Tuesday, 20 August

18:00 EDT

Apple TV+ and Disney+ will both launch in November, but Apple will be pricier [Ars Technica]

A man in business casual gives a presentation in front of a monstrous video screen.

Enlarge / Tim Cook announces Apple TV+ at an event on March 25, 2019. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Disney earlier this year announced that it will launch its Disney+ streaming TV service on November 12 in the United States for $6.99 per month. Yesterday, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman published a report claiming that Apple's competing TV service, Apple TV+, will also launch in November, but likely at $9.99.

Both companies are entering an increasingly crowded streaming TV landscape that already includes the likes of HBO, Netflix, CBS, Showtime, and Starz, among others, and will soon see other major entries like HBO Max, offerings from AT&T, and offerings from NBC Universal.

According to the Bloomberg report, which cites people familiar with Apple's plans, Apple TV+ will launch with a "small selection of shows," including The Morning Show, Amazing Stories, See, Truth Be Told, and a documentary series about houses called Home. Apple is still mulling over prices, the report says, but is leaning toward $9.99.

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Facebook audit of alleged anti-conservative bias fails to pinpoint any [Ars Technica]

A Facebook logo and a phone running Facebook.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Following years of accusations that it stifles right-wing speech, Facebook has published an audit failing to show any particular anti-conservative bias, and some conservatives are furious.

Law firm Covington & Burling LLP conducted the audit under the auspices of former Sen. John Kyl, a Republican who served in the US Senate representing Arizona from 1995-2013 and again for several months in 2018 following the death of Republican Sen. John McCain. The interim report (PDF), released today, seeks to reconcile the different ways Facebook sorts and presents content to its billions of users with users' perception of biased or quashed material.

Conservative politicians have for years been complaining that Facebook suppresses right-wing speech, despite nonpartisan data showing that conservative outlet Fox News is far and away the biggest English-language publisher on Facebook by user engagement. Fellow right-wing outlets Daily Wire and Breitbart also feature prominently among the top sites by engagement, mixed in among mainstream news outlets such as NBC, the BBC, CBS, and The New York Times.

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With Artemis, NASA at risk of repeating Apollo mistakes, scientist warns [Ars Technica]

The surface of the Moon as seen from Apollo 11 while in lunar orbit.

Enlarge / The surface of the Moon as seen from Apollo 11 while in lunar orbit. (credit: NASA)

In the nearly five months that have passed since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the Moon by 2024, the space agency has made significant progress toward that goal.

During this time and under the leadership of administrator Jim Bridenstine, the agency has let contracts for both the elements of the Lunar Gateway, the small space station that will follow a distant orbit around the Moon. NASA has also begun to solicit ideas from industry about their designs for a three-stage lunar lander, upon which construction could begin sometime in 2020. The agency is also soliciting cargo deliveries to the Moon.

These are big steps, and getting a large agency like NASA moving quickly is difficult. For all of this, however, there are storm clouds on the horizon. Most obviously, there is the matter of paying for the Artemis Program to put humans on the Moon—the US House did not including funding for this effort in its preliminary fiscal year 2020 budget, and the Senate has yet to draft a budget. If there is not additional funding, NASA cannot give industry funds to go and do the work.

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The Matrix 4 is officially happening with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss [Ars Technica]

We assume the next Matrix film's title will be different than this. But will it be better? After "Reloaded" and "Revolutions," well, we don't know.

Enlarge / We assume the next Matrix film's title will be different than this. But will it be better? After "Reloaded" and "Revolutions," well, we don't know. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

It's official: the Matrix film series is coming back with a fourth numbered entry. And it will see the return of original trilogy stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss to their respective roles as Neo and Trinity.

Lana Wachowski, who served as co-writer and co-director for all three original trilogy films alongside sibling Lilly, has been confirmed as the sole Wachowski family member (so far) in the writer/director chair. Wachowski will be joined by Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell as co-writers, whose names will likely be familiar to Wachowski fans. Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas was eventually developed into a feature-length film by the Wachowskis, while Mitchell and Hemon co-wrote much of the Wachowski-helmed Netflix series Sense8.

Warner Bros. Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich on Tuesday gave an official statement on the matter, telling Variety, "We could not be more excited to be re-entering The Matrix with Lana... We are thrilled that she is writing, directing and producing this new chapter in The Matrix universe." In the same report, Wachowski told Variety, "Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now. I'm very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends."

