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Google

Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year (cnet.com) 299

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

Crime

Two Teenaged Gamers Plead 'Not Guilty' For Fatal Kansas Swatting Death (reuters.com) 143

Two more men entered pleas in federal court for their roles in a SWAT call that led to a fatal police shooting in Kansas: not guilty. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called "swatting" incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known "swatter"...and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said.

After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged [swatter Tyler] Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment... Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice.

In a jailhouse interview in January, Barriss told a local news team that "Whether you hang me from a tree, or you give me 5, 10, 15 years... I don't think it will ever justify what happened... I hope no one ever does it, ever again. I hope it's something that ceases to exist."

In April, while still in jail, Barriss gained access to the internet then posted "All right, now who was talking shit? >:) Your ass is about to get swatted."
Medicine

The Most Important Study of the Mediterranean Diet Has Been Retracted (qz.com) 114

Zorro shares a report from Quartz: In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a landmark study that found that people put on a Mediterranean diet had a 30% lower chance of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease than people on a low-fat diet. It received massive media and public attention when released, and since has been cited by 3,268 other scientific papers. The study had tremendous impact on the field of nutrition and health science. Yesterday (June 13), however, the journal retracted the study -- providing a new reason for skepticism about how effective the now-popular Mediterranean diet really is.

The reasons for the withdrawal are complicated, having to do with the methodology of the study. As Alison McCook of the Retraction Watch blog writes for NPR, this retraction is the result of the work of John Carlisle, a British anesthesiologist and self-taught statistician. Carlisle has spent recent years analyzing over 5,000 published randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical science research) to see how likely they were to have actually been properly randomized. In 2017, he reported his results: at least 2% of the studies were problematic. One was the 2013 NEJM article on the Mediterranean diet.

Businesses

Verizon's New Phone Plan Proves It Has No Idea What 'Unlimited' Actually Means (gizmodo.com) 157

Verizon has unveiled its third "unlimited" smartphone plan that goes to show just how meaningless the term has become in the U.S. wireless industry. "In addition to its Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans, Verizon is now adding a premium Above Unlimited plan to the mix, which offers 75GB of 'unlimited' data per month (as opposed to the 22GB of 'unlimited' data you get on less expensive plans), along with 20GB of 'unlimited' data when using your phone as a hotspot, 500GB of Verizon cloud storage, and five monthly international Travel Passes, which are daily vouchers that let you use your phone's wireless service abroad the same as if you were in the U.S.," reports Gizmodo. Are you confused yet? From the report: And as if that wasn't bad enough, Verizon has also updated its convoluted sliding pricing scheme that adjusts based on how many phones are on a single bill. For families with four lines of service, the Above Unlimited cost $60 per person, but if you're a single user the same service costs $95, which really seems like bullshit because if everything is supposed to be unlimited, it shouldn't really make a difference how many people are on the same bill. As a small concession to flexibility, Verizon says families with multiple lines can now mix and match plans instead of having to choose a single plan for every line, which should allow families to choose the right service for an individual person's needs and help keep costs down. The new Above Unlimited plan and the company's mix-and-match feature arrives next week on June 18th.
AT&T

AT&T Completes $85 Billion Time Warner Acquisition (axios.com) 86

AT&T on Thursday evening said that it has completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, just two days after a judge ruled that the deal, originally announced two years ago, could proceed over objections from U.S. antitrust regulators. From a report: The Department of Justice did not file for an emergency stay of the judge's ruling, per the judge's request, but still reserves the right to appeal. In a statement, Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T said moving forward his company will bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers. "The content and creative talent at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner are first-rate. Combine all that with AT&T's strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," he said.
Media

The End of Video Coding? (medium.com) 137

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix's engineering team has an insightful post today that looks at how the industry is handling video coding; the differences in their methodologies; and the challenges new comers face. An excerpt, which sums up where we are:

"MPEG-2, VC1, H.263, H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC, VP9, AV1 -- all of these standards were built on the block-based hybrid video coding structure. Attempts to veer away from this traditional model have been unsuccessful. In some cases (say, distributed video coding), it was because the technology was impractical for the prevalent use case. In most other cases, however, it is likely that not enough resources were invested in the new technology to allow for maturity.

"Unfortunately, new techniques are evaluated against the state-of-the-art codec, for which the coding tools have been refined from decades of investment. It is then easy to drop the new technology as "not at-par." Are we missing on better, more effective techniques by not allowing new tools to mature? How many redundant bits can we squeeze out if we simply stay on the paved path and iterate on the same set of encoding tools?"

