Earth

The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies (arstechnica.com) 140

New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

Media

Video Is Coming To Reddit (variety.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report from Variety: Videos are coming to Reddit, thanks to a new feature that allows users to upload video clips directly to the service. Reddit rolled out the new video feature Tuesday after testing it with around 200 communities over the past couple of weeks. Reddit users are now able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes in length, with file sizes being limited to 1 gigabyte. Users will be able to upload videos via Reddit's website and its mobile apps for iOS and Android, with the latter offering basic trimming functionality as well. And, in keeping with the spirit of the site, Reddit is also offering a conversion tool to turn videos into animated Gifs. Videos are being displayed persistently, or pinned, meaning that users can scroll through the comments while the video keeps playing in the corner of their screen. And community moderators can opt not to allow videos in their Subreddits at all, with Le arguing that some discussion-heavy Subreddits may decide that the format just doesn't work for them.
Government

Ukraine Hacker Cooperating With FBI In Russia Probe, Says Report (thehill.com) 143

schwit1 shares a report from The Hill: A hacker in Ukraine who goes by the online alias "Profexer" is cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, The New York Times is reporting. Profexer, whose real identity is unknown, wrote and sold malware on the dark web. The intelligence community publicly identified code he had written as a tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of last year's presidential election. The hacker's activity on the web came to a halt shortly after the malware was identified. The New York Times, citing Ukrainian police, reported Wednesday that the individual turned himself into the FBI earlier this year and became a witness for the bureau in its investigation. FBI investigators are probing Russian interference efforts and whether there was coordination between associates of President Trump's campaign and Moscow. Special counsel Robert Mueller is heading the investigation.
Facebook

Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons (techcrunch.com) 18

In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.
Education

Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses (bbc.com) 18

An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."
The Almighty Buck

A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM (nytimes.com) 512

From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.
Bitcoin

Australia Joins China and Japan in Trying To Regulate Digital Currency Exchanges (cnbc.com) 59

Following moves by China and Japan to regulate digital currencies, Australia is attempting to crackdown on money laundering and terrorism financing with plans to regulate bitcoin exchanges. From a report: "The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," said Australia's Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in a press release. The Australian government proposed a set of reforms on Thursday which will close a gap in regulation and bring digital currency exchange providers under the remit of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre. These exchanges serve as marketplaces where traders can buy and sell digital currencies, such as bitcoin, using fiat currencies, such as the dollar. The reform bill is intended to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of AUSTRAC.
Businesses

Ericsson Is Planning To Cut 25,000 Jobs in Brutal Response To Crisis, Report Says (businessinsider.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: Multinational telecom operator Ericsson -- which carries 40% of the world's mobile traffic on its networks and is Sweden's second largest company by revenue -- reported another disappointing quarter last month. As response, the troubled company's new CEO Borje Ekholm announced costs cuts of 10 billion SEK ($1,25 bn) per year. He did not say how many jobs were at stake. Now insider sources have provided details to Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), indicating that Ericsson's restructuring will be more brutal than expected. The Swedish newspaper reports that there are advanced plans to cut Ericsson's operations by 80-90 percent in some markets, and centralize several European markets. However, the 14,000 employee-strong Swedish work force is to stay intact -- at least all R&D engineers. "Right now, Ericsson is hiring engineers to repair the damage that earlier saving packages caused. It's crucial that most of all the Swedish R&D department remains somewhat protected. They are the ones who will come up with the new solutions that will drive sales in the long term," said a person with insight into the process. According to internal sources, up to 25,000 people may be affected by the restructuring program. The Swedish company currently employs 109,000 people across 110 offices around the world.
Google

Google Lunar X-Prize Extends Deadline Through March 2018 (space.com) 28

schwit1 writes: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million. They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it. At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express's rover to the Moon.
Television

Netflix Plans To Spend $7 Billion On Content In 2018 (streamingobserver.com) 87

According to the Streaming Observer, Netflix plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year and spend over $7 billion on content in 2018. Previously, the company paid $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. From the report: While the internet freaks out about Disney ending its streaming agreement with Netflix, the company continues to forge ahead signing high-profile talent and throwing an enormous budget at its original programming. Just days after the Disney turmoil, Netflix's visionary Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the streaming leader plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year. As of now, Netflix currently has $15.7 billion in outstanding obligations in deals for new series and films over the next few years. With such an astronomically-large budget, media analysts are already beginning to wonder if Netflix is "rescuing" or "ruining" Hollywood by creating such a singular creator-producer-distributor model. Sarandos counters those claims, however, stating that Netflix is merely on the forefront of what's already a growing trend throughout the media industries: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy. Everyone is doing some version of it already. They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content. We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."
United Kingdom

Deadly Drug-Resistant Fungus Sparks Outbreaks In UK (arstechnica.com) 138

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: More than 200 patients in more than 55 UK hospitals were discovered by healthcare workers to be infected or colonized by the multi-drug resistant fungus Candida auris, a globally emerging yeast pathogen that has experts nervous. Three of the hospitals experienced large outbreaks, which as of Monday were all declared officially over by health authorities there. No deaths have been reported since the fungus was first detected in the country in 2013, but 27 affected patients have developed blood infections, which can be life-threatening. And about a quarter of the more than 200 cases were clinical infections. Officials in the UK aimed to assuage fear of the fungus and assure patients that hospitals were safe. "Our enhanced surveillance shows a low risk to patients in healthcare settings. Most cases detected have not shown symptoms or developed an infection as a result of the fungus," Dr Colin Brown, of Public Health England's national infection service, told the BBC.

