Youtube

Parents Can Now Limit YouTube Kids To Human-Reviewed Channels and Recommendations (techcrunch.com) 12

Google is announcing an expanded series of parental controls for its YouTube Kids application. "The new features will allow parents to lock down the YouTube Kids app so it only displays those channels that have been reviewed by humans, not just algorithms," reports TechCrunch. "And this includes both the content displayed within the app itself, as well as the recommended videos. A later update will allow parents to configure which videos and channels, specifically, can be viewed." From the report: The controls will be opt-in -- meaning parents will have to explicitly turn on the various settings within each child's profile in YouTube Kids' settings. [...] First, videos are uploaded to YouTube's main site. They're then filtered using machine learning techniques through a series of algorithms that determine if they should be added to YouTube Kids' catalog. But algorithms are not people, and they make mistakes. To fill in the gaps in this imperfect system, YouTube Kids relied on parents to flag suspect videos for review. YouTube employs a dedicated team of reviewers for YouTube Kids, but it doesn't say how many people are tasked with this job. This system, parents have felt for some time, just wasn't good enough. Now, parents will be able to toggle on a new setting for "Approved content only," which also disables search. A later version of YouTube Kids will go even further -- allowing parents to select individual videos or channels they approve of, for a truly handpicked selection. The new features in YouTube Kids will roll out over the course of the year, the company says, with everything but the explicit whitelisting option arriving this week.
Television

Cord Cutting Caused By 74 Percent TV Price Hikes Since 2000, Says Report (dslreports.com) 34

A new study by Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence finds that cord cutting is being caused primarily by a 74% increase in customer cable bills since 2000. From a report: That increase is even adjusted for inflation, and it should be noted that individual earnings have seen a modest decline during that same period, making soaring cable rates untenable for many. This affordability gap is "squeezing penetration rates, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households," the research company added. As their chart illustrates, prices for multichannel packages have steadily risen from just below $60 a month in 2000 to close to $100 in 2016. All while incomes remained largely stagnant. As customers grow increasingly angry at cable TV rate hikes and defect to streaming alternatives, most cable operators are simply raising the price of broadband (often via usage caps and overage fees) to try and make up for lost revenue. And because most parts of America still don't really see healthy broadband competition, they can consistently get away with it.
Space

Jeff Bezos Says He Liquidates a $1 Billion of Amazon Stock Every Year To Pay For His Rocket Company Blue Origin (businessinsider.com) 71

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spends a tiny fraction of his net worth to fund Blue Origin, the aerospace company he started in 2000. From a report: For a man worth $127 billion, that tiny fraction amounts to $1 billion a year, which he gets by liquidating Amazon stock, Bezos said at an Axel Springer awards event in Berlin, Germany, hosted by Business Insider's US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell. "The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel," he said in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Dopfner. "Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune." Bezos said he planned to continue funding the company through that annual tradition long into the future. Bezos famously has numerous projects. He runs Amazon, owns The Washington Post, and is working on turning a mansion in Washington, DC, into a single-family home, to name a few. None of these, he said, are as relevant or as worthy of his money as Blue Origin, which he called "the most important work I'm doing."
Robotics

Robot-Launched Weather Balloons in Alaska Hasten Demise of Remote Stations (sciencemag.org) 45

The National Weather Service is choosing automated launchers over human employees to deploy weather balloons in Alaska. From a report: Last Thursday, just before 3 p.m., things began stirring inside the truck-size box that sat among melting piles of snow at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska. Inside, software ran checks on instruments to measure atmospheric temperature, humidity, and pressure; a tray slid into place; and a nozzle began filling a large balloon with gas. Finally, the roof of the box yawned open and a weather balloon took off into the sunny afternoon, instruments dangling. The entire launch was triggered with the touch of a button, 5 kilometers away at an office of the National Weather Service (NWS).