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Google Launches Android Studio 3.5 With Improved Memory Settings, Build Speed, and Apply Changes [Slashdot]

Google today launched Android Studio 3.5, the latest version of its integrated development environment (IDE), with a specific focus on "product quality." From a report: This release is the last one under Project Marble, a fancy name for an initiative Google announced late last year to improve Android Studio. For eight months, the team focused "on making the fundamental features and flows of Android Studio & Emulator rock-solid." All the improvements were either to system health, feature polish, or bug fixes. To improve system health, Google created a new set of infrastructure and internal dashboards to better detect performance problems. The team ultimately fixed over 600 bugs, 50 memory leaks, and 20 IDE hangs, and improved XML & Kotlin typing latency. For the Android Emulator, the team decreased the CPU and memory impact. The team also took a look at app deployment flow to a device, replacing Instant Run with Apply Changes. The new system no longer modifies an APK during your build. Instead, it uses runtime instrumentation to redefine classes on the fly.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

This footage of New York in 1993 will make you miss New York in 1993 [Boing Boing]

Manhattan in the early nineties, captured on what must have at the time been an unusually high-def camera.

The uploader of this incredible archival B-roll footage said to be of New York in 1993 says they captured it off of “a D-Theater HD DVHS Demo Tape by techmoan.com.

It's pretty incredible.

I miss this NYC.

Amazing cosplay art: V, from 'Cyberpunk 2077' [Boing Boing]

This cosplay project of V, from 'Cyberpunk 2077' is absolutely incredible, and was shared in two parts online by its creator, @aelirenn.

The work in progress is here, and the finished result is here.

Cyberpunk 2077 jacket WIP

My V from Cyberpunk 2077

Interactive map traces the history of electronic music [Boing Boing]

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music traces the history of electronic music from the early 1900s to the present through a timeline/map that has links to playlists to different subgenres.

Instagram influencer says photos of her motorcycle accident were not staged and did not include product placement [Boing Boing]

It sucks to be in a motorcycle accident, as Instagram influencer tifforelie was. She documented the accident by posting a series of professionally-shot photos of her lying in the road, one of which prominently displayed a bottle of Smartwater. The photos have since been deleted, but can be found here on Buzzfeed.

Buzzfeed editor Tanya Chen tweeted that tifforelie "denied to me that the Smartwater featured in one of the professional photos is a brand endorsement" and that "Smartwater confirmed to me they 'do not have a paid relationship with Tiffany.'" That settles it!

Ex-MLB Players Luis Castillo, Octavio Dotel Linked To Alleged Dominican Drug Lord [News : NPR]

Octavio Dotel, then a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, seen during a 2007 game. Dominican Republic authorities arrested the former MLB player, saying both he and ex-infielder Luis Castillo were linked with an alleged drug trafficker.

The Dominican attorney general said Tuesday that the former professional baseball players supported a drug running and money laundering network led by César Emilio Peralta.

(Image credit: Charlie Riedel/AP)

The Twitter Emoji Mashup Bot is now available as free iMessage stickers [The Verge - All Posts]

One of Twitter’s best accounts, the Emoji Mashup Bot — which smushes together two or three random emojis to generate a hybrid emoji every hour — has just released a free iMessage sticker pack. Although the bot, created by 18-year-old student Louan Bengmah, has created countless combinations since it was created in July, the iMessage sticker pack is limited to a select choice of 29 very good emoji.

Here’s one for when you’re crying in the club:

One to use when you’re blasting Old Town Road in the car on your way to the Area 51 raid:

...

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Sony pulls Spider-Man out of the MCU over profit-sharing dispute with Disney [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has pulled out of producing future Spider-Man movies, due to disputes between Sony — which still holds the rights to the character — and Marvel’s parent company Disney over revenue sharing from films starring the web-slinging hero, according to a report from Deadline.

The news means that Spider-Man’s appearances in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe films — as well as crossovers from characters like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in future Spider-Man films — could end with Spider-Man: Far From Home, released earlier this summer.

According to Deadline’s sources, the issue is money: Disney reportedly asked that future Spider-Man films be 50...

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YouTube will reportedly halt targeted ads for videos that appeal to kids [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by William Joel / The Verge

YouTube is “finalizing plans” to end targeted advertising on its main site for uploaded videos that children are likely to watch, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The move could be meant to appease regulators at the Federal Trade Commission who have examined whether YouTube has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) through data collection and a failure to protect young users on the platform.

