Government

Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes (siliconvalley.com) 331

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."
AI

How AI Can Infer Human Emotions (oreilly.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion...

Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed.

They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.
Medicine

Researchers Create a T-Shirt That Monitors the Wearer's Breathing Rate In Real Time (sciencedaily.com) 38

"Researchers at Universite Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering and its Center for Optics, Photonics, and Lasers have created a smart T-shirt that monitors the wearer's respiratory rate in real time," reports Science Daily. The details have been published in the latest edition of Sensors. From the report: Unlike other methods of measuring respiratory rate, the smart T shirt works without any wires, electrodes, or sensors attached to the user's body, explains Younes Messaddeq, the professor who led the team that developed the technology. "The T shirt is really comfortable and doesn't inhibit the subject's natural movements. Our tests show that the data captured by the shirt is reliable, whether the user is lying down, sitting, standing, or moving around." The key to the smart T shirt is an antenna sewn in at chest level that's made of a hollow optical fiber coated with a thin layer of silver on its inner surface. The fiber's exterior surface is covered in a polymer that protects it against the environment. "The antenna does double duty, sensing and transmitting the signals created by respiratory movements," adds Professor Messaddeq, who also holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Photonic Innovations. "The data can be sent to the user's smartphone or a nearby computer." As the wearer breathes in, the smart fiber senses the increase in both thorax circumference and the volume of air in the lungs, explains Messaddeq. "These changes modify some of the resonant frequency of the antenna. That's why the T shirt doesn't need to be tight or in direct contact with the wearer's skin. The oscillations that occur with each breath are enough for the fiber to sense the user's respiratory rate."
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Earth

Where Have All the Insects Gone? (sciencemag.org) 229

Entomologists have been assessing diversity and abundance across western Germany and have found that between 1989 and 2013 the biomass of invertebrates caught had fallen by nearly 80 percent. From an article on Science magazine: Scientists have tracked alarming declines in domesticated honey bees, monarch butterflies, and lightning bugs. But few have paid attention to the moths, hover flies, beetles, and countless other insects that buzz and flitter through the warm months. "We have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species," which most insects are, says Joe Nocera, an ecologist at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. [...] A new set of long-term data is coming to light, this time from a dedicated group of mostly amateur entomologists who have tracked insect abundance at more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the 1980s. Over that time the group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low. Through more direct comparisons, the group -- which had preserved thousands of samples over 3 decades -- found dramatic declines across more than a dozen other sites. Such losses reverberate up the food chain. "If you're an insect-eating bird living in that area, four-fifths of your food is gone in the last quarter-century, which is staggering," says Dave Goulson, an ecologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, who is working with the Krefeld group to analyze and publish some of the data. "One almost hopes that it's not representative -- that it's some strange artifact."
Canada

1.9 Million Bell Customer Email Addresses Stolen By 'Anonymous Hacker' (www.cbc.ca) 32

Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, said a hacker had accessed customer information containing about 1.9 million active email addresses and about 1,700 names and active phone numbers. The breach was not connected to the recent global WannaCry malware attacks, the company added. From a report: The information appears to have been posted online, but the company could not confirm the leaked data was one and the same. "There is no indication that any financial, password or other sensitive personal information was accessed," the company wrote in a statement. Bell said the incident was unrelated to the massive spike in ransomware infections that affected an estimated 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries late last week. It is not clear when the breach occurred, how the data was accessed, or how long the attacker had access to Bell's systems.
Security

Access Codes For United Cockpit Doors Accidentally Posted Online (techcrunch.com) 109

According to the Wall Street Journal, the access codes to United's cockpit doors were accidentally posted on a public website by a flight attendant. "[United Continental Holdings], which owns United Airlines and United Express, asked pilots to follow security procedures already in use, including visually confirming someone's identity before they are allowed onto the flight deck even if they enter the correct security code into the cockpit door's keypad," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The Air Line Pilots Association, a union that represents 55,000 pilots in the U.S. and Canada, told the WSJ on Sunday that the problem had been fixed. The notable thing about this security breach is that it was caused by human error, not a hack, and illustrates how vulnerable cockpits are to intruders despite existing safety procedures. The Air Line Pilots Association has advocated for secondary barriers made from mesh or steel cables to be installed on cockpits doors to make it harder to break into, but airlines have said that they aren't necessary.
Medicine

