Republicans

Trump Proposes Joint 'Cyber Security Unit' With Russia, Then Quickly Backs Away From It (arstechnica.com) 389

In a series of tweets yesterday, President Trump proposed "an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Putin "so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe." The news came as a shock to just about everyone who got word of it, including congressional members of his own GOP party. Less than 24 hours later, Trump decided against it, tweeting: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!" Ars Technica reports: "It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard, but it's pretty close," Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, said of the plan. Senate Republican Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted that "partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit."' Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump and the Russian president decided at a meeting during a Group of 20 nations summit in Hamburg, Germany, to embark on a joint "cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cyber security together." But on Sunday, after it was clear that the plan was going nowhere, Trump took to Twitter and said no deal. That didn't stop Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, from introducing on Monday an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would bar a US-Russian cyber accord. He said: "Donald Trump's proposal to form a 'cyber security unit' with Putin is a terrible idea that would immediately jeopardize American cybersecurity... Trump must acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and take strong, meaningful action to prevent it from happening again in future elections."
Businesses

Only 100 Companies Are Responsible For 71 Percent of Global Emissions, Says Study (theguardian.com) 180

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report. The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) "pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions," says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute. The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 -- the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established -- can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.
Businesses

Spotify Denies Allegations It's Putting Fake Artists On Popular Playlists To Cut Costs (factmag.com) 115

Last year, music industry publication Music Business Worldwide (MBW) claimed Spotify was putting fake artists in some of its popular playlists. The publication listed 50 artists it claimed were not real. Why would they do such a thing? To keep royalty costs down. MBW claimed that Spotify "was asking producers to create music to specification and paying them a flat fee to own the track outright," reports FACT Magazine. "These tracks -- which MBW alleged were being used to bulk up numbers on ambient, chillout and piano playlists -- are said to be owned by Spotify so that the company could circumvent royalty payments on playlists that have millions of subscribers." From the report: The claims were brought to wider attention by a feature published by Vulture last week, which picked out acts called Deep Watch and Enno Aare as examples of "fake artists" that had racked up two million and 15 million streams despite having no public profile. In a statement given to Billboard last week, Spotify refuted the allegations made by both MBW and Vulture. "We do not and have never created 'fake' artists and put them on Spotify playlists," the company said. "Categorically untrue, full stop. We pay royalties -- sound and publishing -- for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything we playlist. We do not own rights, we're not a label, all our music is licensed from rightsholders and we pay them -- we don't pay ourselves. We do not own this content -- we license it and pay royalties just like we do on every other track." In a piece published yesterday, MBW challenged Spotify's statement, citing anonymous sources in the music business who claimed that the practice has been going on for a "long time."
Businesses

Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves Income Tax For the Rich (geekwire.com) 486

reifman writes: Amazon, tech employees and those making $250,000 or more annually in Seattle will now pay a 2.25 percent income tax. "The Seattle City Council estimates that the tax would bring in an additional $140 million each year," reports GeekWire. "The revenue would go toward the city's housing affordability agenda and carbon reduction goals and supplant federal funds if they are cut. The revenue is also intended to alleviate the burden of Washington's property and sales taxes, which are often called the most regressive in the country." Anyone who's seen Amazon's impacts on Seattle and its low and middle income residents will appreciate how this tax will help the homeless, lower income and improve the environment. Not everyone is thrilled with the recently approved legislation. Jason Mercier, who directs the center for government reform with the Washington Police Center, said: "[The council is] going to unanimously adopt an illegal income tax that has no hope of taking effect and will waste taxpayer resources on litigation the city is sure to lose." The measure is expected to be challenged in court, as Washington's constitution states "a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income." According to The Washington Post, Mercier said there is decade of case law saying that a graduated income tax is unconstitutional because income is property and under the constitution, property tax has to be taxed uniformly and no more than 1 percent.
Privacy

