Printer

Top UK Supermarket Laser Prints Labels On Avocados To Reduce Waste (telegraph.co.uk) 207

One of the largest British retailers in London, M&S, is opting in for laser-printed barcodes to reduce paper waste. "The labels, which are etched onto fruit's skins with lasers instead of stickers, will save 10 tons of paper and five tons of glue every year according to M&S," reports The Telegraph. The labels will be etched into the skins of avocados, but "could soon be introduced to other fruit and vegetables and adopted by other supermarkets which are looking for new waste reduction techniques." The labels themselves include the shop logo, best before date, country of origin and product code for entering at the till. What's more is that the avocado's skin is the only area impacted by the lasers -- none of the fruit gets damaged. Bruce66423 writes: Print the information usually on the packaging to reduce waste. Excellent idea -- although the Aldi (the radically cheap, all own brand chain) alternative is to leave avocados untouched and get the cashiers to enter the code.
Businesses

Amazon Plans Cuts to Shed Whole Foods' Pricey Image (bloomberg.com) 309

When Amazon completes its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will try to keep the grocer's reputation for premium fresh foods while cutting prices to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image. From a report: Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. Amazon, known for its competitive prices, is trying to attract more low- and middle-income shoppers with its grocery push. The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients.
The Almighty Buck

Venezuelans Flock To Cryptocoins Amid Spiralling Inflation (bloomberg.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Demand for digital coins is soaring in Venezuela amid an escalating political crisis that has protesters demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down. Inflation has spiraled to the triple digits, debasing the bolivar and depleting savings, while citizens struggle to find everything from food to medicine on store shelves. "If you're going to be in something volatile, you might as well be in something that's volatile and rising than volatile and falling," says Ryan Taylor, chief executive officer of crypto currency Dash Core, the third-largest digital coin by number of transactions... Bitcoin trading volume in Venezuela jumped to $1.3 million this week, about double the amount that changed hands two months ago, according to LocalBitcoins.com...

Venezuela's currency has become nearly worthless in the black market, where it takes more than 6,000 bolivars to buy $1, while bitcoin surged 53 percent in the past month alone. But it's not just about shielding against the falling bolivar, as some Venezuelans are using crypto currencies to buy and sell everyday goods and services, according to Jorge Farias, the CEO of Cryptobuyer.

Medicine

Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times (qz.com) 51

Jonathan Johnston reports via Quartz: Around one in five people in Western countries could be putting their health at risk simply by going to work. This is because working shifts outside of the rest of the population's normal hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function. Scientists think this is because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles known as circadian rhythms, and changes in our routine caused by shift work or traveling long distances disrupts those rhythms. But our new research suggests that the effects of shift work or jet lag on our body clocks could be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat. The key to this theory is the idea that each person doesn't just have a single body clock but rather a complex network of billions of cellular clocks found throughout the body. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and many peripheral clocks found elsewhere. For our research, we wanted to see how one aspect of this approach -- changing meal times -- affected circadian rhythms. We found that delaying meals by a certain amount caused a similar shift in some peripheral clocks, without changing the master clock. This is important because research in animals suggests peripheral clocks take longer to adjust to a new routine.
Medicine

Watchdog Report Finds Alarming 20 Percent of Baby Food Tested Contains Lead (arstechnica.com) 192

According to an analysis released Thursday by the nonprofit advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund, twenty percent of 2,164 baby foods sampled between 2003 and 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration tested positive for lead. Ars Technica reports: Lead is a neurotoxin. Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ. Though the levels in the baby food were generally below what the FDA considers unsafe, the agency's standards are decades old. The latest research suggests that there is no safe level of lead for children. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency this year has estimated that more than five percent of U.S. children (more than a million) get more than the FDA's recommended limit of lead from their diet. The products most often found to contain lead were fruit juices, root vegetable-based foods, and certain cookies, such as teething biscuits, the EDF reports. Oddly, the presence of lead was more common in baby foods than in the same foods marketed for adults. For instance, only 25 percent of regular apple juice tested positive for lead, while 55 percent of apple juices marketed for babies contained lead. Overall, only 14 percent of adult foods tested contained lead. The findings come from data collected in the FDA's annual survey of foods, called the Total Diet Survey, which the agency has run since the 1970s. Each year, the agency samples 280 types of foods from three different cities across the country, tracking nutrients, metals, pesticides, and other contaminants.
Businesses

Amazon Says It Won't Replace Whole Foods Cashiers With Computers... Yet (cnbc.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain. It also isn't planning any layoffs, according to a spokesperson. There is some speculation, however, that Amazon may change its plans and use new technology inside of Whole Foods locations. Commenting on Amazon's announcement from earlier today, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said, "Only one company on earth can buy grocery chain, be rumored to buy enterprise software company & in both cases be lauded for strategic vision."
Businesses

Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion (usatoday.com) 197

Amazon said Friday it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion as the giant internet retailer makes a deeper push into the grocery space. From a report: Amazon has dabbled in brick-and-mortar operations, experimenting with a bookstore that opened in New York last month and plans to open "no-checkout" convenience stores. But the Whole Foods acquisition represents a dramatic departure from its early business model founded on online retailing and related technology. Grocery retail is a notoriously thin-profit-margin business. And Whole Foods -- often derided as "Whole Paycheck" -- has struggled in recent years to keep up with emerging competitors that are expanding nationwide with cheaper items. Traditional grocery stores have also widened their organic food selections in hopes of retaining customers who are increasingly looking to eat healthily.
Security

Oil Changes, Safety Recalls, and Software Patches (daemonology.net) 129

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Every few months I get an email from my local mechanic reminding me that it's time to get my car's oil changed. I generally ignore these emails; it costs time and money to get this done and I drive little enough -- about 2000 km/year -- that I'm not too worried about the consequences of going for a bit longer than nominally advised between oil changes. I do get oil changes done... but typically once every 8-12 months, rather than the recommended 4-6 months. On the other hand, there's another type of notification which elicits more prompt attention: Safety recalls. There are two good reasons for this: First, whether for vehicles, food, or other products, the risk of ignoring a safety recall is not merely that the product will break, but rather that the product will be actively unsafe; and second, when there's a safety recall you don't have to pay for the replacement or fix -- the cost is covered by the manufacturer. I started thinking about this distinction -- and more specifically the difference in user behaviour -- in the aftermath of the "WannaCry" malware. While WannaCry attracted widespread attention for its "ransomware" nature, the more concerning aspect of this incident is how it propagated: By exploiting a vulnerability in SMB for which Microsoft issued patches two months earlier. As someone who works in computer security, I find this horrifying -- and I was particularly concerned when I heard that the NHS was postponing surgeries because they couldn't access patient records. [...] I imagine that most people in my industry would agree that security patches should be treated in the same vein as safety recalls -- unless you're certain that you're not affected, take care of them as a matter of urgency -- but it seems that far more users instead treat security patches more like oil changes: something to be taken care of when convenient... or not at all, if not convenient. It's easy to say that such users are wrong; but as an industry it's time that we think about why they are wrong rather than merely blaming them for their problems.
Robotics

Roomba Inventor Launches 'Tertill', a Weed-Killing Robot For Your Garden 116

mcpublic writes: iRobot veteran and Roomba co-inventor, Joe Jones is a modest man with a big mission: to create robots that make agriculture more efficient, less tedious, and yes, maybe even one day feed the world. After a decade at Harvest Automation building greenhouse robots, his new team at Franklin Robotics has developed Tertill, an affordable, waterproof, solar-powered robot that continuously whacks weeds around your yard. MIT Technology Review calls Tertill "a Roomba for your garden." Today the Kickstarter campaign went live and already they are well on the way to their goal. According to the Kickstarter campaign, Tertill is solar powered, chemical free, waterproof and Bluetooth compatible. It doesn't actually pull the weeds from your garden, instead it uses a "spinning string trimmer" to trim the weeds down to ground level. Since Tertill will be trimming weeds daily, the company says the weeds will eventually run out of nutrients to continue growing, and therefore will die and decompose. How does it know what's a weed and what's a plant? "A plant tall enough to touch the front of Tertill's shell activates a sensor that makes the robot turn away. A plant short enough to pass under Tertill's shell, though, activates a different sensor that turns on the weed cutter. Because Tertill's approach is height-based, put one of the provided plant collars around short plants until they are tall enough for Tertill to recognize. When Tertill approaches the collar, it will recognize it and turn away."
Earth

Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade Planned To Secure 'Failsafe' Arctic Seed Vault (theguardian.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Global Seed Vault, built in the Arctic as an impregnable deep freeze for the world's most precious food seeds, is to undergo a multi-million dollar upgrade after water from melting permafrost flooded its access tunnel. No seeds were damaged but the incident undermined the original belief that the vault would be a "failsafe" facility, securing the world's food supply forever. Now the Norwegian government, which owns the vault, has committed $4.4 million to improvements. [T]he vault's planners had not anticipated the extreme warm weather seen recently at the end of the world's hottest ever recorded year. "The background to the technical improvements is that the permafrost has not established itself as planned," said a government statement. "A group will investigate potential solutions to counter the increased water volumes resulting from a wetter and warmer climate on Svalbard." One option could be to replace the access tunnel, which slopes down towards the vault's main door, carrying water towards the seeds. A new upward sloping tunnel would take water away from the vault. An initial $1.6 million will be spent on investigating ways to improve the access tunnel, with the group's conclusions delivered in spring 2018. "They are going in with an open mind to find a good solution," said Aschim. "$4.4 million is for all the improvements we are doing now." The vault cost $9 million to build.
Programming