38,000 People a Year Die Early Because of Diesel Emissions Testing Failures (theverge.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Diesel cars, trucks, and other vehicles in more than 10 countries around the world produce 50 percent more nitrogen oxide emissions than lab tests show, according to a new study. The extra pollution is thought to have contributed to about 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 globally. In the study, published today in Nature, researchers compared emissions from diesel tailpipes on the road with the results of lab tests for nitrogen oxides (NOx). The countries where diesel vehicles were tested are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., where more than 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales occurred in 2015. The researchers found that 5 million more tons of NOx were emitted than the lab-based 9.4 million tons, according to the Associated Press. Nitrogen oxides are released into the air from motor vehicle exhaust or the burning of coal and fossil fuels, producing tiny soot particles and smog. Breathing in all this is linked to heart and lung diseases, including lung cancer, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which took part in the research. Governments routinely test new diesel vehicles to check whether they meet pollution limits. The problem is that these tests fail to mimic real-life driving situations, and so they underestimate actual pollution levels. The researchers estimate that the extra pollution is linked to about 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015 -- mostly in the European Union, China, and India. (The U.S. saw an estimated 1,100 deaths from excess NOx.)
EU

Le Pen Concedes Defeat To Macron In France's Post-Hack Election (reuters.com) 671

"France has voted for continuity," candidate Marine Le Pen said in the wake of her defeat in France's presidential election, conceding that Emmanuel Macron had a decisive lead. Reuters has ongoing coverage of Le Pen's concession phone call and reactions from world leaders. "France Rejects Far Right," read a headline at CNN, touting their own live updates and early results showing Macron with a 65.9% to 34.1% lead, "on course for a decisive win." Macron is schedule to speak at the Louvre museum (where the grounds were "briefly evacuated" this morning after discovery of a suspicious bag.) Quartz is calling 39-year-old Macron "the second Generation X president of a major world power" (after Canada's Justin Trudeau).

The election was closely watched after a 9-gigabyte trove of emails from Macron's campaign were leaked online. CNBC reports that "One of the most talked about emails makes reference to binge-watching Dr. Who and masturbating to the sound of running water. It sounds generally incoherent. It could be false, or maybe the person wrote it after a few too many." The New Yorker traces the leak to a right-leaning Canadian site, whose editor says he found the documents on 4chan. But Reuters is crediting WikiLeaks with providing "the largest boost of attention" to the leaked documents, according to an analysis pubished by the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, a D.C.-based think tank on international affairs. WikiLeaks tweeted about the leak 15 times, bragging to Reuters that "we were hours ahead of all other major outlets." On Friday WikiLeaks also disputed the Macron campaign's claim that the leak mixed real documents with fake ones. "We have not yet discovered fakes in #MacronLeaks & we are very skeptical that the Macron campaign is faster than us."

Saturday WikiLeaks noted that several of the Office files "have Cyrillic meta data. Unclear if by design, incompetence, or Slavic employee." And Saturday afternoon they added "name of employee for Russian govt security contractor Evrika appears 9 times in metadata for 'xls_cendric.rar' leak archive."

Meanwhile, on the International Space Station, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet voted from space. Feel free to discuss the election's results in the comments.
The Almighty Buck

Apple Has a Record $250 Billion In Cash, 90% of It Is Banked Overseas (phonearena.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phone Arena: On Tuesday, Apple is expected to report its fiscal second quarter earnings. In that report, the tech titan will reportedly announce that it is holding $250 billion in cash. If you think that this is a lot of money, you're absolutely right. According to Marketwatch.com, this is more than the foreign currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined. Looking at it another way, at current valuations Apple could purchase all of the outstanding shares of Walmart and Procter & Gamble and still have money left over. It has taken Apple only 4 and half years to double its cash hoard. During the fiscal first quarter of 2017, Apple was adding $3.6 million to its cash position every hour. It finished the quarter ending in December with $246.09 billion in cash. 90% of the money is banked overseas, which means that Apple would be one of the companies to benefit the most from President Trump's plan to offer a one time tax break on repatriated funds.
Government

