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United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 1

Ads for Google and related companies were found in the top spot in 91% of 25,000 searches related to items, according to a report on WSJ. For example, a search for "phones" would produce ads for Google Pixel, which the company launched last year. From a report: Similar results were found for searches on "Watches" or "smoke detector," which produced ads for Android smartwatches and Nest devices, respectively. In a statement, Google says their marketing programs are "carefully designed" to not impact outside advertisers. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes -- set to tougher levels than our customers -- to govern the use of our own ads products." The auction is a process deciding which ads will appear for users when they type in certain search queries. Strategies such as using relevant keywords give advertisers a better shot at their ad appearing on a search results page.
Transportation

Tesla Avoids Recall After Autopilot Crash Death (bbc.com) 33

Tesla will not be ordered to recall its semi-autonomous cars in the US, following a fatal crash in May 2016. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation after it found no evidence of a defect in the vehicle. From a report: Joshua Brown was killed when his car collided with a lorry while operating in Autopilot mode. Tesla has stated Autopilot is only designed to assist drivers, who must keep their hands on the wheel. The feature is intended to be used on the motorway, where is lets cars automatically change lanes and react to traffic. The NHTSA report said data from the car showed that "the driver took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision". Bryan Thomas from the NHSTA said the driver should have been able to see the lorry for seven seconds, which "should have been enough time to take some action".
Communications

5G Internet is the 'Beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution' (cnbc.com) 57

Next-generation 5G mobile internet technology marks the beginning of the "fourth industrial revolution," the chief executive of Turkey's leading telecoms player told CNBC on Thursday. From a report: 5G is viewed as a technology that can support the developing Internet of Things (IOT) market, which refers to millions -- or potentially billions -- of internet-connected devices that are expected soon to come on to the market. Kaan Terzioglu, the chief executive of Turkcell, which has a market capitalization of $23 billion, touted the potential of the technology, saying that while 4G revolutionized the consumer market, 5G could transform the industrial space. "I think this is the beginning of the fourth generation of the industrial revolution. This will be the platform linking billions of devices together," Terzioglu told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Turkcell has been working on 5G technologies since 2013 and this week completed a test in partnership with Ericsson, using the next-generation internet.
Education

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60 (nytimes.com) 171

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League -- Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown -- more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. From a report on the NYTimes (alternate non-paywall link): Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college -- universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of "elite" at the bottom). In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. "Free tuition only helps if you can get in," said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.
Security

ProtonMail Adds Tor Onion Site To Fight Risk Of State Censorship (techcrunch.com) 20

ProtonMail now has a home on the dark web. The encrypted email provider announced Thursday it will allow its users to access the site through the Tor anonymity service. From a report: Swiss-based PGP end-to-end encrypted email provider, ProtonMail, now has an onion address, allowing users to access its service via a direct connection to the Tor anonymizing network -- in what it describes as an active measure aimed at defending against state-sponsored censorship. The startup, which has amassed more than two million users for its e2e encrypted email service so far, launching out of beta just over a year ago, says it's worried about an increased risk of state-level blocking of pro-privacy tools -- pointing to recent moves such as encryption messaging app Signal being blocked in Egypt, and the UK passing expansive surveillance legislation that mandates tracking of web activity and can also require companies to eschew e2e encryption and backdoor products. The service also saw a bump in sign ups after the election of Donald Trump as US president, last fall -- with web users apparently seeking a non-US based secure email provider in light of the incoming commander-in-chief's expansive digital surveillance powers.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Bringing Cortana To Android Lock Screen (mspoweruser.com) 69

Microsoft is testing out a new way to access Cortana, its digital assistant, from the Android lock screen, with just a swipe. It's a new feature that's clearly designed to replace Google's own quick access, and to convince Android users to switch to Cortana. According to MSPowerUser, Cortana on the lock screen doesn't replace existing lock screens, so you can still use a custom one or the default experience that ships with your Android device. Cortana is activated simply by swiping left or right on the floating logo. Microsoft is currently testing this new feature, and any Android users can opt-in to trial the new beta features over at the Google Play Store.
Businesses

Netflix's Subscriber Boom Shows the World is Accepting Internet TV (cnbc.com) 114

