United States

Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Pay Foxconn $3 Billion To Get New Factory (arstechnica.com) 18

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wisconsin Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill to give incentives worth $3 billion to Taiwan-based Foxconn so that the company would open its first U.S. plant in the state. Foxconn, best known for supplying parts of Apple's iPhones, will open the $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant in 2020, according to Reuters. The bill still has to be approved by a joint finance committee and the state Senate. Both houses of Wisconsin's legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the deal is supported by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who negotiated the deal. The vote was largely, but not entirely, along party lines. Three Democrats joined 56 Republicans in supporting the deal. Two Republicans and 28 Democrats voted against it. Opponents said the deal wasn't a good use of taxpayer funds. The $3 billion incentives package includes about $2.85 billion in cash payments from taxpayers and tax breaks valued at about $150 million. The state is also waiving certain environmental rules.
Communications

Atlas 5 Rocket Launches $400 Million NASA Satellite Into Space (spaceflightnow.com) 27

A new communications hub has been successfully deployed in space today thanks to the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. "TDRS is a critical national asset have because of its importance to the space station and all of our science missions, primarily the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth science missions that use TDRS," said Tim Dunn, NASA's TDRS-M launch director. Spaceflight Now reports: With its main engine running at full throttle, the Atlas 5 booster lifted off at 8:29 a.m. EDT (1229 GMT) from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral. The 191-foot-tall rocket, generating 860,000 pounds of thrust, aimed eastward and accelerated out of the atmosphere with NASA's TDRS-M spacecraft. Within just five minutes, the rocket had shed 92 percent of its liftoff weight and transitioned to the high-energy Centaur upper stage. An elliptical parking orbit was achieved within 18 minutes of takeoff, beginning a 90-minute quiescent coast higher through space to reach the optimum conditions for the second burn by Centaur. That minute-long boost over the Indian Ocean propelled the 7,610-pound payload into a customized high-perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit. The spacecraft was deployed by the launcher at T+plus 1 hour, 53 minutes to cheers and handshakes all around.

The $408 million TDRS-M was built and launched with the sole purpose to extend the useful life of NASA's constant communications infrastructure, supporting the astronauts around-the-clock aboard the International Space Station, supplying contact with the Hubble Space Telescope and transmitting the data from almost 40 science spacecraft studying Earth's environment and space.

Databases

Google and ProPublica Team Up To Build a National Hate Crime Database (techcrunch.com) 133

In partnership with ProPublica, Google News Lab is launching a new tool to track hate crimes across America. The "Documenting Hate News Index" is being powered by machine learning to track reported hate crimes across all 50 states, collecting data from February 2017 onward. TechCrunch reports: Data visualization studio Pitch Interactive helped craft the index, which collects Google News results and filters them through Google's natural language analysis to extract geographic and contextual information. Because they are not catalogued in any kind of formal national database, a fact that inspired the creation of the index to begin with, Google calls the project a "starting point" for the documentation and study of hate crimes. While the FBI is legally required to document hate crimes at the federal level, state and local authorities often fail to report their own incidents, making the data incomplete at best.

The initiative is a data-rich new arm of the Documenting Hate project which collects and verifies hate incidents reported by both individual contributors and by news organizations. The Hate News Index will keep an eye out for false positives (casual uses of the word "hate" for example), striking a responsible balance between machine learning and human curation on a very sensitive subject. Hate events will be mapped onto a calendar in the user interface, though users can also use a keyword search or browse through algorithmic suggestions. For anyone who'd like to take the data in a new direction, Google will open sourced its data set, making it available through GitHub.

Music

How Hackers Can Use Pop Songs To 'Watch' You (fastcompany.com) 21

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: Forget your classic listening device: Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated that phones, smart TVs, Amazon Echo-like assistants, and other devices equipped with speakers and microphones could be used by hackers as clandestine sonar "bugs" capable of tracking your location in a room. Their system, called CovertBand, emits high-pitched sonar signals hidden within popular songs -- their examples include songs by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake -- then records them with the machine's microphone to detect people's activities. Jumping, walking, and "supine pelvic tilts" all produce distinguishable patterns, they say in a paper. (Of course, someone who hacked the microphone on a smart TV or computer could likely listen to its users, as well.)
Power

Hyundai To Build a 300-Mile-Per-Charge Electric Car (reuters.com) 93

On Thursday, Hyundai Motor said it will launch a long-range electric vehicle with a driving range of 500 km (311 miles) per charge after 2021. The company is reportedly planning 31 eco-friendly models by 2020, up from a previously flagged 28. Reuters reports: The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year. The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020. Underscoring Hyundai's electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles -- a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered. Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.
Medicine

Memories of Fear Could Be Permanently Erased, Study Shows (theguardian.com) 33

A new study unpicks why certain sounds can stir alarming memories, and reveals a new approach to wiping such memories from the brain. The Guardian reports: Published in the journal Neuron by Cho and his colleague Woong Bin Kim, the research reveals how the team used genetically modified mice to examine the pathways between the area of the brain involved in processing a particular sound and the area involved in emotional memories, known as the amygdala. In the first part of the experiment the team played both a high pitched and low-pitched tone to mice. But, when the high-pitched sound was played, the researchers also gave the mice a small electric shock to their feet. When the high-pitched tone was subsequently played on its own, the mice froze in fear; no such response was seen when the alternative, low-pitched, tone was played. The team then looked to see if there were differences between the high-pitch and low-pitch tone pathways in the brains of the mice, revealing that, among the mice exposed electric shocks, the connections within the "high-pitched" pathway had become stronger, while the other pathway remained unchanged. The team found that when mice were subsequently repeatedly exposed to high-pitched sounds without the shocks they lost their fear -- a process known as fear extinction.