Television

The Internet Is Finally Going To Be Bigger Than TV Worldwide (qz.com) 60

According to estimates from media agency Zenith, next year, for the first time, people will spend more time using the internet than watching TV. People will spend an average of 170.6 minutes a day, or nearly three hours, using the internet in 2019. That's a tad more than the 170.3 minutes they're expected to spend watching TV. Quartz reports: Zenith measured media by how they are transmitted or distributed, such as broadcasts via TV signals and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web through platforms like Netflix and YouTube, or reading a newspaper's website, counted as internet consumption. Nearly one-quarter of all media consumption across the globe will be through mobile this year, up from 5% in 2011. The average person will spend a total of about eight hours per day consuming media in its many forms this year, Zenith forecasts.

In some parts of the world, TV will remain on top -- for now. Zenith forecasted media consumption through 2020 and did not expect the internet to overtake TV in Europe, Latin America, and the whole of North America in that time. In the U.S., it was projected to surpass TV in the U.S. in two years.

KDE

KDE Plasma 5.13 Released (kde.org) 94

jrepin writes: KDE unveils the final release of Plasma 5.13, the free and open-source desktop environment. Members of the Plasma team have focused on optimizing startup and minimizing memory usage. Plasma Browser Integration is a suite of new features which make Firefox, Chrome and Chromium-based browsers work with your desktop. For example, downloads are now displayed in the Plasma notification popup, and the Media Controls Plasmoid can mute and skip videos and music playing from within the browser. Browser tabs can be opened directly using KRunner via the Alt-Space keyboard shortcut. System Settings design has been improved further. Window manager gained much-improved effects for blur and desktop switching. Wayland work continued, with the return of window rules, and initial support for screencasts and desktop sharing. You can view the changelog here.
Businesses

Judge Rules AT&T Can Acquire Time Warner (wsj.com) 172

A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros. From a report: U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced his decision in a packed courtroom, ruling that antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department had not proven their case against the merger. The decision, in one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades, is a milestone victory for AT&T as it looks to reposition itself in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Its deal for Time Warner, valued at roughly $80 billion, has been pending since October 2016. The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation's top pay-TV distributor, through its ownership of DirecTV, as well as the owner of some of the country's most sought-after channels: Time Warner's Turner networks -- including CNN, TBS and TNT -- as well as HBO, the most popular U.S. premium network.
Facebook

Facebook Offers Nearly 500 Pages of Answers To Congress' Questions From Zuckerberg's Testimony (washingtonpost.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: Facebook pledged to continue refining its privacy practices and investigating its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica in nearly 500 pages of new information supplied to Congress and published Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) -- though the social giant sidestepped some of lawmakers' most critical queries. Much as it did during the hearing, Facebook told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that it is reviewing all apps available on its platform that had access to large queries of data, a process that already has resulted in 200 suspensions.

Facebook did acknowledge that its consultants embedded in 2016 presidential campaigns, including President Trump's team, "did not identify any issues involving the improper use of Facebook data in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica." In another exchange, Facebook said it had provided "technical support and best practices guidance to advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, on using Facebook's advertising tools." Facebook also pointed to new tools meant to address its privacy practices, including a feature called Clear History, which "will enable people to see the websites and apps that send us information when they use them, delete this information from their accounts, and turn off our ability to store it associated with their accounts going forward," the company said.
The social network did continue to sidestep many of the lawmakers' questions and concerns. The Washington Post provides a couple examples: "Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.), for example, probed whether Facebook had ever learned of any application developer 'transferring or selling user data without user consent' and in violation of Facebook's policies. In response, Facebook only committed in writing that it would 'investigate all apps that it had access to large amounts of data.'"

Facebook also didn't address Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's concerns. He asked Facebook to detail if the Obama campaign in 2012 had violated "any of Facebook's policies, and thereby get banned from the platform." Facebook said: "Both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook."