The flight was smooth, just one of hundreds of twice-daily balloon launches around the world that radio back crucial data for weather forecasts. But most of those balloons are launched by people; the robotic launchers, which are rolling out across Alaska, are proving to be controversial. NWS says the autolaunchers will save money and free up staff to work on more pressing matters. But representatives of the employee union question their reliability, and say they will hasten the end of Alaska's remote weather offices, where forecasting duties and hours have already been slashed. "The autolauncher is just another nail in their coffin," says Kimberly Vaughan, a union steward in Juneau.

Once deployed across the state, the $1.2 million machines, built by Finnish company Vaisala, will save about 8 hours of forecaster time a day -- and about $1 million a year at NWS, Susan Buchanan, an NWS spokesperson says.

Education

High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University (npr.org) 411

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor's degree is softening, even as the price -- and the average debt into which it plunges students -- keeps going up. But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor's that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy. "Parents want success for their kids," said Mike Clifton, who teaches machining at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, about 20 miles from Seattle. "They get stuck on [four-year bachelor's degrees], and they're not seeing the shortage there is in tradespeople until they hire a plumber and have to write a check."

In a new report, the Washington State Auditor found that good jobs in the skilled trades are going begging because students are being almost universally steered to bachelor's degrees. Among other things, the Washington auditor recommended that career guidance -- including choices that require less than four years in college -- start as early as the seventh grade. "There is an emphasis on the four-year university track" in high schools, said Chris Cortines, who co-authored the report. Yet, nationwide, three out of 10 high school grads who go to four-year public universities haven't earned degrees within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. At four-year private colleges, that number is more than 1 in 5.

Operating Systems

Ubuntu 18.04 Focuses On Security and AI Improvements (sdtimes.com) 78

Canonical has announced the release of its open-source Linux operating system, Ubuntu 18.04, which features security, multi-cloud, containers, and AI improvements. From a report: "Multi-cloud operations are the new normal," said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical and founder of Ubuntu, in a statement. "Boot-time and performance-optimized images of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on every major public cloud make it the fastest and most efficient OS for cloud computing, especially for storage and compute intensive tasks like machine learning." On-premises and on-cloud AI development within Ubuntu will be improved by the integration of Kubeflow and a range of CI/CD tools into Canonical Kubernetes. Kubeflow is a machine learning library built on Kubernetes.
Education

A Well-Known Expert On Student Loans Is Not Real (chronicle.com) 156

mi shares a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt. But he's a fiction, and "his" site -- an invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

"Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU (the company that owns Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report). Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn't respond to additional inquiries. And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention. Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud "was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the Wordpress website."

China

Chinese Journalist Banned From Flying, Buying Property Due To 'Social Credit Score' (cbslocal.com) 365

schwit1 shares a report from CBS Local: China is rolling out a high-tech plan to give all of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave. But there are consequences if a score gets too low, and for some that's cause for concern. When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere. "I can't buy property. My child can't go to a private school," he said. "You feel you're being controlled by the list all the time." And the list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score -- a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It's believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.
Education

Kazakhstan Is Changing Its Alphabet From Cyrillic To Latin-Based Style Favored By the West (bbc.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant -- and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan's current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population -- a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev's iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it "ugly." The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy'bli'kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes. The BBC article goes on to explain the economics of such a change, citing a restuarant owner that marketed his business using the first version of the alphabet. "All his marketing materials, the labelling on napkin holders and menus, and even the massive sign outside the building will have to be replaced," reports the BBC. "In his attempt to get ahead by launching in the new alphabet, [the owner] had not predicted that the government would revise it. He thinks it will cost about $3,000 to change the spelling of the name on everything to the new version, Sabiz." The full transition to the Latin-based script is expected to be completed by 2025, impacting this owner and many other small business owners.
Crime

Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal (arstechnica.com) 166

The Belgian Gaming Commission has reviewed several big video games and found that randomized loot boxes in at least three of the titles count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation. Ars Technica reports: A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance." Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said. The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country's gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to 800,000EU (~$973,680) and five years in prison, which can be doubled if "minors are involved." But Geens says he wants to start a "dialogue" with loot box providers to "see who should take responsibility where."
Transportation

