international network to distribute movies like "Beauty and the Beast."

And it could make it easier for subscribers to the soon-to-be launched streaming service of ESPN, the sports network owned by Disney, to watch local sports. Part of the asset sale may include Fox Sports' vast regional networks.

Here's a breakdown of how the blockbuster deal might shake out whether you're a sports, comic-book hero or movie fan — or all three.

Read Original Article     ON:   Usa Today

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12-13-2017 Politics
Three women reassert allegations of sexual harassment against President Trump

The #MeToo sexual harassment movement roiling the nation reached the doors of the White House on Monday, when three women who last year accused President Trump of sexual misconduct began a renewed public push to gain attention for their allegations.

The three accusers were among more than a dozen who had initially come forward during the 2016 presidential campaign. The three reinvigorated their stories this week with an appearance on Megyn Kelly’s NBC show — their first joint interview — and a subsequent news conference in Manhattan, in which they also called on Congress to investigate their claims.

Their appeal occurs on the eve of a closely fought special U.S. Senate election in Alabama, where Roy Moore, the Republican nominee whom Trump has endorsed, is facing multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, and as four Senate Democrats have called on Trump to resign amid the allegations of harassment against him.

The White House dismissed the allegations in a morning statement and an afternoon news conference, saying the president has previously denied any improprieties and arguing that the questions were already litigated as part of his ascension to the presidency. Several White House officials also said the West Wing was not particularly panicked, in part because none of the accusations were new.

But some Trump aides, advisers and outside confidants are privately grappling with how to navigate the charged national environment over sexual misconduct, which may not pass anytime soon, and an increasingly aggressive Democratic Party.

Some outside Republicans close to the president said they are increasingly uneasy about his ability to withstand a revived spotlight on his behavior toward women amid the dramatic attitude shift happening nationwide in response to accusations of sexual misconduct against men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. A number of Trump associates are also wary of the potential political costs if the president goes on a sustained attack against his accusers.

“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory,” the White House said in a statement Monday. “The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.”

In a contentious media briefing — in which White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked if she had ever been sexually harassed and if she could empathize with victims of harassment — Sanders said, “The president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these accusations.” ...

Read Original Article     ON:   The Washington Post

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12-12-2017 Politics
Nuclear destruction 'one impulsive tantrum away,' Nobel winners warn

(CNN)The winners of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize have warned countries that possess nuclear weapons to eliminate their "instruments of insanity" or risk mutual destruction.

The stark warning came Sunday as this year's peace prize was presented at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

"Heed our warning and know that your actions are consequential. You are each an integral part of the system of violence that threatens humankind," said Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor and ICAN campaigner.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose the group as the winner of this year's peace prize in recognition of its role as a driving force behind the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was adopted on July 7 with the support of 122 nations.

Thurlow and ICAN's Executive Director Beatrice Fihn called on the world's nuclear-armed states to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

The treaty prohibits a catalog of nuclear activity, including undertaking development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons.

Thurlow said that, as a 13-year-old schoolgirl in 1945, she witnessed classmates who had "parts of their bodies missing" and "flesh and skin hanging from their bones" after the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

She survived. Most of her classmates did not. Thurlow's 4-year-old nephew was also killed after being "transformed into an unrecognizable melted chunk of flesh."

"He kept begging for water in a faint voice until his death release him from agony," Thurlow said.

She said her nephew's fate reminds her of all the children in today's world who live under the threat of nuclear weapons.

The Nobel Prize



Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor and @nuclearban (ICAN) campaigner, speaks at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. Read the full speech:

10:18 AM - Dec 10, 2017

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"We must not tolerate this insanity any longer," she said.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, all of which have nuclear arsenals -- did not participate in the negotiations for the treaty.

North Korea, which has carried out six nuclear weapons tests, also did not participate. The country has traded barbs in a war of words over its nuclear program with US President Donald Trump. Fihn told the audience in her speech that "mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away."

"We have avoided nuclear war -- not through prudent leadership, but through good fortune. And sooner or later, if we fail to act, our luck will run out," said Fihn. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   CNN

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12-11-2017 Environment
Wildfires scorch a hole through Southern California's mythology of paradise

Southern California is the landscape of dreams, or so the mythology goes. Newcomers arrive. They raise the roof beam high over the simplest foundations and pass on to a new generation the hope that they too might believe in this sun-drenched paradise.

Time, however, has cast a shadow on this pact, and it sometimes feels like a distant romance. Yet glimpses of it can still be seen, as the fires of this last week have shown.

Beginning Monday night, the conflagration has been indiscriminately cruel, incinerating homes, killing horses and upending lives. It has touched mogul and farmer, homeowner and renter, young and old alike.

Flaring up almost at random, it has linked disparate cities and neighborhoods — Ventura and Sylmar, Santa Paula and Bel-Air, Malibu and Bonsall — and forged a common experience among dusty inland horse ranches, coastal mansions, oak-hidden enclaves and ocean-view apartments.

In this climate and on this landscape, fire is the great equalizer.

But all natural disasters are. They provide a glimpse into the vulnerability of others no matter their place in life. Houston. Florida. Puerto Rico.

Only it wasn’t supposed to be this way, not here at least. Palm trees aren’t supposed to ignite like matchsticks.

Follow live coverage of the Southern California wildfires »

“No place on earth offers greater security to life and greater freedom from natural disasters than Southern California,” wrote The Times wrote in 1934.

We’re learning otherwise.

“It’s never been easy to make a home in America,” said D.J. Waldie, author of “Holy Land,” a memoir of growing up in a Southern California neighborhood. “We are not unique, except we have a burden of a mythology that presents California — especially Southern California — as somehow exempt from the difficulties, I would even say cruelties, of making a home in America.”