Yet, public health experts are uneasy about the rapid emergence and level of drug resistance the pathogen is showing. In a surveillance update in July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that C. auris "presents a serious global health threat." It was first identified in the ear of a patient in Japan in 2009. Since then, it has spread swiftly, showing up in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., according to the CDC. So far, health officials have reported around 100 infections in nine U.S. states and more than 100 other cases where the fungus was detected but wasn't causing an infection.

Software

'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants (chicagotribune.com) 108

A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.
Television

YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem (mashable.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."
Security

Shipping Company Maersk Says June Cyberattack Could Cost It Up To $300 Million (cnbc.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares an article: Container shipping company A.P. Moller Maersk on Tuesday said it expects that computer issues triggered by the NotPetya cyberattack will cost the company as much as $300 million in lost revenue. "In the last week of the [second] quarter we were hit by a cyber-attack, which mainly impacted Maersk Line, APM Terminals and Damco," Maersk CEO Soren Skou said in a statement. "Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July and as a consequence, our Q3 results will be impacted. We expect that the cyber-attack will impact results negatively by USD 200-300m." Maersk Line was able to take bookings from existing customers two days after the attack, and things gradually got back to normal over the following week, the company said. It said it did not lose third-party data as a result of the attack.
Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 627

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
Businesses

Higher Minimum Wages Bring Automation and Job Losses, Study Suggests (axios.com) 588

An anonymous reader shares a report via email: As of the start of the year, 19 U.S. states had raised minimum wages, dramatizing a long simmering debate: Do minimum wages kill jobs, and make the working class worse off in the end? Or do they simply make them a little richer, with little or no loss to overall employment? In a new paper, economists Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and David Neumark of UC Irvine parse 35 years of census data and come down on the worse-off side: For lower-skill jobs like bookkeepers and assembly-line workers, they say, higher minimum wages encourage employers to automate -- according to their calculations, a $1 increase can cost tens of thousands of jobs nationally.
Businesses

Apple Is Bringing a Billion Dollar Checkbook To Hollywood and Wants To Buy 10 TV Shows (recode.net) 77

Apple is officially open for business in Hollywood. From a report: The company is telling content makers it wants to spend $1 billion on its own stuff over the next year. That's music to studios' ears, and a tune they have been expecting for some time -- especially after Apple hired two top Sony TV executives in June. We still don't know what Apple wants to do with that content: The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make up to 10 "Game of Thrones" -- or "House of Cards"-scale shows, but that's not enough to launch a full-scale subscription service.
Communications

WordPress Bans Fascist Website Linked To Charlottesville Killer (fastcompany.com) 441

tedlistens writes: WordPress has said that it does not censor websites like that of self-proclaimed fascist group Vanguard America. But last night, the group's site was taken offline for violating the company's terms of service. The about-face was likely prompted by Vanguard's participation in last weekend's Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring 19. Fields has claimed allegiance to Vanguard America; the group denies that Fields was a member. For WordPress to drop a site, even a fascist site, is a very big deal; the same is true of GoDaddy's and Google's decision to drop their registration of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer (another site that GoDaddy previously said would be permitted on free speech grounds). WordPress hasn't explained the shift in its approach to the website: the company's user agreement and terms of service have not changed since Charlottesville. That policy, like that of other tech platforms, has long stood by strict neutrality and freedom of expression. That may now be changing.
Businesses

Amazon Adds 'Instant Pickup Points' In US Brick-And-Mortar Push (reuters.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Amazon is rolling out U.S. pickup points where shoppers can retrieve items immediately after ordering them, shortening delivery times from hours to minutes in its latest move into brick-and-mortar retail. The world's largest online retailer has launched 'Instant Pickup' points around five college campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley, it said on Tuesday. Amazon has plans to add the program to more sites by the end of the year. Shoppers on Amazon's mobile app can select from several hundred fast-selling items at each location, from snacks and drinks to phone chargers. Amazon employees in a back room then load orders into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes to access them.
Software

App Developers Should Charge More If They Want People To Buy Subscriptions, Suggests Report (theverge.com) 50

A new report from Liftoff, a Silicon Valley-based mobile app marketing and retargeting firm, says that subscription-based apps may do better if developers charge a higher price for services, rather than setting prices too low to lure users in initially. The Verge reports: The Liftoff report, which analyzed data gathered between June 2016 and June 2017, categorized app subscriptions into low-cost monthly subs ($0.99 to $7), medium ($7 to $20), and high-cost subs ($20 to $50), while also factoring the cost of acquisition per customer. The company found that apps in the medium price range had the highest conversion rate -- 7.16 percent -- and the lowest cost to acquire a subscriber, at just over $106 dollars. This was five times higher than the rate of people who subscribed to apps when the apps were in the low-cost category. This may partly be because streaming media apps, like Netflix and Spotify, have already conditioned people to pay around $10 a month for services. But it also might be attributable to the sunk cost fallacy, Liftoff says: the "cognitive bias people have that makes them stay the course because they have already spent time or resources on it." The report also examines apps that fulfill "need states," like dating apps or cloud services. These have the potential to offer services that customers are willing to pay for, again and again. But, according to Liftoff, utility apps have a much higher install-to-subscriber rate compared to dating apps. Blame those who eventually find love?

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