The Almighty Buck

Australian Bank's System Outage Leaves 9 Million Customers Without Cash (reuters.com) 2

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: National Australia Bank on Saturday suffered what it described as a "nationwide outage" to some of its technology systems, leaving customers unable to access banking services or withdraw money. Customers took to social media to vent their frustrations, with some saying they were left unable to pay for groceries or refuel their cars...

National Australia Bank is one of Australia's four largest retail banks with a customer base of 9 million, according to its website... The Bank of New Zealand, a NAB subsidiary, also experienced outages on Saturday across New Zealand, but the spokesman was unable to confirm a connection between the two incidents.

United States

Ask Slashdot: Did Baby Boomers Break America? (time.com) 102

"Automation taking jobs is only one symptom of a larger problem," argues an anonymous Slashdot reader, sharing a link to this excerpt from Steven Brill's new book Tailspin, which seeks to identify "the people and forces behind America's fifty-year fall -- and those fighting to reverse it." The excerpt has this intriguing title: "How Baby Boomers Broke America." As my generation of achievers graduated from elite universities and moved into the professional world, their personal successes often had serious societal consequences. They upended corporate America and Wall Street with inventions in law and finance that created an economy built on deals that moved assets around instead of building new ones. They created exotic, and risky, financial instruments, including derivatives and credit default swaps, that produced sugar highs of immediate profits but separated those taking the risk from those who would bear the consequences. They organized hedge funds that turned owning stock into a minute-by-minute bet rather than a long-term investment... Regulatory agencies were overwhelmed by battalions of lawyers who brilliantly weaponized the bedrock American value of due process so that, for example, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule protecting workers from a deadly chemical could be challenged and delayed for more than a decade and end up being hundreds of pages long. Lawyers then contested the meaning of every clause while racking up fees of hundreds of dollars per hour from clients who were saving millions of dollars on every clause they could water down...

As government was disabled from delivering on vital issues, the protected were able to protect themselves still more. For them, it was all about building their own moats. Their money, their power, their lobbyists, their lawyers, their drive overwhelmed the institutions that were supposed to hold them accountable -- government agencies, Congress, the courts... That, rather than a split between Democrats and Republicans, is the real polarization that has broken America since the 1960s. It's the protected vs. the unprotected, the common good vs. maximizing and protecting the elite winners' winnings... [I]n a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy.

Brill argues that the unprotected need things like "a realistic shot at justice in the courts," writing that instead "the First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy." And he shares these statistics about the rest of America today:
  • For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier.
  • In 2017, household debt had grown higher than the peak reached in 2008 before the crash, with student and automobile loans staking growing claims on family paychecks.
  • Although the U.S. remains the world's richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development...

Has he identified the source of a societal malaise? Leave your own thoughts in the comments.

And is Brill's thesis correct? Did baby boomers break America?


Youtube

Two 18-Year-Olds Charged With Hacking YouTube's Most Popular Videos (variety.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes Variety: Two 18-year-old French citizens have been arrested in Paris and charged with crimes related to the hack of Vevo's YouTube accounts last month that resulted in pro-Palestine messages being posted on several popular videos, according to prosecutors... Authorities allege the duo gained access to the YouTube account maintained by Vevo, to alter the content of multiple music videos, including Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" -- the most-viewed music video on YouTube in 2017, which recently surpassed 5 billion views.

The hackers also targeted videos by Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Chris Brown and Shakira, replacing their thumbnail images, video titles and descriptions. Vevo has since removed all changes the hackers made on its YouTube videos... Paris prosecutors charged Gabriel K.A.B. and with five criminal counts and Nassim B. with six counts, including "fraudulently modifying data contained in an automated data processing system."

Last month Fortune published quotes from a Twitter user who claimed responsibility for the attacks.

"Its just for fun i just use script 'youtube-change-title-video' and i write 'hacked' don t judge me i love youtube."
United States

Gamers Behind Fatal 'SWAT' Call Now Face Life In Prison (wlwt.com) 175

An anonymous reader writes: 18-year-old Casey Viner, who instigated the 911 call which led to a fatal shooting in Wichita (hiring Tyler Barriss to perform the actual call), is in big trouble. "If convicted on the 10 counts he faces, Viner could spend almost the rest of his life in prison and pay a $1,000,000 fine," reports a local Cincinnati news site. Ironically, Viner's father is a corporal with the county sheriff's department.

The 19-year-old intended target for the SWAT attack had supplied a real address in Wichita for a house where he used to live. But in an eerie coincidence, ten days before the fatal shooting in Wichita, Cincinnati police had responded to a similar SWAT call which had sent them to a house where Viner used to live. The local police said "the facts and circumstances and the verbiage were very, very similar."