You can view the nearly 500 pages of new information here.
Patents

Inventor Says Google Is Patenting His Public Domain Work (arstechnica.com) 164

Rob Riggs writes: Jarek Duda, the inventor of a compression technique called asymmetric numeral systems (ANS), dedicated the invention to the public domain. Since 2014, Facebook, Apple, and Google have all created software based on his breakthrough. Google is now trying to patent a video encoding scheme using the compression technique. The inventor is fighting Google in the European courts and has won a preliminary ruling. The fight's not over and Google is also seeking a patent with the USPTO. A Google spokesperson says Duda came up with a theoretical concept that isn't directly patentable, "while Google's lawyers are seeking to patent a specific application of that theory that reflects additional work by Google's engineers," reports Ars Technica. "But Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in a 2014 email exchange with Google engineers."
Technology

Radio Reporter Who Lost Voice Returns To Air Using App Built From Archived Audio (ajc.com) 45

McGruber writes: Jamie Dupree had been a radio reporter from 1983 until the Spring of 2016, when he lost his voice. His official diagnosis is a rare neurological condition known as "Tongue Protrusion Dystonia" -- for some unknown reason when he tries to talk, his tongue pushes forward out of his mouth, and his throat clenches, leading to a voice that is strangled and strained, as it is a struggle to string together more than a few words at a time. Dupree's plight attracted the attention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who went to the floor of the House and delivered a speech that publicized Dupree's voice troubles and the lack of answers. Other reporters wrote stories about Dupree and people inside his company, Cox Media Group, tried to find a high tech solution to get him back on the air. They eventually found a Scottish company named CereProc which agreed to sift through years of Dupree's archived audio to build a voice -- which, when paired with a text-to-speech application -- would sound like Dupree and get him back on the radio.

Dupree writes that the app works and will allow him to "talk" on the radio again. Starting next week, he will again provide stories to news-talk radio stations and be back on the air in hourly newscasts.

Businesses

Amazon Slammed for Destroying As-New and Returned Goods (fortune.com) 209

Amazon is destroying "massive amounts" of as-new and returned items, raising the ire of the German government and environmental campaigners, local media reported. Fortune: The types of items being destroyed here go way beyond the "health and personal care" products that Amazon has long been destroying when people return them, for sanitary reasons. We're talking things like washing machines, smartphones and furniture. The revelation drew an angry response from the German government and environmental campaigners. "This is a huge scandal," Jochen Flasbarth from the German environment ministry told WirtschaftsWoche. "We are consuming these resources despite all the problems in the world. This approach is not in step with our times." Greenpeace's Kirsten Brodde said there was a need for a new "law on banning the waste and destruction of first-hand and usable goods."
Television

Next Year, People Will Spend More Time Online Than They Will Watching TV. That's a First. (recode.net) 74

Rani Molla, writing for Recode: It's finally happening: Next year, people around the world will spend more time online than they do watching TV, according to new data from measurement company Zenith. In 2019, people are expected to spend an average of 170.6 minutes each day on online activities like watching videos on YouTube, sharing photos on Facebook and shopping on Amazon. They'll spend slightly less time -- 170.3 minutes -- watching TV. The global transition from TV to internet as the main entertainment medium was a long time coming, but it also happened faster than expected. Last year, Zenith predicted that TV would still be more popular in 2019 but has since revised its estimates.
United Kingdom

Digital IDs Needed To End 'Mob Rule' Online, Says UK's Security Minister (independent.co.uk) 510

Digital IDs should be brought in to end online anonymity that permits "mob rule" and lawlessness online, the security minister of United Kingdom has said. From a report: Ben Wallace said authentication used by banks could also by employed by internet firms to crack down on bullying and grooming, as he warned that people had to make a choice between "the wild west or a civilised society" online. He also took aim at the "phoniness" of Silicon Valley billionaires, and called for companies such as WhatsApp to contribute to society over the negative costs of their technology, such as end-to-end encryption. It comes after Theresa May took another step against tech giants, saying they would be ordered to clamp down on vile attacks against women on their platforms. The prime minister will target firms such as Facebook and Twitter as she makes the pitch at the G7 summit this weekend, where she will urge social media firms to treat violent misogyny with the same urgency as they do terror threats. Mr Wallace told The Times: "A lot of the bullying on social media and the grooming is because those people know you cannot identify them. It is mob rule on the internet. You shouldn't be able to hide behind anonymity."
Technology

The One-Name Email, a Silicon Valley Status Symbol, Is Wreaking Havoc (wsj.com) 255

In Silicon Valley, first-name-only email addresses have long been the ultimate status symbol, indicating a techie was an early hire at a new company. Now that startups are growing, the one-namers are wreaking havoc -- and the competition to snag them is fierce. From a report on WSJ: When Peter Szabo heard he and his co-workers would receive new email addresses after his tech company was launched from an incubator, he ran to his boss and confirmed he would get the "Peter" first-name email address. After years of failing to arrive at companies early enough to bag the prized address, Mr. Szabo negotiated getting the single-name email at the earliest opportunity. "As companies get bigger, if you can be the original Peter, absolutely that's bragging rights," said Mr. Szabo, who is chief revenue officer of mobile-entertainment network startup Mammoth Media. "It's huge."