A study by Pew Research has found that videos featuring children under 13 receive on average three times as many views as other videos.

In July, it was reported that the FTC reached a settlement with Google over the matter, with YouTube’s parent company expected to pay a “multimillion-dollar fine.” But the exact...

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Walmart sues Tesla over several solar panel fires caused by ‘negligence’ [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

Malfunctioning Tesla solar panels started fires at “no fewer than” seven Walmart stores, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, the retail giant alleges in a new lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court Tuesday. The lawsuit was first reported by Bloomberg.

Walmart alleges that “years of gross negligence” and “failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla” sparked the blazes and led at least seven locations to close temporarily over the last seven years. Representatives for Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla has installed solar panels at more than 240 Walmart locations,...

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Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss are making a fourth Matrix movie [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. has just announced a fourth film in the Matrix series, with original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss set to reprise their iconic roles as Neo and Trinity, respectively. Lana Wachowski is set to write and direct the sequel.

The news comes after rumors earlier this year from John Wick: Chapter 3 director Chad Stahelski that the Wachowski sisters were working on a new installment in the franchise. But rumors about a new Matrix film have been swirling practically since the third installment — The Matrix Revolutions — was released in 2003.

That said, it appears that only Lana Wachowski is returning for the upcoming film, with her sister Lilly (who co-directed and co-wrote the original three films)...

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17:00 EDT

IBM is Moving OpenPower Foundation To The Linux Foundation [Slashdot]

IBM makes the Power Series chips, and as part of that has open sourced some of the underlying technologies to encourage wider use of these chips. The open source pieces have been part of the OpenPower Foundation. Today, the company announced it was moving the foundation under The Linux Foundation, and while it was at it, announced it was open sourcing several other important bits. From a report: Ken King, general manager for OpenPower at IBM, says that at this point in his organization's evolution, they wanted to move it under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. But IBM didn't stop there. It also announced that it was open sourcing some of the technical underpinnings of the Power Series chip to make it easier for developers and engineers to build on top of the technology. Perhaps most importantly, the company is open sourcing the Power Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). These are "the definitions developers use for ensuring hardware and software work together on Power," the company explained. King sees open sourcing this technology as an important step for a number of reasons around licensing and governance. "The first thing is that we are taking the ability to be able to implement what we're licensing, the ISA instruction set architecture, for others to be able to implement on top of that instruction set royalty free with patent rights," he explained. The company is also putting this under an open governance workgroup at the OpenPower Foundation.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NASA Mission To Jupiter Moon Europa Moves Step Closer To Launch [Slashdot]

A NASA mission to explore the most tantalizing of Jupiter's 79 moons has been given the green light to proceed to the final stages of development. From a report: Europa -- which is slightly smaller than our own moon -- has long been considered a possible candidate in the hunt for alien life. Evidence suggests there is an ocean below the moon's thick, icy crust that might be tens of miles deep. Scientists believe this body of water could contain the right chemical cocktail for life and could even be home to some form of living organisms. Europa appears to have the hat-trick of conditions needed to kick off life: water, possibly chemistry, and energy in the form of tidal heating, a phenomenon arising from gravitational tugs acting on the moon. This could not only drive chemical reactions but also aid movement of chemical substances between rock, surface and ocean, possibly through hydrothermal vents. It is proposed that the NASA mission, named Europa Clipper, will make a number of close flybys -- it cannot orbit the moon as Jupiter's radiation belt would fry its electronics -- carrying cameras and intruments to measure the moon's magnetic field. The mission will look for subsurface lakes and provide data on the thickness of the moon's icy crust. The team also hope to confirm the presence of plumes of water, previously detected by NASA's Galileo spacecraft and the Hubble space telescope. If confirmed, it would mean scientists would not need to find a way of hacking through the moon's icy crust to explore the makeup of the ocean.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Trump tweets anti-Jewish slur: 'Great Disloyalty' [Boing Boing]

This is what anti-Semitism looks like.

Donald Trump, the illegitimate, popular-vote-losing President of the United States, tweeted a new wacky and wrong thing today that is also manifestly anti-Semitic.

In response to a question about Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Donald Trump said today:

“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – i think it shows either a total lack of knowledge, or great disloyalty.”

That's right, the Jews are disloyal.

Where have we heard that before? I wonder.

Video: The Washington Post.

