The Courts

Coffee Requires Cancer Warning, California Judge Rules (cnbc.com) 330

Scientists haven't rendered a verdict on whether coffee is good or bad for you but a California judge has. He says coffee sellers in the state should have to post cancer warnings. From a report: The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing -- like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago -- or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks, said the level of the chemical in coffee isn't harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn't presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.
Google

Google's 'Bro Culture' Led To Harassment, Argues New Lawsuit By Software Engineer (siliconvalley.com) 290

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News: As a young, female software engineer at male-dominated Google, Loretta Lee was slapped, groped and even had a co-worker pop up from beneath her desk one night and tell her she'd never know what he'd been doing under there, according to a lawsuit filed against the Mountain View tech giant... Lee's lawsuit -- filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court -- alleges the company failed to to protect her, saying, "Google's bro-culture contributed to (Lee's) suffering frequent sexual harassment and gender discrimination, for which Google failed to take corrective action."

She was fired in February 2016 for poor performance, according to the suit... Lee started at the company in 2008 in Los Angeles and later switched to the firm's Mountain View campus, according to the suit, which asserts that she "was considered a talented and rising star" who received consistently "excellent" performance reviews. Lee claims that the "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment she experienced included daily abuse and egregious incidents. In addition to making lewd comments to her and ogling her "constantly," Lee's male co-workers spiked her drinks with whiskey and laughed about it; and shot Nerf balls and darts at her "almost every day," the suit alleges. One male colleague sent her a text message asking if she wanted a "horizontal hug," while another showed up at her apartment with a bottle of liquor, offering to help her fix a problem with one of her devices, refusing to leave when she asked him to, she alleges. At a holiday party, Lee "was slapped in the face by an intoxicated male co-worker for no apparent reason," according to the suit.

Lee resisted reporting an employee who had grabbed her lanyard and grazed her breasts -- and was then written up for being uncooperative. But after filing a report, "HR found her claims 'unsubstantiated,' according to the suit. 'This emboldened her colleagues to continue their inappropriate behavior,' the suit says.

"Her fear of being ostracized was realized, she claims, with co-workers refusing to approve her code in spite of her diligent work on it. Not getting her code approved led to her being 'labeled as a poor performer,' the suit says."
Transportation

Study Finds Automatic Braking With Rearview Cameras, Sensors Can Cut Backup Crashes By 78 Percent (cbsnews.com) 161

A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that combining automatic braking with rearview cameras and sensors can cut reverse crashes by 78 percent. Rear automatic braking alone, which is an option in just 5 percent of new vehicles, is linked to a 62 percent drop in reported backup accidents in cars with that equipment. CBS News reports: Starting in May, all new cars in the U.S. will be required to have a rearview camera. Some automakers are going further by adding backup warning sensors and reverse automatic braking. For the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested that combination of technology. Two models -- the 2017 Subaru Outback and Cadillac XT5 SUV -- earned superior ratings. Four other vehicles scored an advanced rating for generally avoiding a collision or substantially reducing the vehicle's speed. But there's some room to improve. One vehicle did not stop automatically when backing up to a dummy car parked at an angle. Automatic braking in the front will become standard in most cars in 2022 but there's currently no plan to make it standard for backing up.
Google

Former Google Employee Files Lawsuit Alleging the Company Fired Him Over Pro-Diversity Posts (theverge.com) 308

According to court documents filed today, a former Google engineer is suing the company for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. "Tim Chevalier, a software developer and former site-reliability engineer at Google, claims that Google fired him when he responded with internal posts and memes to racist and sexist encounters within the company and the general response to the now-infamous James Damore memo," reports The Verge. From the report: Chevalier said in a statement to The Verge, "It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers." Chevalier, who is also disabled and transgender, alleges that his internal posts that defended women of color and marginalized people led directly to his termination in November 2017. He had worked at Google for a little under two years. Notably, Chevalier's posts had been quoted in Damore's lawsuit against Google -- in which Damore sued the company for discrimination against conservative white men -- as evidence Google permitted liberals to speak out at the company unpunished. Chevalier's lawsuit alleges that his firing is, in fact, a form of punishment. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court and Chevalier is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and injunctive relief against those alleged harmful acts. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Transportation

New Lawsuit Accuses Tesla of Knowingly Selling Defective Vehicles (theverge.com) 62

A new lawsuit from a former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, and that the employee was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. The lawsuit was filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). The Verge reports: The former employee, Adam Williams, worked for Tesla as a regional manager in New Jersey dating back to late 2011. While there, he says he watched the company fail "to disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs" before delivering its vehicles, according to the complaint. Instead, he says the company sold these cars as "used," or labeled as "demo/loaner" vehicles. "There's no merit to this lawsuit. Mr. Williams' description of how Tesla sells used or loaner vehicles is totally false and not how we do things at Tesla," a representative for the company said in response to the lawsuit. "It's also at odds with the fact that we rank highest in customer satisfaction of any car brand, with more owners saying they'd buy a Tesla again than any other manufacturer. Mr. Williams was terminated at Tesla for performance reasons, not for any other reason." The lawyer for the plaintiff could not be reached in time for publish.