But the team discovered that using a technique called optogenetics, it was possible to truly erase the unpleasant memories. This technique involved the researchers using a virus to introduce genes into particular neurons in the brains of the mice that were involved in the "high-pitch" pathways. Once inside the cells, the genes result in the production of proteins which respond to light, allowing researchers to control the activity of the neurons. Taking mice with the fearful memories, the team exposed the neurons involved in the "high-pitch" pathway to low-frequency light -- an approach which weakens the connections between the neurons. The upshot was that the mice no longer appeared fearful when they heard the high-pitched tone.

Android

Android O Is Officially Launching August 21 (techcrunch.com) 49

Android O is set to arrive on August 21, with a livestreamed unveiling event timed for 2:40 PM ET in NYC -- which is roughly when the maximum solar eclipse is set to occur for New York. TechCrunch reports: Android O will get a full reveal at that time, which seems like kind of a weird time to do it since a lot of people will be watching the NASA eclipse livestream that Google is also promoting, or staring at the sky (with the caveat, hopefully, that they have procured proper glasses for safe viewing). Google says that Android O will have some "super (sweet) new powers," most of which we know all about thanks to pre-release builds and the Android O teaser Google provided at its annual I/O developer event this past May. WE know, for instance, that the notification panel has been changed significantly, and there's new optimization software to improve battery life on all devices. While Android O's name has yet to be confirmed, the official consumer name is speculated to be "Oreo." Prolific leaker Evan Blass posted a picture of an Oreo to Twitter on Friday following the announcement of the reveal date and event.
The Military

US Military To Create Separate Unified Cyber Warfare Command (securityweek.com) 45

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to elevate its cyber warfare operations to a separate command, signaling a new strategic emphasis on electronic and online offensive and defensive operations. "I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations," Trump said in a statement Friday. The move would expand the number of the Defense Department's unified combatant commands to 10, putting cyber warfare on an equal footing with the Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, and regional commands. Until now cyber warfare operations have been run under the umbrella of the National Security Agency, the country's main electronic spying agency, with Admiral Michael Rogers heading both.
Google

Waymo Patent Shows Plans To Replace Steering Wheel, Pedals With Push Button (driverless.id) 76

nesaefendija shares a report from Driverless: Waymo just received approval on a patent for a push-button console that replaces not only a steering wheel in a car but the brake and gas pedals, too. This reflects Alphabet's driverless arm could remain true to its original mantra of developing cars that pilot themselves without human intervention. In many ways, the push-button controls give the riders the same level of control you might have in an elevator, largely confined to just being able to make an emergency stop or to set the vehicle into motion by pressing the "GO" button.
Google

Google Explains Why It Banned the App For Gab, a Right-Wing Twitter Rival (arstechnica.com) 391

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: When right-wing trolls and outright racists get kicked off of Twitter, they often move to Gab, a right-wing Twitter competitor. Gab was founded by Andrew Torba, who says it's devoted to unfettered free expression online. The site also hosts controversial right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer. On Thursday, Gab said that Google had banned its Android app from the Google Play Store for violating Google's ban on hate speech. The app's main competitor, Twitter, hosts accounts like the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, yet the Twitter app is still available on the Google Play store. Apple has long had more restrictive app store policies, and it originally rejected the Gab app for allowing pornographic content to be posted on the service -- despite the fact that hardcore pornography is readily available on Twitter. In an email to Ars, Google explained its decision to remove Gab from the Play Store: "In order to be on the Play Store, social networking apps need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people. This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies. Developers always have the opportunity to appeal a suspension and may have their apps reinstated if they've addressed the policy violations and are compliant with our Developer Program Policies."
Android