Soldering without a soldering iron [Boing Boing]

My friend and former Make magazine colleague Sean Michael Ragan is making videos for my Cool Tools YouTube channel. (Subscribe to the channel here!) In his latest video, Sean reviews something called Solder Seals, which allow you to solder wires together without using a soldering iron.

Semper Fur: fursuit technician improves military cooling vest and troops are into it [Boing Boing]

Furry fans sometimes use cooling vests to make hot fursuits comfortable to wear. Soldiers also have need for such garments. And now a Dutch fursuit maker has improved the state of the art.

Tired of overheating in his own fursuit, Pepeyn Langedijk adapted a military cooling vest to his own ends to create the EZ Cooldown vest. Langedijk, a resident of the Netherlands, goes by “EZ Wolf” in lupine costume and named his invention after his character.

Langedijk and his husband Tom live in Amsterdam and run the EZ Cooldown business together full-time. They met during Elfia, a medieval fantasy reenactment fair, and their hobbies led them to test their product on themselves. The team told The Daily Beast that they sold more than a thousand vests in 2018, which each retail for $215, packs included. Roughly 80 percent of the company’s sales are to U.S. customers.

The pair don’t have official military contracts, but they told The Daily Beast that a small group of U.S. Navy troops in Japan reached out to EZ Cooldown three years ago to ask if the company could ship to military bases. The service members ended up buying 10 vests, then their friends bought 20, then 30, Langedijk said. He still doesn’t know how they heard of his product.

16:00 EDT

AT&T brings cable TV prices to online streaming with $135 monthly plan [Ars Technica]

An AT&T logo seen on the outside of a building.

Enlarge / An AT&T store in Chicago. (credit: Getty Images | jetcityimage)

AT&T is now charging up to $135 a month for the online video service formerly known as DirecTV Now.

DirecTV Now launched in 2016 with plans ranging from $35 to $70 a month for 60 to 120 channels. There have been several price increases and a reduction in the number of channels since, resulting in AT&T offering just two packages of $50 a month for 45 channels and $70 a month for 60 channels.

This week, AT&T completed the name change from DirecTV Now to "AT&T TV Now." The $50 and $70 plans still exist, but AT&T TV Now customers can also get 65 channels for $93 a month, 85 channels for $110, 105 channels for $124, or 125 channels for $135. There's also a Spanish-language plan called Óptimo Más with 90 channels for $86 a month.

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Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students' Essays [Slashdot]

Fooled by gibberish and highly susceptible to human bias, automated essay-scoring systems are being increasingly adopted, a Motherboard investigation has found. From a report: Every year, millions of students sit down for standardized tests that carry weighty consequences. National tests like the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) serve as gatekeepers to higher education, while state assessments can determine everything from whether a student will graduate to federal funding for schools and teacher pay. Traditional paper-and-pencil tests have given way to computerized versions. And increasingly, the grading process -- even for written essays -- has also been turned over to algorithms. Natural language processing (NLP) artificial intelligence systems -- often called automated essay scoring engines -- are now either the primary or secondary grader on standardized tests in at least 21 states, according to a survey conducted by Motherboard. Three states didn't respond to the questions. Of those 21 states, three said every essay is also graded by a human. But in the remaining 18 states, only a small percentage of students' essays -- it varies between 5 to 20 percent -- will be randomly selected for a human grader to double check the machine's work. But research from psychometricians -- professionals who study testing -- and AI experts, as well as documents obtained by Motherboard, show that these tools are susceptible to a flaw that has repeatedly sprung up in the AI world: bias against certain demographic groups. And as a Motherboard experiment demonstrated, some of the systems can be fooled by nonsense essays with sophisticated vocabulary. Essay-scoring engines don't actually analyze the quality of writing. They're trained on sets of hundreds of example essays to recognize patterns that correlate with higher or lower human-assigned grades. They then predict what score a human would assign an essay, based on those patterns.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Elizabeth Warren has a plan to reform "Heirs' Property," which allows wealthy white property developers to steal Black family homes [Boing Boing]

Heirs' property is a relic of post-Reconstruction law, which allows white developers to exploit the diffuse ownership of Black family homes to steal them and kick out the people who live there.

Following on an in-depth Propublica investigation into heirs' property title-thefts, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has included heirs' property reform in her ambitious agriculture plan.

