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Tech Companies Are Binge-Hiring Neuroscientists

pacopico writes: There's a very weird trend going on in Silicon Valley right now where tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Twitter are raiding university neuroscience labs. They're hiring people who do pretty esoteric research on animal brains and putting them in their AI divisions. According to this Bloomberg Businessweek story, part of the reason is simply that the scientists tend to be good at dealing with large amounts of data. But the bigger deal is that these researchers specialize in things like auditory and visual function and even brain/machine interfaces and are being tapped to build new products based on the brain.

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Norway Island Wants To Be World's First Time-Free Zone

Sommaroy, an island in northern Norway that means "Summer Island," wants to become the world's first time-free zone. CNN reports: On this island in West Tromso, north of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn't set from May 18 right through to July 26, a full 69 days. The locals, having endured the long polar night from November to January, when the sun doesn't rise at all, make the most of these precious months, with no regard to conventional timekeeping. Now they want to make it official. Islanders gathered at a town hall meeting to sign a petition for a time-free zone and on June 13, Hveding met with a Norwegian member of parliament to hand over the locals' signatures and to discuss the practical and legal challenges of the initiative. Islanders hope to be free of traditional opening hours and to introduce flexibility in school and working hours. Fishing and tourism are the main industries on this island with a population of little more than 300 people.

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Brooklyn-Based Artist Jason Isolini Is Hacking Google To Create Surreal Street View Art

An anonymous reader shares a report from Motherboard: Brooklyn-based artist Jason Isolini worked as a contractor for Google Maps, capturing 360-images inside businesses and uploading them. Now, instead of capturing true-to-live panorama images, Isolini is uploading surreal collages that subvert the purpose of Google Maps: to be a tool that brings users from their current location to a business. "Since August 2017, Isolini has made 42 'contributions' to the Google Maps landscape and they've accumulated just shy of 200,000 views," the report says. "In some of his earlier works, Isolini inserted collages of photos -- like street signs, monopoly pieces, laundry detergent bottles -- into spaces around Brooklyn." "More recently, in addition to his memorial at the site of the accident at Mill Avenue and Washington Street [in Temple, Arizona, where a self-driving car developed by Uber struck and killed Elaine Herzberg in March 2018], he's superimposed his work onto 360-degree views of art buildings like the Simon Lee Gallery and inserted a images of abandonment and destruction over the entrance to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. A cigarette, a broken glass screen, USB ports on a slab of stone, leading to nowhere."

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Calibra Wallet Won't Launch in India, Facebook's Biggest Market

An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook unveiled its audacious Libra cryptocurrency and Calibra digital wallet on Tuesday through which it plans to transform financial services across the globe. The social juggernaut made clear of its ambitions when it said that it wishes to empower more than 1.7 billion people around the world who currently do not have a bank account. But potentially an equally large group of people would not be able to use Facebook's new digital payments service when it begins rollout next year. Responding to queries from TechCrunch, a Calibra spokesperson said that the digital wallet will not be rolling out to a number of markets that have taken a stand against cryptocurrency, or are sanctioned by the United States. "The Libra Blockchain will be global, but it will be up to custodial wallet providers to determine where they will and will not operate. Calibra won't be available in US-sanctioned countries or countries that ban cryptocurrencies," the spokesperson told TechCrunch. TechCrunch understands that India, Facebook's biggest market, is among the list of countries where Calibra does not intend to launch. Additionally, Calibra isn't going to be available in China, North Korea, and Iran, too, where Facebook does not currently have a presence. Further reading: Proposed Law in India Would Imprison Anyone Who Uses Cryptocurrency.

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Millionaire Hacker Gets 9 Years In Death of Man Building Nuclear Bunker Tunnels

A wealthy stock trader and "skilled computer hacker" was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison for the fiery death of a man who was helping him secretly dig tunnels for a nuclear bunker beneath a Maryland home. Baltimore Sun reports: Daniel Beckwitt, 28, had faced a maximum of 30 years in prison when Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schweitzer sentenced him. In total, Beckwitt was sentenced to 21 years but the judge suspended all but nine years of the sentence. In April, a jury convicted Beckwitt of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the September 2017 death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra. During the trial, Montgomery County prosecutor Marybeth Ayres accused Beckwitt of recklessly endangering Khafra's life. Beckwitt ignored obvious signs of danger and sacrificed safety for secrecy while they dug a network of tunnels beneath a home in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington, D.C., the prosecutor said. Defense attorney Robert Bonsib had told jurors the fire was an accident, not a crime. Firefighters found Khafra's naked, charred body in the basement of Beckwitt's trash-filled house, only a few steps from an exit. Prosecutors said the extreme hoarding conditions in the home prevented Khafra from escaping. Hours before the fire broke out in the basement, Khafra texted Beckwitt to warn him it smelled like smoke in the tunnels. Ayres said Beckwitt didn't respond for more than six hours before telling Khafra that there had been a "major electrical failure." Instead of getting Khafra out of the tunnels, Beckwitt told him that he "just switched it all over to another circuit," according to the prosecutor. Bonsib said Beckwitt screamed for help from neighbors after the fire broke out and tried to rescue his friend from the blaze before heavy smoke and flames forced him to retreat. A prosecutor described Beckwitt as having "a paranoid fixation on a possible nuclear attack by North Korea." The tunnels that Khafra was working on were kept a secret, so much so that Beckwitt "tried to trick Khafra into thinking they were digging the tunnels in Virginia instead of Maryland by having him don 'blackout glasses' before taking him on a long drive," the report says. "Khafra had a cellphone with him in the tunnels, but Beckwitt used internet 'spoofing' to make it appear they were digging in Virginia."