Russians Now Need a Passport To Watch Pornhub (vice.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE News: Pornhub, the world's biggest porn site, now requires users in Russia to log in using social media accounts linked to their passports and cell phones. Monday's change is the latest chapter of an ongoing feud between Pornhub and the Russian government. The site was blocked in Russia last September for allegedly spreading information detrimental to the development of children, then reinstated in April after instituting a requirement that users specify their age. At the time, Pornhub asked the Russian state media regulation agency whether officials there would lift the ban if they were given free Pornhub Premium accounts. Pornhub announced the change on its own Vkontakte page page by saying "now you can simply log in through your favorite social network" instead of filling in your date of birth. But the government policy that Pornhub says prompted the change presumably wasn't aimed at making it easier for Russians to watch porn. Instead, it may be a means of surveillance; to open a Vkontakte account, users need to enter their cell phone numbers. And to legally purchase a SIM card in Russia, you need to disclose your passport information. "While this exact method is not a condition [from the Russian government], we found this is the best solution for our users to comply with Russian access laws," Pornhub Vice President Corey Price said. "Also to be clear, Pornhub does not log or store any of your personal information, this is just a check to see if users are over 18. On [Vkontakte's] end, all they will see is see the request from that user, they will not know what that user browsed on Pornhub."
China

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Experience the Chinese Internet From Outside? (fffff.at) 93

dryriver writes: In 2008, a bunch of crafty developers created a Firefox plugin called China Channel. It apparently allowed you to connect to a proxy server in China, and experience the -- heavily censored and filtered -- internet as Chinese citizens experienced it back then. The nearly decade old plugin doesn't seem to work anymore. My modern Firefox browser couldn't install it. So the question: is there a way to surf the internet as if you were inside China, and experience for yourself how much of the experience is censored or filtered? It would be interesting to experience firsthand what the Great Firewall of China lets you see of the free world and internet as we know it in 2017, and what it does not.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Is Now Available On the Windows Store (windowscentral.com) 121

Ubuntu is now available for download on the Windows Store. "Initially spotted by Rafael Rivera and Necrosoft Core on Twitter, Ubuntu on the Windows Store will let you install and run the Ubuntu terminal on Windows next to your other apps," reports Windows Central. From the report: Ubuntu's arrival, and that of SUSE, are part of a recent push by Microsoft to embrace Linux and the open source community more broadly. This began with the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Linux in 2016, allowing users to use the Bash shell from within Windows. Keep in mind that this is limited to the Fall Creators Update, which isn't set for a public release until later this year. If you're running a PC testing the Fall Creators Update through the Windows Insider Program, however, you should be able to download and try Ubuntu from the Windows Store just fine.
Businesses

The Oculus Rift Still Isn't Selling, In a Worrying Sign For VR (technologyreview.com) 413

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Despite Mark Zuckerberg's early enthusiasm for virtual reality, the technology has stubbornly remained a hard sell for Facebook. Now, in yet another sign that VR is failing to capture the imagination of the public, the company has just cut the price of its Oculus Rift hardware for the second time this year. For the next six weeks, the Oculus Rift headset and its matching controllers will cost just $399. That's $400 less than when it first hit the market, and $200 less than when its price was first slashed in March. It means that the Rift now costs less than the package offered by its cheapest rival, Sony, whose PlayStation VR currently totals $460 including headset and controllers. Even so, it's not clear that it will be enough to lure people into buying a Rift. Jason Rubin, vice president for content at Oculus, tells Reuters that the reduction isn't a sign of weak product sales, but rather a decision to give the headset more mass market appeal now that more games are available.
Google

Google Guillotine Falls on Certificate Authorities WoSign, StartCom (zdnet.com) 57