Netflix's boom in subscribers is a sign that the world is accepting internet TV, meaning without commercials and on-demand, said CEO Reed Hastings during an earnings call with investors. From a report: "The basic demand is increasing as people get more comfortable and more aware of Internet television where you don't get the commercial interruptions, where you get to watch where and when you want," said Hastings. Netflix reported $2.47 billion in revenue during Q4 2016, and earnings per share of 15 cents. The streaming giant wildly beat its original projections for subscriber additions, bringing in 7.05 million new customers compared to its Q3 estimate of 5.2 million. The majority of adds were from international viewers. Even though some shows -- like "Gilmore Girls" -- started as traditional TV shows before moving to Netflix, a large part of the draw for new subscribers came from original shows. Almost half of the most searched for shows this year were Netflix originals, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer. The company has 42 launches coming up, including Marvel's "Iron Fist" and Drew Barrymore's zombie comedy "Santa Clarita Diet."
Botnet

Krebs Pinpoints the Likely Author of the Mirai Botnet (engadget.com) 65

The Mirai botnet caused serious trouble last fall, first hijacking numerous IoT devices to make a historically massive Distributed Denial-Of-Service (DDoS) attack on KrebsOnSecurity's site in September before taking down a big chunk of the internet a month later. But who's responsible for making the malware? From a report on Engadget: After his site went dark, security researcher Brian Krebs went on a mission to identify its creator, and he thinks he has the answer: Several sources and corroborating evidence point to Paras Jha, a Rutgers University student and owner of DDoS protection provider Protraf Solutions. About a week after attacking the security site, the individual who supposedly launched the attack, going by the username Anna Senpai, released the source code for the Mirai botnet, which spurred other copycat assaults. But it also gave Krebs the first clue in their long road to uncover Anna Senpai's real-life identity -- an investigation so exhaustive, the Krebs made a glossary of cross-referenced names and terms along with an incomplete relational map.
Books

Amazon, Apple To End Audiobook Exclusivity: EU (marketwatch.com) 15

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple. From a report: The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon's unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store. The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.
Science

Sitting Too Much Ages You By 8 Years (time.com) 97

Sitting too much during the day has been linked to a host of diseases, from obesity to heart problems and diabetes, as well as early death. It's not hard to understand why: being inactive can contribute to weight gain, which in turn is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, hypertension and unhealthy blood sugar levels. On top of everything else, sitting has detrimental effects on cells at the biological level, according to a new report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. From a report on Time: In the new study, scientists led by Aladdin Shadyab, a post-doctoral fellow in family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, traced sitting's impact on the chromosomes. They took blood samples from nearly 1,500 older women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term study of chronic diseases in post-menopausal women, and focused on the telomeres: the tips of the tightly packed DNA in every cell. Previous studies have found that as cells divide and age, they lose bits of the telomeres, so the length of this region can be a marker for how old a cell (and indirectly the person the cells belong to) is. The researchers compared telomere length to how much the women exercised, to see if physical activity affected aging.
Earth

How the Human Brain Decides What Is Important and What's Not (neurosciencenews.com) 44

New submitter baalcat writes: A new study reported by Neuroscience News sheds light on how we learn to pay attention in order to make the most of our life experiences. From the report: "The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy to 'pay no attention to that man behind the curtain' in an effort to distract her, but a new Princeton University study sheds light on how people learn and make decisions in real-world situations. The findings could eventually contribute to improved teaching and learning and the treatment of mental and addiction disorders in which people's perspectives are dysfunctional or fractured. Participants in the study performed a multidimensional trial-and-error learning task, while researchers scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The researchers found that selective attention is used to determine the value of different options. The results also showed that selective attention shapes what we learn when something unexpected happens. For example, if your pizza is better or worse than expected, you attribute the learning to whatever your attention was focused on and not to features you decided to ignore. Finally, the researchers found that what we learn through this process teaches us what to pay attention to, creating a feedback cycle -- we learn about what we attend to, and we attend to what we learned high values for. 'If we want to understand learning, we can't ignore the fact that learning is almost always done in a multidimensional 'cluttered' environment,' says senior author Yael Niv, an associate professor in psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 'We want kids to listen to the teacher, but a lot is going on in the classroom -- there is so much to look at inside it and out the window. So, it's important to understand how exactly attention and learning interact and how they shape each other.'" The study has been published in the journal Neuron.
China