Williams says in the court filing that he reported this behavior in late 2016 and early 2017 to his supervisor, as well as Lenny Peake, Tesla's East Coast Regional Manager, and Jerome Guillen, a company vice president. Shortly after that, he claims, he was demoted to service manager of the Springfield, New Jersey Tesla store. He then says he was demoted again later in the year to a "mobile manager" position and was ultimately fired in September 2017. In the lawsuit, Williams argues that he was terminated for reporting the alleged lawbreaking practices, and he should therefore be covered by CEPA's whistleblower protection.

AI

'Tech Companies Should Stop Pretending AI Won't Destroy Jobs' (technologyreview.com) 344

Kai-Fu Lee, the founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and president of the Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute, believes that we're not ready for the massive societal upheavals on the way. He writes for MIT Technology Review: The rise of China as an AI superpower isn't a big deal just for China. The competition between the US and China has sparked intense advances in AI that will be impossible to stop anywhere. The change will be massive, and not all of it good. Inequality will widen. As my Uber driver in Cambridge has already intuited, AI will displace a large number of jobs, which will cause social discontent. Consider the progress of Google DeepMind's AlphaGo software, which beat the best human players of the board game Go in early 2016. It was subsequently bested by AlphaGo Zero, introduced in 2017, which learned by playing games against itself and within 40 days was superior to all the earlier versions. Now imagine those improvements transferring to areas like customer service, telemarketing, assembly lines, reception desks, truck driving, and other routine blue-collar and white-collar work.

It will soon be obvious that half of our job tasks can be done better at almost no cost by AI and robots. This will be the fastest transition humankind has experienced, and we're not ready for it. Not everyone agrees with my view. Some people argue that it will take longer than we think before jobs disappear, since many jobs will be only partially replaced, and companies will try to redeploy those displaced internally. But even if true, that won't stop the inevitable. Others remind us that every technology revolution has created new jobs as it displaced old ones. But it's dangerous to assume this will be the case again.

Microsoft

Microsoft: We're Developing Blockchain ID System Starting With Our Authenticator App (zdnet.com) 57

Microsoft has revealed its plans to use blockchain distributed-ledger technologies to securely store and manage digital identities, starting with an experiment using the Microsoft Authenticator app. From a report: Microsoft reckons the technology holds promise as a superior alternative to people granting consent to dozens of apps and services and having their identity data spread across multiple providers. It highlights that with the existing model people don't have control over their identity data and are left exposed to data breaches and identity theft. Instead, people could store, control and access their identity in an encrypted digital hub, Microsoft explained. To achieve this goal, Microsoft has for the past year been incubating ideas for using blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies to create new types of decentralized digital identities.
Technology

Before They Can Drive a Taxi, London's Cabbies Have To Commit the City To Memory in a Rigorous Test Called the Knowledge (cnet.com) 295

In their fight against Uber, London's taxi drivers claim a distinct advantage: They must forgo GPS and navigate the huge city entirely from memory. CNET: Put in place in 1865, the Knowledge exam requires cabbies to navigate between any two points in central London without following a map or GPS. It can take four years to learn the information and pass a series of stringent oral tests. It's a grueling process unmatched by any training taxi drivers have to face anywhere else, and it's the most arduous thing Pearson's [Editor's note: a driver; used as anecdote in the story] ever done. "My uncle was a cab driver and he encouraged me to give it a go," he said. "But I still didn't realize how hard it would be."

Despite the difficulty of mastering it, cabbies proudly defend the Knowledge as a critical part of their job, something technology can't replace. They say it sets them apart from ride-hailing services like Uber, whose drivers don't have to learn the Knowledge, and they believe it allows them to deliver a superior level of service. But ever since mapping apps arrived on phones and GPS-wielding Uber drivers exploded into London in 2012, the Knowledge has faced a volatile future. Should cabbies have to spend years of their life memorizing every inch of London when they can simply punch in a destination on a screen and be guided? Absolutely, say the drivers I spoke with.

Open Source

LibreOffice 6.0 Released: Features Superior Microsoft Office Interoperability, OpenPGP Support (softpedia.com) 251

prisoninmate writes: LibreOffice 6.0 comes two and a half years after the LibreOffice 5.x series, and it's the biggest release of the open-source and cross-platform office suite so far. It introduces a revamped design with new table styles, improved Notebookbars, new gradients, new Elementary icons, menu and toolbar improvements, and updated motif/splash screen.