Google has warned that all certificates issued by Chinese company WoSign and subsidiary StartCom will be distrusted with the release of Chrome 61. From a report: According to a Google Groups post published by Chrome security engineer Devon O'Brien, due to "several incidents" involving the certificate authority which has "not [been] in keeping with the high standards expected of CAs," Google Chrome has already begun phasing out WoSign and StartCom by only trusting certificates issued prior to October 21, 2016. The tech giant is soon to go further and will completely distrust any certificate issued by the companies within a matter of months. The Chrome development team have restricted trust through a whitelist of hostnames which are based on the Alexa Top one million sites, and this list has been pruned down over the course of Chrome releases. Once version 61 is ready for public release, this will fully distrust any existing WoSign and StartCom root certificates and all certificates they have issued.
Businesses

Tesla Sales in Hong Kong Dry Up After Gov't Drops Tax Break (axios.com) 103

Tesla couldn't sell a single car in Hong Kong in April after the government dropped a tax break for electric cars on April 1, the Wall St Journal reports citing government data. From the report: "as a result of the new policy, the cost of a basic Tesla Model S four-door car in Hong Konghas effectively risen to around $130,000 from less than $75,000." There were 2,939 Tesla's registered in Hong Kong as of April. Further reading: Nobody in Hong Kong wants a Tesla anymore.
Software

Nokia 'Regrets' Withings Health App Backlash (bbc.com) 41

Nokia says it is "regrettable" that problems with its Health Mate fitness-tracking app have frustrated users. From a report: Nokia took over health tech firm Withings in 2016 and recently replaced the Withings Health Mate app with a Nokia-branded version. Health Mate has been downloaded more than one million times from app stores. But many users have left one-star reviews, saying the new app removed popular features from the Withings version and had technical issues. The company told the BBC an update would "integrate missing features." Before being taken over by Nokia, Withings made internet-connected health products such as weighing scales and air quality monitors, which provided data for the Health Mate app.
Businesses

At Least $1.48 Billion in VC Funding Has Gone Up in Smoke This Year as the List of Dead Startups Grows (businessinsider.com) 166

An anonymous reader shares a report: We're halfway through 2017 and already a group of startups that together raised $1.48 billion have shut down. Some of these startups are: Beepi, the website that brought together car buyers and used-car sellers, shuttered in February. Quixey, a mobile search engine that was able to crawl apps, laid off most of its staff at the end of February. Yik Yak -- the anonymous social media app that was at the center of several college harassment scandals -- announced its closure on April 28, after struggling to keep users on its platform. Maple, a New York City-based food delivery service, closed down on May 8. Sprig, a San Francisco-centric service that delivered high-quality meals on demand, made its last delivery on May 26. Hello was the company behind the Sense sleep tracking sensor, which was designed to sit in users' rooms, rather than on their wrists. It closed in June after failing to find a buyer. Jawbone was a pioneer in wearable devices, with a focus on fitness trackers and portable speakers, but it struggled to pay its vendors.
Security

Company Accused of Selling User Data Shuts Down After $104 Million Settlement (bleepingcomputer.com) 35

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Federal Trade Commission has shut down the operator of a large network of online loan sites that promised to find people the loans with the lowest rates, but actually sold users' data to third-parties, most of which weren't even lenders. The target of FTC's ire is a company named Blue Global Media, LLC and its CEO, Christopher Kay, against which the FTC filed an official complaint last Monday, July 3. According to the FTC, since 2012 Blue Global Media operated a network of 38 websites that promised users to match them with the best payday, personal, or auto loans using Blue Global Media's proprietary technology. Hoping to find loans with the smaller interest rate and friendlier terms, users entered a slew of personal details on Blue Global Media's websites, such as names, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, financial and banking information, driver's license, state ID numbers, income data, military status, home ownership info, and many other more.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Local Version of Azure Cloud Service (reuters.com) 75

Microsoft on Monday unveiled a new service that allows customers to use its cloud technology on their own servers, part of the company's efforts to refocus its product line to compete more effectively with rivals Amazon and Google. From a report: "One of the key differentiations we have with Azure versus our two biggest competitors in the cloud platform space is our ability to support true hybrid solutions," Judson Althoff, Microsoft's executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, told Reuters. Microsoft is hoping to carve a niche among customers who cannot or do not want to have to move all their computing operations to the massive shared data centers that are collectively known as the cloud. Azure Stack could serve companies in highly regulated industries or in parts of the world where using the cloud is not yet feasible, Althoff said.
Government