Ford To Stop Selling Every Car In North America But the Mustang, Focus Active (techcrunch.com) 345

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Ford today announced it will phase out most cars it sells in North America. According to its latest financial release, the auto giant "will transition to two vehicles" -- the Mustang and an unannounced vehicle, the Focus Active, being the only traditional cars it sells in the region. Ford sees 90 percent of its North America portfolio in trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. Citing a reduction in consumer demand and product profitability, Ford is in turn not investing in the next generation of sedans. The Taurus is no more. The press release also talks about a new type of vehicle, though it sounds like a crossover. This so-called white space vehicle will "combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space and versatility." Currently, Ford sells six sedans and coupes in North America: the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, C-Max, Mustang and Taurus. This lineup hits multiple segments, from the compact Fiesta to the mid-size Focus, C-Max and Fusion to the full-size Taurus. The Mustang stands alone as the lone coupe.
Businesses

Trump Meets With Apple's Tim Cook To Talk Trade (reuters.com) 32

New submitter genfail shares a report from Reuters: President Donald Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday to discuss trade issues as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies. Apple, the world's largest technology company, and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world's two largest economies. Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies. U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute.
Medicine

Medicare To Require Hospitals To Post Prices Online (pbs.org) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer. Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don't reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital's payments on how good a job they do. Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced Medicare is starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for a costly new form of immunotherapy called CAR-T. It's an expensive gene therapy that turbocharges a patient's own immune system cells to attack cancer. The cost for such a procedure can exceed $370,000 per patient.
Government

More FISA Orders Were Denied During President Trump's First Year in Office Than in the Court's 40-Year History (zdnet.com) 249

In its first year, the Trump administration kept one little-known courtroom in the capital busy. From a report: A secretive Washington DC-based court that oversees the US government's foreign spy programs denied more surveillance orders during President Donald Trump's first year than in the court's 40-year history, according to newly released figures. Annual data published Wednesday by the US Courts shows that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court last year denied 26 applications in full, and 50 applications in part. That's compared to 21 orders between when the court was first formed in 1978 and President Barack Obama's final year in office in 2016.
Bitcoin

Nasdaq 'Would Consider' Creating a Crypto Exchange, Says CEO (coindesk.com) 37

The CEO of Nasdaq suggested Wednesday that the company could open a cryptocurrency exchange in the future. From a report: The subject came up in an interview with CNBC, during which CEO Adena Friedman expressed openness to the idea. "Certainly Nasdaq would consider becoming a crypto exchange over time," Friedman remarked, adding: "If we do look at it and say 'it's time, people are ready for a more regulated market,' for something that provides a fair experience for investors... I believe that digital currencies will continue to persist it's just a matter of how long it will take for that space to mature. Once you look at it and say, 'do we want to provide a regulated market for this?' Certainly Nasdaq would consider it."
Windows

E-Waste Innovator Will Go To Jail For Making Windows Restore Disks That Only Worked With Valid Licenses (gizmodo.com) 415

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: California man Eric Lundgren, an electronic waste entrepreneur who produced tens of thousands of Windows restore disks intended to extend the lifespan of aging computers, lost a federal appeals court case in Miami after it ruled "he had infringed Microsoft's products to the tune of $700,000," the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Per the Post, the appeals court ruled Lundgren's original sentence of 15 months in prison and a $50,000 fine would stay, despite the software being freely available online and only compatible with valid Windows licenses: "The appeals court upheld a federal district judge's ruling that the disks made by Eric Lundgren to restore Microsoft operating systems had a value of $25 apiece, even though they could be downloaded free and could be used only on computers with a valid Microsoft license. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit initially granted Lundgren an emergency stay of his prison sentence, shortly before he was to surrender, but then affirmed his original 15-month sentence and $50,000 fine without hearing oral argument in a ruling issued April 11." All told, the court valued 28,000 restore disks he produced at $700,000, despite testimony from software expert Glenn Weadock that they were worth essentially zero.
Businesses

EPA Proposes Limits To Science Used In Rulemaking (reuters.com) 310

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule on Tuesday that would limit the kinds of scientific research it can use in crafting regulations, an apparent concession to big business that has long requested such restrictions. Under the new proposals, the EPA will no longer be able to rely on scientific research that is underpinned by confidential medical and industry data. The measure was billed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as a way to boost transparency for the benefit of the industries his agency regulates. But scientists and former EPA officials worry it will hamstring the agency's ability to protect public health by putting key data off limits.