In her plan, Warren pledged to end policies that have perpetuated this discrimination and to help these families of color preserve their ownership, build wealth and gain access to sustainable livelihoods. Specifically, she promised to fully fund a relending program laid out in the 2018 Farm Bill, which would provide loans to heirs’ property owners to clear their titles and consolidate ownership. She announced that she would prioritize funding lending organizations in states that have enacted the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act, legislation that expands heirs’ rights to their property.

Warren said she plans to further address the wider needs of heirs’ property owners, who struggle to qualify for U.S. Department of Agriculture loans, disaster relief and housing assistance when they lack a clear title. Her plan would allow heirs’ property owners who want to access farm loans to present alternative documentation to the USDA. In addition, those in need of other forms of federal assistance could use such documentation to access loans through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Elizabeth Warren Announces Plans to Help Heirs’ Property Owners [Lizzie Presser/Propublica]

Adding pink seaweed to cow feed eliminates their methane emissions [Boing Boing]

One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions.

Asparagopsis grows on the coast of Australia, and cows actually seek it out and eat it without encouragement. Replacing 2% of cows' feed with Asparagopsis is sufficient to end their methane production.

Researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast are trying to ramp up Asparagopsis production to scale to meet a potential global market for it.

The USC team is working at the Bribie Island Research Centre in Moreton Bay to learn more about how to grow the seaweed species, with the goal of informing a scale-up of production that could supplement cow feed on a national—and even global scale.

“This seaweed has caused a lot of global interest and people around the world are working to make sure the cows are healthy, the beef and the milk are good quality,” Dr. Paul said.

“That’s all happening right now. But the one missing step, the big thing that is going to make sure this works at a global scale, is to make sure we can produce the seaweed sustainably.

Burp-free cow feed drives seaweed science at USC [University of the Sunshine Coast]

(via Kottke)

A free/open tool for making XKCD-style "hand-drawn" charts [Boing Boing]

Tim Qian, a "full stack developer and open source activist," has published chart.xkcd, a free/open tool that lets you create interactive, "hand-drawn" charts in the style of XKCD comics. It's pretty fabulous! (via Four Short Links)

OpenAI releases larger GPT-2 dataset. Can it write fake news better than a human? [Boing Boing]

OpenAI has released a more extensive version of its generative language model.

We’re releasing the 774 million parameter GPT-2 language model after the release of our small 124M model in February ...

2. Humans can be convinced by synthetic text. Research from our research partners Sarah Kreps and Miles McCain at Cornell published in Foreign Affairs says people find GPT-2 synthetic text samples almost as convincing (72% in one cohort judged the articles to be credible) as real articles from the New York Times (83%). Additionally, research from AI2/UW has shown that news written by a system called “GROVER” can be more plausible than human-written propaganda. These research results make us generally more cautious about releasing language models

Blockquoted below is something I just had it make (using Talk to Transformer, which has been updated with the new dataset.)

I wrote the first (bolded) paragraph. GPT-2 wrote the rest.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and United States Senator Hillary Clinton was arrested today and charged on four counts of conspiracy, one count of fraud, and one count of lying to Federal investigators.

The details of the case are detailed below.

A Brief Overview of the Case

On June 2, 2014, Clinton (pictured) admitted to FBI agents that, on June 23, 2013, she, and others, had conspired with other political figures to take "official action" in response to a series of negative articles which she wrote in the Washington Times and other outlets.

The following is a summary of Clinton's admission:

Secretary Clinton used the Washington Post as her de facto personal email account and for the official State Department email account. It is important to note that the Federal Records Act (FRA) requires, as a condition for releasing government records, that the subject matter of the records be protected from public disclosure. The State Department records in question pertained to public and official business conducted in the United States Government. The FBI's investigation revealed that on July 2, 2009, Secretary Clinton sent

Hillary Clinton of The Washington Times! GPT-2 has a better sense of humor than any fake news I ever read.

This is amazing generative prose. But it's still not as good as anything even the dumbest human grifters can and do churn out. No-one familiar with newswriting tropes would be convinced for a second, and I suspect that even the legendary Facebook Boomers are harder to fool than the hype suggests.

The danger of GPT-2 is not fake news as sharable, influential longform but as social media chum in brief: imagine a flood of more convincing bots making human actions harder to measure, goosing the "engagement" of emotionally vulnerable users while deflating the value of those interactions. This is the more straightforward "problem" presented by advanced machine bullshit.

Another way of putting it: generative writing is not threatening further political anguish. It's threatening the advertising value of social media platforms that exploit it.