LibreOffice 6.0 offers superior interoperability with Microsoft Office documents and compatibility with the EPUB3 format by allowing users to export ODT files to EPUB3. It also lets you import your AbiWord, Microsoft Publisher, PageMaker, and QuarkXPress documents and templates thanks to the implementation of a set of new open-source libraries contributed by the Document Liberation project. Many great improvements were made to the OOXML and ODF filters, as well as in the EMF+, Adobe Freehand, Microsoft Visio, Adobe Pagemaker, FictionBook, Apple Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, as well as Quattro Pro import functionality, and to the XHTML export. LibreOffice Online received numerous improvements as well in this major release of LibreOffice.

Businesses

Pandora CEO Roger Lynch Wants To Create the Podcast Genome Project (variety.com) 19

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Pandora's new CEO Roger Lynch has big plans for podcasts: Lynch told Variety on the sidelines of CES in Las Vegas Thursday that he wants to create "the equivalent of the podcast genome project" as the company plans to add many more podcasts to its catalog. Lynch, who joined Pandora as president and CEO in September, said that the company is working on a deep integration of podcasts that will allow users of the service to easily browse and discover new shows. Describing these efforts as a kind of podcast genome project is a nod to Pandora's Music Genome Project -- a massive database of dozens of musical attributes for every single song in the company's music library that is being used to compile stations and aid discovery. Pandora is also looking to offer podcasters monetization options that will be superior to the current state of podcast advertising. Currently, many podcasters still rely on ads that they read themselves on air, Lynch said. "It is not the most effective advertising model."
Operating Systems

Nvidia To Cease Producing New Drivers For 32-Bit Systems (arstechnica.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: While most people have probably made the switch by now, yet another reason to drop 32-bit operating systems and move to 64-bits is coming. Version 390 of Nvidia's graphics drivers, likely to arrive in January, will be the last to contain support for 32-bit versions of Windows (7, 8/8.1, and 10), Linux, and FreeBSD. There will be another year of security updates for 32-bit drivers, but all new features, performance enhancements, and support for new hardware will require the use of a 64-bit operating system and 64-bit drivers. Reasons to stick with 32-bit Windows are at this point few and far between. 64-bit Windows has superior security to 32-bit, and while it varies with workload, 64-bit applications can run somewhat faster than 32-bit counterparts; for workloads that won't fit within the constraints of 32-bit software, the difference is of course enormous. Generally, those who continue to use the 32-bit operating system tend to be subject to some kind of legacy constraint. 32-bit drivers won't work in 64-bit Windows, so obscure but mission critical hardware can extend the life of 32-bit systems.
Cellphones

Don't Keep Cellphones Next To Your Body, California Health Department Warns (techcrunch.com) 344

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a warning against the hazards of cellphone radiation this week. They are asking people to decrease their use of these devices and suggest keeping your distance when possible. TechCrunch reports: The warning comes after findings were offered up this week from a 2009 department document, which was published after an order from the Sacramento Superior Court. A year ago, UC Berkeley professor Joel Moskowitz initiated a lawsuit to get the department to release the findings after he started looking into whether mobile phone use increased the risk of tumors. A draft of the document was released in March, but the final release is more extensive.

According to the Federal Communication Commission's website, there is no national standard developed for safety limits. However, the agency requires cell phone manufacturers to ensure all phones comply with "objective limits for safe exposure." The CDPH recommends not keeping your phone in your pocket, not putting it up to your ear for a prolonged amount of time, keeping use low if there are two bars or less, not sleeping near it at night and to be aware that if you are in a fast-moving car, bus or train, your phone will emit more RF energy to maintain the connection.

Encryption

PHP Now Supports Argon2 Next-Generation Password Hashing Algorithm (bleepingcomputer.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: PHP got a whole lot more secure this week with the release of the 7.2 branch, a version that improves and modernizes the language's support for cryptography and password hashing algorithms.

Of all changes, the most significant is, by far, the support for Argon2, a password hashing algorithm developed in the early 2010s. Back in 2015, Argon2 beat 23 other algorithms to win the Password Hashing Competition, and is now in the midst of becoming a universally recognized Internet standard at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the reward for winning the contest. The algorithm is currently considered to be superior to Bcrypt, today's most widely used password hashing function, in terms of both security and cost-effectiveness, and is also slated to become a favorite among cryptocurrencies, as it can also handle proof-of-work operations.

The other major change in PHP 7.2 was the removal of the old Mcrypt cryptographic library from the PHP core and the addition of Libsodium, a more modern alternative.