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Microsoft's Chromium Edge Browser Now Available On Windows 7 and Windows 8

The Chromium-powered Edge browser is now available on both Windows 7 and Windows 8 for testing today. The Verge reports: The release comes two months after Chromium Edge first debuted on Windows 10, and a month after it appeared on macOS. Microsoft is releasing the daily Canary builds initially, and plans to support the weekly Dev channel "soon." You can download the installer over at Microsoft's Edge Insider site. "You will find the experience and feature set on previous versions of Windows to be largely the same as on Windows 10, including forthcoming support for Internet Explorer mode for our enterprise customers," explains a Microsoft Edge team blog post. While most features will be the same, dark mode is missing and Microsoft says there is no support for AAD sign-in.

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Boeing To Use Computer Simulations Instead of Physical Certification Tests For Some Aircraft

New submitter Falconhell writes: In an ironic turn of events, Boeing wants to skip some physical certification tests and use only simulations. Given their current situation, this seems like a rather controversial move. Boeing is "reducing the scope and duration of certain costly physical tests used to certify the planemaker's new aircraft," Reuters first reported over the weekend. The manufacturer wants to switch to software-based trials for things such as wing load testing, "instead of doing things like bending actual, and highly expensive, components until they snap," adds The Register.

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New York State Lawmakers Agree To Pass a Sweeping Climate Plan

New York lawmakers have agreed to pass a sweeping climate plan that could help the state achieve a net-zero economy in which all energy is drawn from carbon-free sources by 2050. "The bill would require New York to get 70 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and by 2050, the state would have to cut emissions by at least 85 percent below 1990 levels," reports New York Magazine. "To offset the remainder, the state would enact measures to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, like mass tree-planting and the restoration of wetlands." From the report: The bill, if passed, would be one of the world's most ambitious climate plans, made more impressive by the size of New York's economy. If the state were its own country, its economy would be the 11th largest in the world, falling between those of Canada and South Korea. "This unquestionably puts New York in a global leadership position," Jesse Jenkins, an energy expert and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, told the New York Times. Of course, energy costs will go up in pursuit of the goal. New York gets around 60 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources -- primarily an energy mix of hydroelectric and nuclear power. To make up the difference, the state will invest in large-scale offshore wind farms and rooftop solar projects. More challenging than the electric grid is the heat for homes and commercial buildings, which generally burn natural gas or oil, and take up around a quarter of the state's emissions. In New York City, for example, an April law requiring skyscrapers to retrofit to meet new energy standards is expected to cost building owners over $4 billion. The bill also marks the first major piece of legislation to include aspects of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, routing hundreds of millions of dollars into polluted or environmentally vulnerable areas of the state in an attempt at both economic and environmental revival.

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One Day of Work a Week Is Most 'Effective' Dose For Mental Health, Study Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Just one day of work per week is the most "effective dose" to give the mental health benefits of paid employment, research suggests. A study indicated that the risk of mental health problems reduces by 30% when people move from unemployment or stay-at-home parenting into paid work of eight hours or less per week. But researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Salford found no evidence that working any more than eight hours provided further boosts to well-being. The researchers used data from a panel survey to examine how changes in working hours were linked to mental health and life satisfaction in more than 70,000 UK residents between 2009 and 2018. They controlled for characteristics including age, children, longstanding illness and household income. The study suggests that to get the mental well-being benefits of paid work, the most "effective dose" is only around one day a week -- as anything more makes little difference. The research has been published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

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Twitter Will Remove Precise Location Tagging In Tweets, Citing Lack of Use

Twitter announced today that it is removing the option to tag precise locations in tweets because most people don't use this feature. It will however continue to be available for photos via Twitter's updated camera. TechCrunch reports: Twitter users can opt out of location-sharing features in its "privacy and safety" menu. If you don't want to share your precise location details, you should continue keeping the feature turned off as it is still available in Twitter's camera. After the precise location-sharing feature for tweets is removed, users who want to share where they are can do so through services like Foursquare.