The EPA has for decades relied on scientific research that is rooted in confidential medical and industry data as a basis for its air, water and chemicals rules. While it publishes enormous amounts of research and data to the public, the confidential material is held back. Business interests have argued the practice is tantamount to writing laws behind closed doors and unfairly prevents them from vetting the research underpinning the EPA's often costly regulatory requirements. They argue that if the data cannot be published, the rules should not be adopted. But ex-EPA officials say the practice is vital.

Yahoo!

SEC Issues $35 Million Fine Over Yahoo Failing To Disclose Data Breach (theverge.com) 35

Altaba, the company formerly known as Yahoo, will have to pay a $35 million fine for failing to disclose a 2014 data breach in which hackers stole info on over 500 million accounts. "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that Altaba, which contains Yahoo's remains, agreed to pay the fine to settle charges that it misled investors by not informing them of the hack until September 2016, despite known of it as early as December 2014," reports The Verge. From the report: The SEC goes on to admonish Yahoo for its failure to disclose the breach to investors, saying that the agency wouldn't "second-guess good faith exercises of judgment" but that Yahoo's decisions were "so lacking" that a fine was necessary. Yahoo isn't being fined for having poor security practices, not informing users, or really anything related to the hack happening. The SEC is just mad that investors weren't told about it, because -- as Yahoo even noted in filings to investors -- data breaches can have financial impacts and legal implications. With a breach this large, the SEC believes that was obviously a real risk. "Public companies should have controls and procedures in place to properly evaluate cyber incidents and disclose material information to investors," Jina Choi, director of the SEC's San Francisco Regional Office, said in a statement. The SEC released guidance to public companies on what to disclose about data breaches earlier this year, which could help to avoid similar situations in the future.
AI

CIA Plans To Replace Spies With AI (thenextweb.com) 80

Human spies could soon be relics of the past. Dawn Meyerriecks, CIA's deputy director for technology development, recently told an audience at an intelligence conference in Florida that CIA was adapting to a new landscape where its primary adversary is a machine, not a foreign agent. From a report: Meyerriecks, speaking to CNN after the conference, said other countries have relied on AI to track enemy agents for years. She went on to explain the difficulties encountered by current CIA spies trying to live under an assumed identity in the era of digital tracking and social media, indicating the modern world is becoming an inhospitable environment to human spies. But the CIA isn't about to give up. America's oldest spy agency is transforming from the kind of outfit that sends people around the globe to gather information, to the type that uses computers to accomplish the same task more efficiently. This transition from humans to computers is something the CIA has spent more than 30 years preparing for.
Businesses

Patent 'Death Squad' System Upheld by US Supreme Court (bloomberg.com) 90

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an administrative review system that has helped Google, Apple and other companies invalidate hundreds of issued patents. From a report: The justices, voting 7-2, said Tuesday a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board that critics call a patent "death squad" wasn't unconstitutionally wielding powers that belong to the courts. Silicon Valley companies have used the system as a less-expensive way to ward off demands for royalties, particularly from patent owners derided as "trolls" because they don't use their patents to make products. Drugmakers and independent inventors complain that it unfairly upends what they thought were established property rights. "It came down to this: Is the patent office fixing its own mistakes or is the government taking property?" said Wayne Stacy, a patent lawyer with Baker Botts. "They came down on the side of the patent office fixing its own mistakes." The ruling caused shares to drop in companies whose main source of revenue -- their patents -- are under threat from challenges. VirnetX, which is trying to protect almost $1 billion in damages it won against Apple, dropped as much as 12 percent. The patent office has said its patents are invalid in a case currently before an appeals court.

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