The Courts

Tesla Is a 'Hotbed For Racist Behavior,' Worker Claims In Lawsuit (bloomberg.com) 300

An African-American employee has filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming their production floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior" and that black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment. "The employee says he's one of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers affected and is seeking permission from a judge to sue on behalf of the group," reports Bloomberg. "He's seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment." From the report: "Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," the employee said in the complaint, filed Monday in California's Alameda County Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the "N word" around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude."
Networking

PCIe 4.0 Specs Revealed: 16GTps Rate and Not Just For Graphics Cards Anymore (tomshardware.com) 62

Freshly Exhumed writes: PCI-SIG has released the specifications for version 4.0 of the PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) bus, which, according to Chairman Al Yanes, promises data transfer rates of 16GTps, extended tags and credits for service devices, reduced system latency, lane margining, superior RAS capabilities, scalability for added lanes and bandwidth, improved I/O virtualization and platform integration. Tom's Hardware has posted a slide deck of the new version's specifications.
The Courts

Tesla Faces Lawsuit For Racial Harassment In Its Factories (mercurynews.com) 151

Three former Tesla factory workers have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming they were subject to constant racial discrimination and harassment in the electric car company's factories. "The men, who are African-American, claim in a new complaint filed Monday in state court that Tesla supervisors and workers used racial epithets and drew racist graffiti on cardboard boxes," reports The Mercury News. From the report: The new suit is the second by black employees charging Tesla failed to address racial antagonism at its factory. The electric vehicle maker also has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board over claims it illegally tried to silence workers promoting a union. The complaints come as the Tesla heads into a crucial ramp-up of Model 3 production, its lower-cost electric vehicle. A Tesla spokesman denied the suit's allegations and said the men never raised the complaints to the company during their brief time at the plant. "Given our size, we recognize that unfortunately at times there will be cases of harassment or discrimination in corners of the company," the spokesman said. "From what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case." The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, claims Owen Diaz and his son, Demetric, were called the N-word while they worked at the Fremont factory, and supervisors did little to stop it. A third man, Lamar Patterson, also claims he was subjected to insensitive racist remarks.
Earth

A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up In Antarctica (vice.com) 270

Scientists are perplexed over a giant hole that has opened up in Antarctica. According to Motherboard, the "gigantic, mysterious hole" is as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine. From the report: The gigantic, mysterious hole "is quite remarkable," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice." Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What's strange here, though, is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack," he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren't understood. "This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there." (It measured 80,000 km^2 at its peak.) "This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
Google

Google Accused of Racketeering. Lawsuit Claims 'Pattern' Of Trade Secret Thefts (mercurynews.com) 153

schwit1 quotes the Mercury News: In an explosive new allegation, a renowned architect has accused Google of racketeering, saying in a lawsuit the company has a pattern of stealing trade secrets from people it first invites to collaborate. Architect Eli Attia spent 50 years developing what his lawsuit calls "game-changing new technology" for building construction. Google in 2010 struck a deal to work with him on commercializing it as software, and Attia moved with his family from New York to Palo Alto to focus on the initiative, code-named "Project Genie." The project was undertaken in Google's secretive "Google X" unit for experimental "moonshots."

But then Google and its co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin "plotted to squeeze Attia out of the project" and pretended to kill it but used Attia's technology to "surreptitiously" spin off Project Genie into a new company, according to the lawsuit... This week, a judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court approved the addition of racketeering claims to the lawsuit originally filed in 2014. Attia's legal team uncovered six other incidents in which Google had engaged in a "substantially similar fact pattern of misappropriation of trade secrets" from other people or companies, according to a July 25 legal filing from Attia.

Wired reported yesterday that Project Loon -- also a Google X project -- "is embroiled in a lawsuit with Space Data, a small company accusing Alphabet of patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract following a failed acquisition bid."

The lawyer for the racketeering suit complains Google can deploy a "virtually unlimited budget to fight these things in court."
Communications

Hello, Mobile Operators? This is Your Age of Disruption Calling (mckinsey.com) 43

Analysts at McKinsey & Company write: For the better part of a decade, telecom companies have suffered through declining revenues, cash flow, and return on investment just as tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have mushroomed by building their businesses on the operators' own infrastructure. While these tech visionaries have enjoyed well over $1 trillion in combined market-cap growth by innovating and thinking differently and adeptly, telecom companies have tried to compete by implementing the same old survival tactics: cutting costs, reducing the workforce, and timidly entering into new business adjacencies. The trouble is that playbook no longer applies. [...] We've seen this before in other capital-intensive industries. The airline industry, for example, despite incredible growth in travel during the early part of this century, destroyed economic value until 2015 when, for the first time, the industry-level average return on invested capital (ROIC) was just in excess of its cost of capital. This return to economic profitability was achieved through a combination of falling fuel prices; significant industry consolidation, especially in the United States; and the growth of ancillary revenues, such as checked-baggage fees. If global operators were to follow the airline industry's prior trajectory, the implications could be dramatic. That's not just for the operators that would see declining investment as capital and talent move into sectors with superior returns but also for current and future over-the-top (OTT) players, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, who rely so heavily on the operators' networks and investments.

Slashdot Top Deals