Trump Administration Officially Delays 'Startup Visa' Rule (sfchronicle.com) 223

Trisha Thadani, reporting for SFChronicle: The Trump administration has officially delayed a rule that would allow some foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their companies. During this delay, the administration will propose a plan to rescind the rule all together, according to a Federal Register notice that will be published Tuesday. This official notice, which will be published in the Federal Register Tuesday, comes exactly one week before the rule was slated to go into effect. It will be delayed until March 14. The International Entrepreneur Rule, is the closest the United States has come to the "startup visa" Silicon Valley has long sought, was approved by the Department of Homeland Security in January during President Barack Obama's waning hours in office.
China

China Tells Carriers To Block Access to Personal VPNs By February (bloomberg.com) 173

China's government has told telecommunications carriers to block individuals' access to virtual private networks by Feb. 1, people familiar with the matter said, thereby shutting a major window to the global internet. From a report: Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private government directives. The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis. China has one of the world's most restrictive internet regimes, tightly policed by a coterie of government regulators intent on suppressing dissent to preserve social stability. In keeping with President Xi Jinping's "cyber sovereignty" campaign, the government now appears to be cracking down on loopholes around the Great Firewall, a system that blocks information sources from Twitter and Facebook to news websites such as the New York Times and others.
AMD

Benchmarking Utility Shows AMD Ryzen Rapidly Stealing Market Share From Intel (hothardware.com) 119

According to PassMark, which publishes a benchmarking utility called PerformanceTest, the launch of Ryzen chips has resulted in a surge in AMD's share of its CPUs being tested. From a report: In the first quarter of last year, just 20.1 percent of tests were performed on AMD hardware, versus 79.8 percent on Intel chips. The gap widen by the end of the year, with AMD accounting for 17.8 percent of all tests run through Passmark's software, with Intel jumping up to 82.2 percent. Fast forward to the quarter than just ended and things are looking a bit different. AMD's share has climbed to 26.2 percent, while Intel's has slipped to 73.7 percent. Obviously Intel is still dominating, but what this shows us is that AMD was able to take a nearly 10 percent chunk out what is probably the enthusiast market from Intel. The reason we believe this is largely relegated to the enthusiast market is because AMD's Ryzen architecture is brand new, and that would be the most logical explanation as to why its numbers have suddenly spiked at the expense of Intel.
Music

On-Demand Audio Streaming Hits Record High, Is Up 62.4% Over Last Year (techcrunch.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new report from Nielsen out this week paints a picture of the booming on-demand audio streaming business, pointing to a significant increase in consumers' use of streaming services and record numbers of streams being served. According to the mid-year report, which focuses only on the U.S. market, on-demand audio streams surpassed the 7 billion figure for the first time ever during March of this year. That's audio streams, to be clear -- not just music. That is, the term "audio" also includes non-music streams like spoken word recordings and podcasts -- the latter of which has also seen rapid growth. Nielsen isn't breaking out music versus non-music streams in this new report, but a prior figure from the measurement firm stated that monthly podcast consumption had doubled over the past five years among adults. Still, the rise of streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music have surely played a role in reaching the new milestones. Says Nielsen, streaming hit a high point of 7.5 billion weekly on-demand audio streams during the week ending March 9, 2017. That's the first time the figure had ever topped 7 billion, setting a new record. In addition, on-demand audio has been streamed over 184 billion times so far in 2017 -- a huge 62.4 percent increase over the same time period in 2016.
Businesses

Umbrella-sharing Startup Loses Nearly All of Its 300,000 Umbrellas In a Matter of Weeks (shanghaiist.com) 159