Ontario Launches Universal Basic Income Pilot (www.cbc.ca) 524

Reader epiphani writes: The Ontario Government will pilot universal basic income in a $50M program supporting 4,000 households over a 3 year period. While Slashdot has vigorously debated universal basic income in the past, and even Elon Musk has predicted it's necessity, experts continue to debate and gather data on the approach in the face of increasing automation. Ontario's plan will study three communities over three years, with participants receiving up to $17,000 annually if single, and $24,000 for families.
Science

Aurora Enthusiasts Discover A Strange New Light In The Sky And Named It Steve (bbc.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes the BBC: A group of aurora enthusiasts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve. Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary in Canada spotted the feature in photos shared on a Facebook group. He did not recognise it as a catalogued phenomenon and although the group were calling it a proton arc, he knew proton auroras were not visible. Testing showed it appeared to be a hot stream of fast-flowing gas in the higher reaches of the atmosphere.

The European Space Agency sent electric field instruments to measure it 300km (190 miles) above the surface of the Earth and found the temperature of the air was 3,000C (5,400F) hotter inside the gas stream than outside it. Inside, the 25km-wide ribbon of gas was flowing at 6 km/s (13,000mph), 600 times faster than the air on either side.

One official at the European Space Agency made sure to thank the "army of citizen scientists" who helped with the discovery, saying "It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn't noticed it before." The name apparently came from a scene in the movie "Over the Hedge."
Canada

Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality (www.cbc.ca) 65

According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.
Canada

Subway Sues Canada Network Over Claim Its Chicken Is 50 Percent Soy (yahoo.com) 296

jenningsthecat writes: As reported here back in February, the CBC, (Canada's national broadcaster), revealed DNA test results which indicated the chicken used in Subway Restaurants' sandwiches only contained about 50% chicken. Now, Subway is suing the public broadcaster for $210 million, because "its reputation and brand have taken a hit as a result of the CBC reports." The suit claims that "false statements [...] were published and republished, maliciously and without just cause or excuse, to a global audience, which has resulted in pecuniary loss to the plaintiffs."

Personally, my working assumption here is that the CBC report is substantially correct. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out -- but should this have happened at all? Regulatory agencies here in Canada seem to be pretty good when it comes to inspecting meat processing facilities. Should they also be testing the prepared foods served by major restaurant chains to ensure that claims regarding food content are true and accurate?

Earth

For the First Time On Record, Human-Caused Climate Change Has Rerouted an Entire River (washingtonpost.com) 256

A team of scientists on Monday documented what they're describing as the first case of large-scale river reorganization as a result of human-caused climate change (Editor's note: could be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: They found that in mid-2016, the retreat of a very large glacier in Canada's Yukon territory led to the rerouting of its vast stream of meltwater from one river system to another -- cutting down flow to the Yukon's largest lake, and channeling freshwater to the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska, rather than to the Bering Sea. The researchers dubbed the reorganization an act of "rapid river piracy," saying that such events had often occurred in the Earth's geologic past, but never before, to their knowledge, as a sudden present-day event. They also called it "geologically instantaneous." "The river wasn't what we had seen a few years ago. It was a faded version of its former self," lead study author Daniel Shugar of the University of Washington at Tacoma said of the Slims River, which lost much of its flow because of the glacial change. "It was barely flowing at all. Literally, every day, we could see the water level dropping, we could see sandbars popping out in the river."
Movies

Hollywood Is Losing the Battle Against Online Trolls (hollywoodreporter.com) 487

An anonymous reader shares a Hollywood Reporter article: It had taken years -- and the passionate support of Kirk Kerkorian, who financed the film's $100 million budget without expecting to ever make a profit -- for The Promise, a historical romance set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, to reach the screen. Producers always knew it would be controversial: Descendants of the 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Empire shortly after the onset of World War I have long pressed for the episode to be recognized as a genocide despite the Turkish government's insistence the deaths were not a premeditated extermination. Before the critics in attendance even had the chance to exit Roy Thompson Hall, let alone write their reviews, The Promise's IMDb page was flooded with tens of thousands of one-star ratings. "All I know is that we were in about a 900-seat house with a real ovation at the end, and then you see almost 100,000 people who claim the movie isn't any good," says Medavoy. Panicked calls were placed to IMDb, but there was nothing the site could do. "One thing that they can track is where the votes come from," says Eric Esrailian, who also produced the film, and "the vast majority of people voting were not from Canada. So I know they weren't in Toronto." The online campaign against The Promise appears to have originated on sites like Incisozluk, a Turkish version of 4chan, where there were calls for users to "downvote" the film's ratings on IMDb and YouTube. A rough translation of one post: "Guys, Hollywood is filming a big movie about the so-called Armenian genocide and the trailer has already been watched 700k times. We need to do something urgently." Soon afterward, the user gleefully noted The Promise's average IMDb rating had reached a dismaying 1.8 stars. "They know that the IMDb rating will stay with the film forever," says Esrailian. "It's a kind of censorship, really."
Canada