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Samsung Auto-Email Signature Accidentally Reveals Scripted Government News Story

Two days ago, Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi, collapsed in court during a trial and died from a sudden heart attack. Even though Morsi was the first democratically elected Egyptian president, news outlets have scrubbed that information from stories of his demise in what appears to be a government-mandated description sent out to press. The Verge reports: As noted by Mada Masr, a majority of newspapers published the same 42-word story sent to editors as a directive via WhatsApp. In the case of at least one outlet, a news anchor did that a little too well. In the clip below, the anchor can be heard wrapping her report with "sent from a Samsung device." Morsi was elected in June 2012, though military forcibly removed him about a year later. The former president collapsed on Monday while in the midst of a courtroom hearing. The circumstances of Morsi's death have been called into question by rival regimes, including that of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was aligned with Morsi during his brief rule due to both men's links to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, human rights groups have cited Morsi's deteriorating health over the years as the probable cause of this death. It's unclear why the current government, led Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, instructed news outlets to scrub Morsi's presidential history.

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Oracle Issues Emergency Update To Patch Actively Exploited WebLogic Law

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Oracle on Tuesday published an out-of-band update patching a critical code-execution vulnerability in its WebLogic server after researchers warned that the flaw was being actively exploited in the wild. The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-2729, allows an attacker to run malicious code on the WebLogic server without any need for authentication. That capability earned the vulnerability a Common Vulnerability Scoring System score of 9.8 out of 10. The vulnerability is a deserialization attack targeting two Web applications that WebLogic appears to expose to the Internet by default -- wls9_async_response and wls-wsat.war. The flaw in Oracle's WebLogic Java application servers came to light as a zero-day four days ago when it was reported by security firm KnownSec404.

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Fortnite Makers Grilled By UK Politicians Over Game Safety

The makers of Fortnite, one of the most popular video games ever, have been quizzed by member of parliaments in the UK over what measures are taken to protect players of the game. From a report: Epic Games representatives were asked how it ensured users did not spend too much time or money on the game. Legal counsel Canon Pence said this was not something the company currently tracked. This was "extraordinary", said Damian Collins, who chairs the Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee. "You're the one who has responsibility," he said. The committee hearing was called to examine immersive and addictive technologies. Among the concerns raised by MPs were whether Epic Games did enough to verify the age of players or encourage users to take breaks after long periods of gameplay.

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Facebook Content Moderators Break NDAs To Expose Shocking Working Conditions

Three former Facebook content moderators agreed to put themselves in legal jeopardy to expose the appalling working conditions they experienced while employed by a vendor for the tech giant, according to a new report by The Verge. From a report: Workers reported a dirty office environment where they often find pubic hair and bodily waste around their desks. Conditions at the Tampa site are so strenuous that workers regularly put their health in danger, several people told The Verge. One worker kept a trash can by her desk to throw up while she was sick since she had already used all her allotted bathroom breaks. Cognizant is not required to offer sick leave in Florida. One man had a heart attack at his desk and died shortly after, The Verge reported, and the site has not yet gotten a defibrillator. Following an earlier report that uncovered shocking working conditions at the vendor's Phoenix facility, The Verge spoke with 12 current and former Cognizant content moderators in Tampa, Florida. Three of those former workers agreed to break their nondisclosure agreements signed as a condition of employment. The Tampa site is Cognizant's lowest-performing site under the Facebook contract in North America with an accuracy score of 92 compared with Facebook's stated target of 98.

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How Secure Are Zip Files? Senator Wyden Asks NIST To Develop Standards For Safely Sending and Receiving Files

Federal workers and the public in general might be mistaken about the security of .zip files, Sen. Ron Wyden said on Wednesday [PDF], and he's asking the National Institute of Standards and Technology to issue guidance on the best way to send sensitive files over the internet. Wyden wrote: Government agencies routinely share and receive sensitive data through insecure methods -- such as emailing .zip files -- because employees are not provided the tools and training to do so safely. As you know, it is a routine practice in the government, and indeed the private sector, to send by email-protected .zip files containing sensitive documents. Many people incorrectly believe that password-protected .zip files can protect sensitive data. Indeed, many password-protected .zip files can be easily broken with off-the-shelf hacking tools. This is because many of the software programs that create .zip files use a weak encryption algorithm by default. While secure methods to protect and share data exist and are freely available, many people do not know which software they should use. Given the ongoing threat of cyber attacks by foreign state actors and high-profile data breaches, this is a potentially catastrophic national security problem that needs to be fixed. The government must ensure that federal workers have the tools and training they need to safetly share sensitive data. To address this problem, I ask that NIST create and publish an easy-to-understand guide describing the best way for individuals and organizations to securely share sensitive data over the internet.

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