China Cancels Over 100 Coal-Fired Power Plants (reuters.com) 208

In an effort to improve air quality, the Chinese government has canceled over 100 coal-fired power plants in 11 provinces -- totaling a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts. Reuters reports: In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction. The projects worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) were to have been spread across provinces and autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi and other northwestern areas. Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government's effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation's power supply. To put it in perspective, some 130 GW of additional solar and wind power will be installed by 2020, equal to France's total renewable power generation capacity, said Frank Yu, principal consultant at Wood Mackenzie. "This shows the government is keeping its promise in curbing supplies of coal power," Yu said. Some of the projects will still go ahead, but not until 2025 and will likely replace outdated technology, he said.
Earth

Female Shark Learns To Reproduce Without Males After Years Alone (newscientist.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: A female shark separated from her long-term mate has developed the ability to have babies on her own. Leonie the zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) met her male partner at an aquarium in Townsville, Australia, in 1999. They had more than two dozen offspring together before he was moved to another tank in 2012. From then on, Leonie did not have any male contact. But in early 2016, she had three baby sharks. Intrigued, Christine Dudgeon at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and her colleagues began fishing for answers. One possibility was that Leonie had been storing sperm from her ex and using it to fertilize her eggs. But genetic testing showed that the babies only carried DNA from their mum, indicating they had been conceived via asexual reproduction. Some vertebrate species have the ability to reproduce asexually even though they normally reproduce sexually. These include certain sharks, turkeys, Komodo dragons, snakes and rays. However, most reports have been in females who have never had male partners. In sharks, asexual reproduction can occur when a female's egg is fertilized by an adjacent cell known as a polar body, Dudgeon says. This also contains the female's genetic material, leading to "extreme inbreeding", she says. "It's not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability." Nevertheless, it may be necessary at times when males are scarce. "It might be a holding-on mechanism," Dudgeon says. "Mum's genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with." It's possible that the switch from sexual to asexual reproduction is not that unusual; we just haven't known to look for it, Dudgeon says.
Government

Julian Assange Will Not Hand Himself In Because Chelsea Manning's Release Won't Happen Immediately, Lawyer Says (independent.co.uk) 455

President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning's prison sentence yesterday, reducing her time required to serve behind bars from 35 years to just over seven years. Prior to the commutation, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Roughly 24 hours have passed since the news broke and it appears that Assange will not hand himself in to the Department of Justice. The Independent reports: Mr Assange's lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through -- telling reporters that he stood by his earlier comments -- but it appears now that Mr Assange will stay inside the embassy. The commitment to accept extradition to the U.S. was based on Ms Manning being released immediately, Mr Assange's lawyer told The Hill. Ms Manning won't actually be released until May -- to allow for a standard 120-day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live, an official told The New York Times for its original report about Ms Manning's clemency. "Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought," Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S.-based attorney, told the site. "Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately."
Medicine

Robotic Sleeve Mimics Muscles To Keep a Heart Beating (seeker.com) 35

randomErr writes: 5.7 million adults in the United States have heart failure each year with about 41 million worldwide. Currently, treatment involves surgically implanting a mechanical pump, called a ventricular assist device (VAD), into the heart. The VAD helps maintains the heart's function. But patients with VADs are at high risk for getting blood clots and having a stroke. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital have created a soft robotic sleeve that doesn't have to be implanted. The robotic sleeve slips around the outside of the heart, squeezing it in sync with the natural rhythm. "This work represents an exciting proof of concept result for this soft robot, demonstrating that it can safely interact with soft tissue and lead to improvements in cardiac function," Conor Walsh, said in a press statement. Seeker reports: "The sleeve they developed is made from thin silicone and attaches to the outside of the heart with a combination of suction devices and sutures. It relies on soft, air-powered actuators that twist and compress in a way that's similar to the outer layer of muscle of a human heart. A gel coating reduces any friction between the sleeve and the organ. Because the sleeve is soft and flexible, it can be customized to fit not just the size and shape of individual hearts, but augment the organ's weaknesses. For example, if a patient's heart is weaker on the left side than the right, the sleeve can be tuned to squeeze with more authority on the left side. As the organ gains strength, the device can be adjusted." The study has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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