'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
Canada

Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch (engadget.com) 78

The Bank of Canada has hid a "Konami Code" Easter egg on its website celebrating their new $10 bank note. The Konami Code is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games, allowing players to press a sequence of buttons on their game controller to enable the cheat. "The Bank of Canada's web team thought the Konami code [Easter egg] was a fun way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told CTV news. Engadget reports: On top of being laden with anti-counterfeiting tech that makes it extremely difficult to copy (holograms, raised ink, color-changing images and polymer materials), the new ten is a who's who and what's what of Canadian history. It features Canada's founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Agnes Macphail, first woman parliamentarian, and Indigenous peoples pioneer James Gladstone, known in his Blackfoot language as Akay-na-muka. It also shows Canada's prairies, the coastal mountains of British Columbia, the Canadian Shield, Atlantic coast, northern lights, Metis Assomption Sash, maple leaf and much more (no poutine, though). All of that is squeezed on the 152.4 x 69.85 mm note -- that's exactly 6 x 2.75 inches, because Canada uses the metric system but probably still buys its printing presses from the U.S. The Konami code is in keeping with Canada's tradition of doing cute, pop-culture things with its history.
Businesses

Why Do Airlines Overbook? (bbc.com) 575

From a report on BBC: A common overbooking problem on a United Airlines flight on Sunday ended with a man being bloodied and dragged from his seat and an already troubled airline earning more bad press. How did it all go so wrong? Overbooking on flights happens all the time. Empty seats cost airlines money, so they offset the number of passengers who miss flights by selling too many tickets. In this case, the problem arose because United decided at the last minute to fly four members of staff to a connection point and needed to bump four passengers to make way for them. When there's an overbooking issue the first step is to offer an inducement to the passengers to take a later flight. [...] Of the 613 million people who flew on major US carriers in 2015, 46,000 were involuntarily denied boarding, according to data from the Department of Transportation -- less than 0.008%.
Canada

Canada's RCMP National Police Force Reveals Use of Secretive Cellphone Surveillance Technology (www.cbc.ca) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: The RCMP for the first time is publicly confirming it uses cellphone surveillance devices in investigations across Canada -- but at the same time says the potential of unauthorized snooping in Ottawa, as reported by CBC News, poses a threat to national security. The RCMP held the briefing in the wake of a CBC News investigation that found evidence that devices known as IMSI catchers may be in use near government buildings in Ottawa for the purpose of illegal spying. After shrouding their own use of the technology in secrecy for years, the RCMP took the unprecedented step of speaking publicly about the devices -- also known as Stingrays or Mobile Device Identifiers (MDIs) -- to address public concern amidst mounting questions about their use. The RCMP says that MDIs -- of which it owns 10 -- have become "vital tools" deployed scores of times to identify and track mobile devices in 19 criminal investigations last year and another 24 in 2015. [RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam] says in all cases but one in 2016, police got warrants. The one exception was an exigent circumstance -- in other words, an emergency scenario "such as a kidnapping," said Adam, whose office tracks every instance where an MDI has been used by the RCMP. He says using an MDI requires senior police approval as well as getting a judge's order. And he says the technology provides only a first step in an investigation allowing officers to identify a device. He says only then can police apply for additional warrants to obtain a user's "basic subscriber information" such as name and address connected to the phone. Then, he says, only if the phone and suspect are targets of the investigation can police seek additional warrants to track the device or conduct a wiretap to capture communications. Adam says the RCMP currently has 24 technicians trained and authorized to deploy the devices across Canada. He knows other police forces own and use them too, but declined to name them.

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