[...] Startups are growing faster than at any time since the dot-com boom thanks to a flood of venture capital. The system of using first names is leading to more email misfires at tech companies the more successful, and larger, they get. {...] Even techies are having a hard time figuring out how to disrupt the naming convention of corporate email. The growing pains usually set in when startups reach 25 to 50 employees, as names begin to overlap, according to Josh Walter, who has designed email services for companies for the past eight years. "That's when companies say, 'Oh no, what do we do now?'" Mr. Walter says. He is currently IT engineer at Second Measure, a Silicon Valley startup that analyzes consumer spending.

Medicine

Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Seeks Investors For New Company (vanityfair.com) 108

There's a new surprise from the Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou (author of the Theranos expose Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup). An anonymous reader shares Vanity Fair's summary of their newest podcast interview: According to Carreyrou, Holmes is currently waltzing around Silicon Valley, meeting with investors, hoping to raise money for an entirely new start-up idea. (My mouth dropped when I heard that, too....) I'm sure she will somehow succeed in convincing someone to hand over millions of dollars, especially if venture capitalists like Tim Draper (an early Theranos investor) are still out there saying the stories by Carreyrou were wrong (they weren't), and that Holmes was on the precipice of saving the world (she wasn't) before the media came after her.

You would think that seeing Holmes's duplicity wrapped up in a neat bow in Carreyrou's book, and in the S.E.C. settlement -- which, incidentally, mentions the term "fraud" seven times -- would force Silicon Valley to perform its own due diligence, and question whether the way C.E.O.s, investors, and the media interact should be re-evaluated. But alas, the tech world doesn't see Theranos as a tech company, but rather a biotech outlier... Of course, there is still a major criminal investigation underway by the F.B.I., one that could end with Holmes behind bars.

Carreyou tells another interviewer that Theranos "is a cautionary tale about the hubris in the Valley... there's certainly a lot of innovation there, but there's also an unbelievable amount of arrogance and pretending."
Government

Two Quantum Computing Bills Are Coming To Congress (gizmodo.com) 76

Quantum computing has made it to the United States Congress. "Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world, and we cannot afford to fall behind," said Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in a statement passed to Gizmodo. "We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology -- our future depends on it." From the report: The bill introduced by Harris in the Senate focuses on defense, calling for the creation of a consortium of researchers selected by the Chief of Naval Research and the Director of the Army Research Laboratory. The consortium would award grants, assist with research, and facilitate partnerships between the members. Another, yet-to-be-introduced bill, seen in draft form by Gizmodo, calls for a 10-year National Quantum Initiative Program to set goals and priorities for quantum computing in the US; invest in the technology; and partner with academia and industry. An office within the Department of Energy would coordinate the program. Another group would include members from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate research and education activity between agencies. Furthermore, the draft bill calls for the establishment of up to five Quantum Information Science research centers, as well as two multidisciplinary National Centers for Quantum Research and Education.
Businesses

The Gig Economy is Actually Smaller Than It Used To Be, Labor Department Says (marketwatch.com) 64

The so-called gig economy is actually slightly smaller than it used to be, according to a new Labor Department report released Thursday that chronicles the jobs market in the age of Uber. From a report: In May 2017, the Labor Department counted 5.9 million people, or 3.8% of workers, in what it calls contingent jobs, which are those that the workers don't expect to last or that workers call temporary. In 2005, the last time the government looked into the issue, there were 4.1% of workers who classified themselves this way. "Taken at face value, the results indicate that the role of non-traditional work arrangements in the U.S. economy has remained largely unchanged during the past 20 years, even as excitement and media coverage of the growth of the 'gig economy' has increased," said Brian Schaitkin, senior economist for The Conference Board.
Facebook

Facebook Confirms Data-Sharing Deals With Chinese Tech Firms (wsj.com) 39

Facebook confirmed this week that it struck data partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics firms, including Huawei, a telecommunications-equipment maker that U.S. officials view as a potential tool for state-sponsored spying. WSJ: The four partnerships are among the roughly 60 that Facebook struck with device manufacturers starting in 2007 so they could recreate the Facebook service on their devices, a Facebook spokeswoman said. As of Tuesday, more than half of those partnerships have been wound down, the spokeswoman added. The social-media company said it plans to wind down its data-sharing partnership with Huawei by the end of the week. It isn't clear when Facebook will end partnerships with the three other companies: Lenovo, the world's largest personal-computer maker; Oppo, a smartphone maker; and Chinese electronics conglomerate TCL.

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