Does Silicon Valley Need More Labor Unions? (salon.com) 187

Salon recently talked to Jeffrey Buchanan, who two years ago co-founded a labor rights group "that highlights the plight of security officers, food-service workers, janitors and shuttle-bus drivers in the region." An anonymous reader quotes their report: The situation among Silicon Valley's low-wage contract workers has become so perilous that in January, thousands of security guards working at immensely profitable companies like Facebook and Cisco followed the shuttle-bus drivers and voted to unionize in an effort to collectively bargain for higher wages and better benefits. The upcoming labor contract negotiations between the roughly 3,000 security guards (represented by SEIU United Service Workers West) and their employers is one of the biggest developments in Silicon Valley labor organizing to happen this year. Buchanan says there's also a broader push this year to get tech companies to be proactive in ensuring these workers can make ends meet, even if these companies have to pay more for the services they procure...

A paper published last year by University of California at Santa Cruz researchers Chris Brenner and Kyle Neering estimates between 19,000 and 39,000 contracted service workers are employed in the Valley at any given time... An additional 78,000 workers are at risk of becoming contract employees, according to the study, a number which includes administrative assistants, sales representatives and medium-wage computer programmers. This is part of a larger societal shift in which salaried workers are converted to contractors -- a transition that benefits business owners, in that they don't have to pay benefits and can hire and fire contractors at will.

Buchanan's group represents contractors typically earning "as little as $20,000 a year." But Salon's headline argues that "programmers may be next" in the drive to organize contractors.
Medicine

Cancer Drug Proves To Be Effective Against Multiple Tumors (nytimes.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: 86 cancer patients were enrolled in a trial of a drug that helps the immune system attack tumors. Though they had different kinds of tumor -- pancreas, prostate, uterus or bone -- they all shared a genetic mutation that disrupts their cells' ability to fix damaged DNA, found in 4% of all cancer patients. But tumors vanished and didn't return for 18 patients in the study, reports the New York Times, while 66 more patients "had their tumors shrink substantially and stabilize, instead of continuing to grow." The drug trial results were "so striking that the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug, pembrolizumab, brand name Keytruda, for patients whose cancers arise from the same genetic abnormality. It is the first time a drug has been approved for use against tumors that share a certain genetic profile, whatever their location in the body."
The researchers say that just in the U.S. there are 60,000 new patients every year who could benefit from the new drug.
Businesses

Amazon Is Offering a Discount on Prime For People On Government Assistance (theverge.com) 91

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it is offering a discount on Prime membership for US customers participating in a number of government assistance programs. From a report: Anyone with a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which disburses funds for programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), is eligible for Prime's discounted monthly price of $5.99. Prime's normal price is a $99 a year, or a monthly fee of $10.99. From a report:
Medicine

Price-gouging Maker of EpiPen Literally Said That Critics Can Go Fuck Themselves (gizmodo.com) 459

Back in August of 2016, the pharmaceutical company Mylan came under fire for jacking up prices of the EpiPen from $57 in 2007 to roughly $600 in 2016. The public backlash has been significant. Gizmodo adds: But the chairman of Mylan has a message for any critics: Go fuck yourself. Well, at least that's what we think he said. The New York Times has a new article about the fact that prices for the live-saving allergy medication haven't actually come down since last year. And the article has a rather strange way of describing the attitude of Mylan chairman Robert Coury. This is how the New York Times describes Coury's reaction to critics of Mylan's price gouging: "Mr. Coury replied that he was untroubled. He raised both his middle fingers and explained, using colorful language, that anyone criticizing Mylan, including its employees, ought to go copulate with themselves. Critics in Congress and on Wall Street, he said, should do the same. And regulators at the Food and Drug Administration? They, too, deserved a round of anatomically challenging self-fulfillment."
Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Too Focused On Taking the Easy Path in Health Care (cnbc.com) 135

Silicon Valley investors are increasingly looking at health space, but they are mostly eyeing for opportunities on the fringes of the traditional health care system to avoid long and complicated regulatory cycles, an analysis on CNBC shows. As a result of this, these start-ups will not help low-income and chronically ill patients who need innovation most. From the article: Founders often talk about about how challenging it can be to break into the multi-trillion dollar medical sector. Health care startups face regulatory hurdles, long sales cycles and a high burden of proof -- and that means it can take more than a decade to make a return. As a result, many venture-backed entrepreneurs are looking instead at opportunities on the fringes of the health care system, such as cash-only health services that don't require insurance or tests and apps that aren't regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For tech investors, these opportunities hold the chance of an outsized return in five years or less. That often valuations on par with consumer Internet start-ups. [...] Many entrepreneurs acknowledge this, but justify their approach by promising to focus on more at-risk groups once they've nailed the product.
Businesses