The Verge's Essential Phone Review: An Arcane Artifact From an Unrealized Future (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader shares Dieter Bohn's review of the Essential Phone: Even though it was announced less than three months ago at the Code Conference, there's already enough mythology surrounding the Essential Phone to fill a book. It comes from a brand-new billion-dollar startup led by the person who helped create Android itself, Andy Rubin. That origin binds it up with the history of all smartphones in a way that doesn't usually apply to your run-of-the-mill device. The phone was also delayed a bit, a sign that this tiny company hasn't yet quite figured out how to punch above its weight class -- which it's certainly trying to do. Although it runs standard Android, it's meant to act as a vanguard for Essential's new ecosystem of smart home devices and services connected by the mysterious Ambient OS. Even if we trust that Rubin's futuristic vision for a connected home will come to pass, it's not going to happen overnight. Instead, all we really have right now is that future's harbinger, a well-designed Android phone that I've been testing for the past week. Available unlocked or at Sprint, the $699 Essential Phone is an ambitious device. It has a unique way to connect modular accessories, starting with a 360-degree camera. It has a bold take on how to make a big, edge-to-edge screen paired with top-flight materials such as ceramic and titanium. And it has a dual camera system that is meant to compete with other flagship devices without adding any thickness to the phone. That would be a lot for even a massive company like Samsung or Apple to try to do with a single phone. For a tiny company like Essential, the question is simply this: is it trying to do too much? In conclusion, Bohn writes: "The Essential Phone is doing so much right: elegant design, big screen, long battery life, and clean software. And on top of all that, it has ambitions to do even more with those modules. If you asked Android users what they wanted in the abstract, I suspect a great many of them would describe this exact device. But while the camera is pretty good, it doesn't live up to the high bar the rest of the phone market has set. Sometimes artifacts are better to behold than they are to use."
Science

Self-sufficient Eclipse Chasers Hit the Road To 'Totality' (reuters.com) 35

An anonymous reader shares a report: Michael Zeiler packed his portable toilet then headed out on a 10-hour drive from New Mexico to Wyoming where, on Monday, he intends to mark the ninth time he has seen the moon pass in front of the sun in a total solar eclipse. Zeiler is a self-described "eclipse chaser," part of a group of avid astronomy buffs, telescope hobbyists and amateur photographers whose passion for such celestial events takes them to the far corners of the earth. For the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States in almost a century, and the first visible anywhere in the Lower 48 states since 1979, Zeiler had only to drive some 650 miles (1,046 km) from the desert Southwest to the Rockies. He showed up prepared and early on Wednesday at his destination in Casper, Wyoming, within the "path of totality," the corridor over which the moon's 70-mile-wide shadow will be cast as it crosses the United States over 93 minutes. Along that path at the height of the eclipse on Aug. 21, the sun will be completely blotted out except for its outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
Privacy

Info on 1.8M Chicago Voters Was Publicly Accessible, But Now Removed From Cloud Service (chicagotribune.com) 26

A file containing the names, addresses, dates of birth and other information about Chicago's 1.8 million registered voters was published online and publicly accessible for an unknown period of time, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said this week. From a report: The acknowledgment came days after a data security researcher alerted officials to the existence of the unsecured files. The researcher found the files while conducting a search of items uploaded to Amazon Web Services, a cloud system that allows users to rent storage space and share files with certain people or the general public. The files had been uploaded by Election Systems & Software, a contractor that helps maintain Chicago's electronic poll books. Election Systems said in a statement that the files "did not include any ballot information or vote totals and were not in any way connected to Chicago's voting or tabulation systems." The company said it had "promptly secured" the files on Saturday evening and had launched "a full investigation, with the assistance of a third-party firm, to perform thorough forensic analyses of the AWS server." State and local officials were notified of the existence of the files Saturday by cybersecurity expert Chris Vickery, who works at the Mountain View, Calif. firm UpGuard.
Google

YouTube Music Head Says Company Pays Higher Royalties Than Spotify in US (engadget.com) 13

An anonymous reader shares a report: Making a living from streaming royalties is tough for music artists, and YouTube has had one of the worst reputations in the music industry for a while. Even Lyor Cohen, the current head of YouTube Music, knows that many are skeptical about the service's ability to pay out a legitimate rate. Cohen wrote a blog post this week to explain why he thinks that YouTube deserves another chance, and that his company is the highest paying music streaming service out there. The former road manager for Run DMC has been at YouTube for eight months now. He believes that YouTube music got to the subscription party late, which allowed companies like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music to take an early lead. He also says that ads in music videos aren't the "death of the music industry," but rather a second supplement to bring in the money. Cohen claims that YouTube's ads brought in more than a billion dollars in the past 12 months. That should help soothe the music industry itself, but what about artists? Cohen rebuts the common belief that YouTube pays less than Spotify or Pandora, saying that his service pays more than $3 per thousand streams in the US, "more than other ad supported services."
Businesses

A 'Netflix Tax'? Yes, and It's Already a Thing in Some States (usatoday.com) 112

An anonymous reader shares a report: Your monthly bill for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services could go up soon as states such as Illinois try to find ways to offset declining sales taxes and other revenue shortfalls. Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida have already passed a so-called Netflix tax, and cities such as Pasadena, Calif. have broached the issue. These taxes can translate to additional fees of less than $1 each month to consumers. But over the months -- and tacked onto multiple streaming subscriptions -- they might add up to $50 or more each year. Netflix, consumer tax groups and tech trade organizations have voiced their opposition to such taxes, warning they can be unfair and deter innovation. Some opponents have initiated legal challenges, and at least one state has shelved plans after a court decision. But state and local governments aren't likely to halt fresh efforts as falling pay-TV subscriptions and video rentals mean there's less opportunity to tax cable bills or charge sales tax at the cash register.

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