25-year-old Tyler Barriss also faces a life sentence for false information which resulted in a death -- as well as several local charges. And Thursday a federal grand jury also indicted Barriss "for a threat that caused an evacuation of a high-profile FCC hearing" into net neutrality regulations just two weeks before the fatal Wichita shooting, "and another threat eight days later that targeted FBI headquarters."

Barriss's lawyer insists that his client wasn't responsible for the Wichita death, blaming instead a "gung-ho, crazy cop."
Robotics

AI-Enhanced Weed-Killing Robots Frighten Pesticide Industry (reuters.com) 141

Rick Schumann writes: A Swiss company called ecoRobotix is betting the agricultural industry will be willing to welcome their solar-powered weed-killing autonomous robot, in an effort to reduce the use of herbicides by up to a factor of 20 and perhaps even eliminate the need for herbicide-resistant GMO crops entirely.

The 'see-and-spray' robot goes from plant to plant, visually differentiating the actual crops and weeds, and squirting the weeds selectively and precisely with weed killer, as opposed to the current technique of using large quantities of weed killer like Monsantos' Roundup to spray entire crops.

Weeds are already becoming resistant to such glyphosate-based herbicides after "more than 20 years of near-ubiquitous use," reports Reuters. (The head of one pesticide company's science division concedes that "That was probably a once-in-a-lifetime product.") But AI-based precision spraying "could mean established herbicides whose effect has worn off on some weeds could be used successfully in more potent, targeted doses."

Meanwhile, another Silicon Valley startup has built a machine using on-board cameras to distinguish weeds from crops -- and was recently acquired by the John Deere tractor company. Reuters calls these companies the "new breed of AI weeders that investors say could disrupt the $100 billion pesticides and seeds industry."

The original submission asks: Should we welcome our weed-killing robotic overlords?
Medicine

U.S. Passes 'Right to Try' Law Allowing Experimental Medical Treatments (chicagotribune.com) 110

schwit1 shared this article from the Washington Post: The House on Tuesday passed "right to try" legislation that would allow people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medications, ending a drawn-out battle over access to unapproved therapies. President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which was praised by supporters as a lifeline for desperate patients but denounced by scores of medical and consumer groups as unnecessary and dangerous...

The FDA would be largely left out of the equation under the new legislation and would not oversee the right-to-try process. Drug manufacturers would have to report "adverse events" -- safety problems, including premature deaths -- only once a year. The agency also would be restricted in how it used such information when considering the experimental treatments for approval. Patients would be eligible for right-to-try if they had a "life-threatening illness" and had exhausted all available treatment options. The medication itself must have completed early-stage safety testing, called Phase 1 trials, and be in active development with the goal of FDA approval.

One Congressman opposing the bill argued that eliminating FDA oversight would "provide fly-by-night physicians and clinics the opportunity to peddle false hope and ineffective drugs to desperate patients," noting that the bill is opposed by over 100 patient advocacy and consumer groups.
Cloud

Microsoft Wins A Big Cloud Deal With America's Intelligence Community (spokesman.com) 37

wyattstorch516 shared this story from the AP: Microsoft Corp. said it's secured a lucrative cloud deal with the intelligence community that marks a rapid expansion by the software giant into a market led by Amazon.com Inc. The deal, which the company said Wednesday is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, allows 17 intelligence agencies and offices to use Microsoft's Azure Government, a cloud service tailored for federal and local governments, in addition to other products Microsoft already offers, such as its Windows 10 operating system and word processing programs.

The cloud agreement gives Microsoft more power to make its case to the Pentagon as it goes up against competitors like International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. and Amazon for the agency's winner-take-all cloud computing contract for up to 10 years.

That contract is expected to be worth billions of dollars, according to the article, adding that "the Defense Department has said it intends to move the department's technology needs -- 3.4 million users and 4 million devices -- to the cloud to give it a tactical edge on the battlefield and strengthen its use of emerging technologies."

One Microsoft executive said this week's deal reinforces "the fact that we are a solid cloud platform that the federal government can put their trust in."
Canada

How Canada Ended Up As An AI Superpower 54

pacopico writes: Neural nets and deep learning are all the rage these days, but their rise was anything but sudden. A handful of determined researchers scattered around the globe spent decades developing neural nets while most of their peers thought they were mad. An unusually large number of these academics -- including Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun and Richard Sutton -- were working at universities in Canada. Bloomberg Businessweek has put together an oral history of how Canada brought them all together, why they kept chasing neural nets in the face of so much failure, and why their ideas suddenly started to take off. There's also a documentary featuring the researchers and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau that tells more of the story and looks at where AI technology is heading -- both the good and the bad. Overall, it's a solid primer for people wanting to know about AI and the weird story of where the technology came from, but might be kinda basic for hardcore AI folks.
Movies