But fire is the cruel joke of Southern California, and the irony is rich: Everything that makes this place special — the mountains, this salubrious climate between desert and sea — is the reason for the wind-driven destruction.

We have a burden of a mythology that presents California — especially Southern California — as somehow exempt from the difficulties.

Our naiveté is to blame as well, a willingness to forget that these fires are nothing new. “Disaster amnesia,” as Mike Davis called it in “Ecology of Fear.”

Yet abandoning illusions is never easy, no matter the reality at hand. ...

Read Original Article     ON:   Los Angeles Times

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Top 150 World Newspapers (*)

No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country No. Newspaper / Country
1 The New York Times / United States 2 The Guardian / United Kingdom 3 The Daily Mail / United Kingdom 4 China Daily / China
5 The Washington Post / United States 6 The Telegraph / United Kingdom 7 The Wall Street Journal / United States 8 USA Today / United States
9 The Times of India / India 10 The Independent / United Kingdom 11 Los Angeles Times / United States 12 El País / Spain
13 Financial Times / United Kingdom 14 The People's Daily / China 15 United Daily News / China 16 The Economic Daily / China
17 Le Monde / France 18 Daily Mirror / United Kingdom 19 El Mundo / Spain 20 Daily News / United States
21 La Repubblica / Italy 22 Bild / Germany 23 Le Figaro / France 24 The Sydney Morning Herald / Australia
25 Houston Chronicle / United States 26 Hürriyet / Turkey 27 Chicago Tribune / United States 28 The Examiner / United States
29 New York Post / United States 30 Asahi Shimbun / Japan 31 Corriere della Sera / Italy 32 The Economic Times / India
33 Milliyet Gazetesi / Turkey 34 Marca / Spain 35 Liberty Times / Taiwan 36 Die Welt / Germany
37 The Globe and Mail / Canada 38 Nihon Keizai Shimbun / Japan 39 The Hollywood Reporter / United States 40 Sabah / Turkey
41 The Christian Science Monitor / United States 42 Daily Express / United Kingdom 43 Kompas / Indonesia 44 The Indian Express / India
45 Yomiuri Shimbun / Japan 46 Gazeta Wyborcza / Poland 47 The Hindu / India 48 The Toronto Star / Canada
49 The Sun / United Kingdom 50 The Age / Australia 51 The Boston Globe / United States 52 Philippine Daily Inquirer / Philippines
53 Süddeutsche Zeitung / Germany 54 The Washington Times / United States 55 Clarín / Argentina 56 Chosun Ilbo / Japan
57 Die Zeit / Germany 58 The Onion / United States 59 Metro / United Kingdom 60 ABC / Spain
61 The Seattle Times / United States 62 The Times / United Kingdom 63 La Gazzetta dello Sport / Italy 64 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Germany
65 The Hill / United States 66 Dainik Bhaskar / India 67 The Philadelphia Inquirer / United States 68 The Oregonian / United States
69 The Dong-a Ilbo / Korea 70 La Nación / Argentina 71 The Hindustan Times / India 72 San Jose Mercury News / United States
73 The Dallas Morning News / United States 74 AS / Spain 75 The Australian / Australia 76 Star Tribune / United States
77 Qingdao News / China 78 The Jerusalem Post / Israel 79 The Plain Dealer / United States 80 L'Equipe / France
81 Komsomolskaya Pravda / Russia 82 The Denver Post / United States 83 Mladá fronta Dnes / Czech Republic 84 Libération / France
85 O Globo / Brazil 86 Aftonbladet / Sweden 87 The Japan Times / Japan 88 Business Standard / India
89 Le Nouvel Observateur / France 90 Kommersant / Russia 91 Le Parisien / France 92 The New Zealand Herald / New Zealand
93 Detroit Free Press / United States 94 Newsday / United States 95 The Baltimore Sun / United States 96 National Post / Canada
97 Il Sole 24 Ore / Italy 98 The Miami Herald / United States 99 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / United States 100 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / United States
101 The Irish Independent / Ireland 102 South China Morning Post / Hong Kong SAR 103 The Irish Times / Ireland 104 The Star Online / Malaysia
105 De Telegraaf / Netherlands 106 Dawn / Pakistan 107 Der Standaard / Austria 108 The Sacramento Bee / United States
109 20 Minutos / Spain 110 Mainichi Shimbun / Japan 111 Rossiyskaya Gazeta / Russia 112 Apple Daily / Taiwan
113 DNA - Daily News & Analysis / India 114 La Stampa / Italy 115 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / United States 116 20 Minutes / France
117 La Vanguardia / Spain 118 Evening Standard / United Kingdom 119 China Times / Taiwan 120 The Straits Times / Singapore
121 Orlando Sentinel / United States 122 Der Tagesspiegel / Germany 123 South Florida Sun-Sentinel / United States 124 Verdens Gang / Norway
125 Argumenti i Fakti / Russia 126 Boston Herald / United States 127 Infobae / Argentina 128 Dagbladet / Norway
129 Independent Online / South Africa 130 The New York Observer / United States 131 Yeni Safak / Turkey 132 Seattle Post-Intelligencer / United States
133 The Kansas City Star / United States 134 Al-Ahram / Egypt 135 The Scotsman / United Kingdom 136 Nikkan Sports / Japan
137 Deseret News / United States 138 Herald Sun / Australia 139 The Vancouver Sun / Canada 140 Yang Cheng Wan Bao / China
141 Les Échos / France 142 Gulf News / United Arab Emirates 143 Yedioth Aharonot / Israel 144 Sports Nippon / Japan
145 The Orange County Register / United States 146 Expressen / Sweden 147 St. Louis Post-Dispatch / United States 148 / Russia
149 Handelsblatt / Germany 150 The Daily Telegraph / Australia

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