Apple Piles On the Features, and Users Say, 'Enough!' (nytimes.com) 191

In a few hours, Apple will kickstart its annual developer conference. At the event, the company is expected to announce new MacBook laptops, the next major updates for iOS and MacOS, new features of Siri, and a home-speaker. Ahead of the conference, The New York Times has run a story that talks some of the headline announcements that Apple announced last year: one of which was, the ability to order food, scribble doodles and send funny images known as stickers in chats on its Messages app. Speaking with users, engineers and industry insiders, the Times reports that many of its existing features -- including expansion of Messages -- are too complicated for many users to figure out (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: The idea was to make Messages, one of the most popular apps on the iPhone, into an all-purpose tool like China's WeChat. But the process of finding and installing other apps in Messages is so tricky that most users have no idea they can even do it, developers and analysts say.
Robotics

'Our Streets Are Made For People': San Francisco Mulls Ban On Delivery Robots (theguardian.com) 219

Norman Yee, an American elected official in San Francisco, has recently proposed legislation that would prohibit autonomous delivery robots -- which includes those with a remote human operator -- on public streets in the city. In a statement provided to Recode, Yee said, "our streets and our sidewalks are made for people, not robots." He also worries that many delivery jobs would disappear. The proposed legislation is causing a headache for one high-tech startup in particular. The tech company is called Marble, which uses bots fitted with camera and ultrasonic sensors to deliver small packages and food within a one or two mile radius. The delivery robots themselves travel at a walking pace and use cameras and sensors to avoid pedestrians and navigate pavements. The Guardian reports: San Francisco police commander Robert O'Sullivan is in favor of the legislation, fearing the robots could harm children, the elderly, and those with limited mobility. "If hit by a car, they also have the potential of becoming a deadly projectile," he told a local TV station. Marble CEO Matt Delaney says these fears are unfounded. "We care that our robots are good citizens of the sidewalk," he says. "We've taken a lot of care from the ground up to consider their need to sense and intuit how people are going to react."
Government

Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes (siliconvalley.com) 382

A Silicon Valley Congressman "is pushing for a plan that has been described as a first step toward universal basic income...a long-shot $1 trillion expansion to the earned income tax credit that is already available to low-income families." An anonymous reader quotes the Mecury News: Stanford University also has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurer's office has said it's designing pilot tests -- though the department told this news organization it has no updates on the status of that project... The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year -- more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said... Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, is skeptical that basic income can do much lasting good in Oakland. What the city needs is more high-paying jobs and affordable housing, she said... The idea, [Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator] said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: "What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we're helping to create?"
This summer Y Combinator is expected to announce a larger Universal Basic Income program, though the article also describes "small pilot studies" in the 1960s and 1970s in Canada and in several U.S. states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana, where "Some studies showed improvements in participants' physical and mental health, and found children performed better in school or stayed in school longer. But some also showed that people receiving a basic income were inclined to spend fewer hours working."
Transportation

New Details On Sergey Brin's Plan For The World's Largest Aircraft (theguardian.com) 153

An anonymous reader shares The Guardian's report on plans for a new aircraft that's two-and-a-half times the size of a 747. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. "It's going to be massive on a grand scale," said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters [656 feet] long... Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental "air yacht" for Brin's friends and family.

One source put the project's price tag at $100m to $150m. Igor Pasternak, an airship designer who was involved in the early stages of the project, believes airships could be as revolutionary for the trillion-dollar global cargo market as the internet was for communications. "Sergey is pretty innovative and forward looking," he said. "Trucks are only as good as your roads, trains can only go where you have rails, and planes need airports. Airships can deliver from point A to point Z without stopping anywhere in between."

The Guardian quips that while Brin's plans may stay secret for a while, "the good news is that the first flight test of such an enormous aircraft will be impossible to hide."
Earth

A Third of the Nation's Honeybee Colonies Died Last Year (usatoday.com) 135

A third of the honeybees in the United States were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply. USA Today reports: The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey's previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation's colonies died. The death of a colony doesn't necessarily mean a loss of bees, explains vanEngelsdorp, a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. A beekeeper can salvage a dead colony, but doing so comes at labor and productivity costs. That causes beekeepers to charge farmers more for pollinating crops and creates a scarcity of bees available for pollination. It's a trend that threatens beekeepers trying to make a living and could lead to a drop-off in fruits and nuts reliant on pollination, vanEngelsdor said. So what's killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a "lethal parasite," which researchers said spreads among colonies.

Slashdot Top Deals