Most MoviePass Subscribers Have Gone To a Movie They Normally Would've Ignored (exstreamist.com) 42

Extremist surveyed 1,311 current self-reporting MoviePass subscribers and found that 82% of subscribers have gone to a movie they normally would have ignored. 13% of respondents said "No," while 5% were "Not Sure." From the report: While theaters are only reporting a slight uptick in foot traffic since MoviePass got popular, there is no denying that there are now more butts in seats of movies that otherwise might not get as much foot traffic. Perhaps the real winner in a world with MoviePass is the box office rake for "bad" movies. If you are a MoviePass subscriber, have you noticed yourself attending movies you otherwise wouldn't pay directly to see?
The Almighty Buck

Companies Are Using California Homes As Batteries To Power the Grid (qz.com) 116

"Companies like Tesla and SunRun are starting to bid on utility contracts that would allow them to string together dozens or hundreds of systems that act as an enormous reserve to balance the flow of electricity on the grid," reports Quartz. "Doing so would accelerate the grid's transformation from 20th century hub-and-spoke architecture to a transmission network moving electricity among thousands or millions of customers who generate and store their own power." From the report: In theory, networked home-solar-and-battery systems, acting in coordination over a single geographical area, could replace things like natural gas "peaker" plants need to help support the grid on a moment's notice. But it's an open question whether it makes financial sense. Kamath says renewable mandates could keep home solar-storage solutions for the grid going for a while, but the idea will have to prove itself on the market, perhaps by aggregating large areas, if it wants to seriously compete with existing energy assets.

SunRun told investors in 2017 that its pilot programs suggest it could competitively generate $2,000 worth of services by managing electricity flow back to the grid. The company has recently dropped its combative stance with utilities dragging their feet on accepting home solar. Instead, it's pursuing cooperation with the utilities now, in hopes of selling them home-based power. That would allow it grab a chunk of the billions being spent on modernizing the grid. "We don't want to be in a position of building two competing infrastructures," SunRun's Jurich said.

The Courts

Tesla Agrees To Settle Class Action Over Autopilot Billed As 'Safer' (reuters.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla on Thursday reached an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit with buyers of its Model S and Model X cars who alleged that the company's assisted-driving Autopilot system was "essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous." The lawsuit said Tesla misrepresented on its website that the cars came with capabilities designed to make highway driving "safer." The Tesla owners said they paid an extra $5,000 to have their cars equipped with the Autopilot software with additional safety features such as automated emergency braking and side collision warning. The features were "completely inoperable," according to the complaint. Under the proposed agreement, class members, who paid to get the Autopilot upgrade between 2016 and 2017, will receive between $20 and $280 in compensation. Tesla has agreed to place more than $5 million into a settlement fund, which will also cover attorney fees.
Earth

Birds Had To Relearn Flight After Meteor Wiped Out Dinosaurs, Fossil Records Suggest (theguardian.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Birds had to rediscover flight after the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs, scientists say. The cataclysm 66 million years ago not only wiped out Tyrannosaurus rex and ground-dwelling dinosaur species, but also flying birds, a detailed survey of the fossil record suggests. As forests burned around the world, the only birds to survive were flightless emu-like species that lived on the ground. The six to nine-mile-wide meteor struck the Earth off the coast of Mexico, releasing a million times more energy than the largest atomic bomb. Hot debris raining from the sky is thought to have triggered global wildfires immediately after the impact. It took hundreds or even thousands of years for the world's forests of palms and pines to recover. Fossil records from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, all show evidence of mass deforestation. They also reveal that birds surviving the end of the Cretaceous period had long sturdy legs made for living on the ground. They resembled emus and kiwis, said the researchers whose findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.
Businesses

US Reaches Deal To Keep Chinese Telecom ZTE in Business (reuters.com) 98

The Trump administration told lawmakers the U.S. government has reached a deal to put Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp back in business, a senior congressional aide said on Friday. From a report: The deal, communicated to officials on Capitol Hill by the Commerce Department, requires ZTE to pay a substantial fine, place U.S. compliance officers at the company and change its management team, the aide said. The Commerce Department would then lift an order preventing ZTE from buying U.S. products.