With bike-sharing companies like Mobike becoming incredibly successful in Chinese cities, a few startups have decided to mimic the concept with shareable umbrellas. The only problem: most of the umbrellas have gone missing, reports local media. From a report: Only a few weeks after starting up operations in 11 cities across China, Sharing E Umbrella announced that it had lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas. The Shenzhen-based company was launched with a 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) investment. The concept was similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success. Customers use an app on their smartphone to pay a 19 yuan deposit fee for an umbrella, which costs just 50 jiao for every half hour of use.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Sell Office, Windows as a Bundle (axios.com) 263

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft announced plans on Monday to start offering Windows 10 and Office together in a single subscription service. Microsoft 365, as the service is known, will also include security and management tools and come in two flavors: one for large enterprises and the other for small-to-medium businesses. The company didn't say how much it will charge for either version of the service.
Crime

State Prison Officials Blame An Escape On Drones And Cellphones (usatoday.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: A fugitive South Carolina inmate recaptured in Texas this week had chopped his way through a prison fence using wire cutters apparently dropped by a drone, prison officials said Friday. Jimmy Causey, 46, fled the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C., on the evening of July 4th after leaving a paper mache doll in his bed to fool guards into thinking he was asleep. He was not discovered missing until Wednesday afternoon. Causey was captured early Friday 1,200 miles away in a motel in Austin by Texas Rangers acting on a tip, WLTX-TV reported... "We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allow(ed) him to escape," South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said...

Stirling said prison officials are investigating the performance by prison guards that night but pointed to cellphones and drones as the main problem. The director said he and other officials have sought federal help for years to combat the use of drones to drop contraband into prison. "It's a simple fix," Stirling said. "Allow us to block the signal... They are physically incarcerated, but they are not virtually incarcerated."

It's the second time the same convict escaped from South Carolina's maximum security prison -- albeit the first time he's (allegedly) used a drone. The state's Law Enforcement Division Chief also complains that the federal government still prohibits state corrections officials from blocking cellphones, and "as long as cellphones continue to be utilized by inmates in prisons we're going to have things like this -- we're going to have very well-planned escapes..."
EU

EU Prepares 'Right To Repair' Legislation To Fight Short Product Lifespans (bleepingcomputer.com) 190

An anonymous reader writes: The EU is preparing legislation that would legalize a customer's "right to repair," and would force vendors to design products for longer life and easier maintenance, in an effort to combat electronic waste and abusive practices like manufacturers legally preventing users from repairing their devices. The legislation is in its earlier stages of public discussion, but it already has the backing of several EU Members of Parliament, along with support from organizations like Greenpeace.

Currently, in the US only eleven states have similar laws, and they have been adopted after years of public discussions, and only for certain markets, and not for all types of products. It is unclear what leverage the EU will use to force manufacturers to produce longer lasting products, as this would mean lesser profits for big businesses, who often used tactics such as software DRMs, warranty contract lock-ins, and soldering components together, just to avoid users repairing products on their own.

Transportation

Could Technology Companies Solve Traffic Congestion? (bloomberg.com) 151

As the Indian city of Bangalore "grapples with inadequate roads, unprecedented growth and overpopulation," can technology companies find a solution? randomErr writes: Tech giants and startups are turning their attention to a common enemy: the Indian city's infernal traffic congestion. Commutes that can take hours have inspired Gridlock Hackathon for technology workers to find solutions to the snarled roads that cost the economy billions of dollars. While the prize totals a mere $5,500, it's attracting teams from global giants Microsoft Corp., Google and Amazon.com. Inc. to local startups including Ola.
Bloomberg reports that the ideas "range from using artificial intelligence and big data on traffic flows to true moonshots, such as flying cars... Other entries suggested including Internet of Things-powered road dividers that change orientation to handle changing situations. There is also a proposal for a reporting system that tracks vehicles that don't conform to the road rules..." And one hackathon official says a team "suggested building smart roads underneath the city and another has sent in detailed drawings of flying cars." Any more bright ideas -- and more importantly, do any of these solutions really have a chance of succeeding?

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