ZTE was banned in April from buying U.S. technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The Commerce Department decision would allow it to resume business with U.S. companies, including chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

Earth

As The Planet Warms, We'll Be Having Rice With A Side Of CO2 (npr.org) 239

Grains are the bedrock of civilization. They led humans from hunting and gathering to city-building. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the fruits of three grasses provide the world with 60 percent of its total food: corn, wheat and rice. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins. But rice as we know it is at risk. An anonymous reader shares a report: As humans expel billions of metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere and raze vast swaths of forests, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our air hurries ever higher. That has the potential to severely diminish the nutritional value of rice, according to a new study published this week in Science Advances. For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study.
The Courts

Samsung Must Pay Apple $539 Million For Infringing iPhone Design Patents, Jury Finds (cnet.com) 143

Samsung must pay Apple $539 million for infringing five patents with Android phones it sold in 2010 and 2011, a jury has found in a legal fight that dates back seven years. "The unanimous decision, in the U.S. District Court in San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, is just about halfway between what the two largest mobile phone makers had sought in a high-profile case that reaches back to 2011," reports CNET. From the report: The bulk of the damages payment, $533,316,606, was for infringing three Apple design patents. The remaining $5,325,050 was for infringing two utility patents. Samsung already had been found to infringe the patents, but this trial determined some of the damages. The jury's rationale isn't clear, but the figure is high enough to help cement the importance of design patents in the tech industry. Even though they only describe cosmetic elements of a product, they clearly can have a lot of value.

Samsung showed its displeasure and indicated the fight isn't over. "Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers," Samsung said.

Youtube

Vevo To Shut Down Site, Giving In To YouTube Empire (rollingstone.com) 92

Vevo, the video-hosting service founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the big three record companies, is shutting down. The company announced in a blog post Thursday that it is shuttering its mobile apps and website, and that "going forward, Vevo will remain focused on engaging the biggest audiences and pursuing growth opportunities." Vevo is almost entirely succumbing to YouTube. Rolling Stone reports: The major record labels set up Vevo -- an abbreviation for "video evolution" -- in 2009 as a designated streaming service for music videos that would ideally bring in greater revenue from more high-end advertisers. Via a distribution deal with YouTube, it received a cut of revenue from putting its music videos on the Google-owned site. But YouTube's might has grown: The video-streaming service recently took Vevo's branding off its music videos, while also securing permission under a new licensing deal to sell Vevo's clips directly to advertisers, cutting out the smaller company's sales force. Though Vevo has been trying to peel away from its dependence on YouTube by touting its own suite of apps and offerings for years, it seems those efforts haven't been met with much success. "Our catalog of premium music videos and original content will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube and we are exploring ways to work with additional platforms to further expand access to Vevo's content," the company said in its blog post. Vevo users on its website and Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps will receive a tool to migrate their playlists to YouTube.
Businesses

Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone (bloomberg.com) 51

Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin's Essential Products business is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone. The news comes several months after numerous reports suggested that the Essential Phone's sales were tepid. From the report: The startup has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale and has received interest from at least one suitor, the people said. Essential is now actively shopping itself to potential suitors, one of the people said. The startup, part of Rubin's incubator Playground Global, has raised about $300 million from several investors, including Amazon, Tencent, and Redpoint Ventures. It was valued at $900 million to $1 billion about a year ago, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock.

The startup has spent more than $100 million on developing its first products, about a third of the money it raised to build the company, the people said. Current discussions are focused on a sale of the entire company, including its patent portfolio, hardware products like the original smartphone, an upcoming smart home device and a camera attachment for the phone. Essential's engineering talent, which includes those hired from Apple and Alphabet's Google, would likely be part of a deal. The company hasn't yet made a final decision on a sale, the people said.

China

First Cuba, Now China? A Worker In US Embassy In China Experienced 'Abnormal' Sounds, Brain Damage (reuters.com) 155

amxcoder writes: An American citizen working at a U.S. consulate located in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported experiencing "abnormal" sounds (and pressures) for the past several months, starting in late 2017 until April of 2018. Upon medical evaluation, the worker has been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury symptoms. The U.S. embassy is conducting an investigation into the issue, and is issuing warnings to all U.S. citizens in China. The symptoms and several other similarities has drawn comparison to a similar event last year in a different U.S. embassy in Cuba. Officials can not link the two events together at this point, but the U.S. State Department is working with Chinese authorities to investigate the issue further. As a result of the Cuba acoustic "attacks," the U.S. government in October expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S. for what it said was Cuba's failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana. Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive issues. Canadian personnel also reported similar health symptoms.
Communications

YouTube Is Messing With the Order of Videos In Some User Feeds (gizmodo.com) 92

YouTube is testing non-chronological subscription feeds to try and serve you content that it thinks you'll want to see at the top. The problem with this is that the subscription feed exists because users subscribed to content that they want to see. If they don't, they will unsubscribe, thereby removing unwanted content from the feed. Gizmodo reports: YouTube confirmed the test on Twitter after some users noticed the change and inquired as to why the heck their subscription feed was no longer in chronological order. YouTube must have missed the memo about how users react when platforms mess with the order of the sacred feed.

Here's YouTube's how-to and troubleshooting Twitter account explained the test: "Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first." Weird, considering YouTube already offers recommended videos based on your viewing habits and subscribed channels in its sidebar.

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