Nevertheless, GPT-2 is like nothing else in machine intelligence. Here I fed it a paragraph of condensed Cormac McCarthy, which it elaborates upon perfectly in-voice, but slowly segueing to a Hallmark movie:

A deep dive into how parasites hijack our behavior and how we evolved to resist them [Boing Boing]

On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them.

Diligent readers will know that parasites manage some incredible feats of behavior modification (one of Scott Westerfeld's best novels looks at vampirism as a form of parasitic behavior modification and it's just great).

It's a truism that the predator carves the prey and the prey carve the predator. Del Giudice's investigations into parasite tactics and countermeasures lead him to hypothesize that perhaps human variation is driven by responses to parasites' attempts at behavior modification (for example, humans have a lot of variability in our major histocompatibility complex genes, which mean that our immune systems can readily distinguish between our cells and invasive ones).

It's a super-interesting paper, and Alexander's breakdown is a great path into it.

Sixth, you use antiparasitic drugs as neurotransmitters. This is the kind of murderous-yet-clever solution I expect of evolution, and it does not disappoint. Several neurotransmitters, including neuropeptide Y, neurokinin A, and substance P are pretty good antimicrobials. The assumption has always been that the body kills two birds with one stone, getting its signaling done and also having some antimicrobials around to take out stray bacteria. But Del Giudice proposes that this is to prevent parasites from hijacking the signal; any parasite that tried to produce or secrete an antiparasitic drug would die in the process.

Dopamine is mildly toxic. The body is usually pretty good at protecting itself, but the mechanism fails under stress; this is why too much methamphetamine rots your brain. Why would you use a toxic chemical as a neurotransmitter? For the same reason you would use antiparasitic drugs – because you want to kill anything smaller than you that tries to synthesize it.

People always talk about the body as a beautiful well-oiled machine. But sometimes the body communicates with itself by messages written with radioactive ink on asbestos-laced paper, in the hopes that it’s killing itself slightly more slowly than it’s killing anyone who tries to send it fake messages. Honestly it is a miracle anybody manages to stay alive at all.

All these features together are a pretty effective way of dealing with parasite manipulation. There are a few parasites that can manipulate human behavior – rabies definitely, toxoplasma maybe – but overall we are remarkably safe.

Maybe Your Zoloft Stopped Working Because A Liver Fluke Tried To Turn Your Nth-Great-Grandmother Into A Zombie [Scott Alexander/Slate Star Codex]

Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation [Marco Del Giudice/Quarterly Review of Biology]

(Image: Yale Rosen, CC BY-SA)

Kitty hammock perplexes cat [Boing Boing]

The cat-loving Guinness world record holder and internet personality CatManToo shared this video a couple years ago, but since it's making the viral rounds uncredited, I wanted to share the original.

Robert, Didga and Boomer have an online store and a Patreon, if you want to support this cuteness. They're on Instagram and YouTube.

Robert Dollwet has 35 years experience as a professional animal trainer/behaviorist, and runs the CATMANTOO channels. He claims his cat Didga is the most talented cat in the world, and I'm inclined to believe them.

Here are some more sweet videos from Robert and Didga and the other cats.



View this post on Instagram

Unlimited shelf life 😬@catmantoo #Bindi #adoptdontshop #weeklyfluff #melbourne #catloversshow

A post shared by CATMANTOO (@catmantoo) on



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Bindi and Jeb pitch in to help. 🤣 @catmantoo #weeklyfluff @instagram #instagram #cats_of_instagram #meowed #video

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Italy's Premier Resigns In Fight Within His Coalition Government [News : NPR]

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte (right) speaks to the Senate on Tuesday next to Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini.

In a scathing speech to the Senate, Giuseppe Conte railed against his right-wing coalition partner Matteo Salvini, who wanted to hold a vote of no-confidence against him.

(Image credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Want To Know What's In Your Sweat? There's A Patch For That [News : NPR]

A sensor developed by scientists at U.C. Berkeley can provide real-time measurements of sweat rate and electrolytes in sweat.

Scientists are getting closer to developing a wearable patch that can measure hydration and other health markers — in sweat. The hope is it could give athletes more data to boost their performance.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Bijendra Maskey/Sunchon National University)

U.S. Recycling Industry Is Struggling To Figure Out A Future Without China [News : NPR]

Trash sent for recycling moves along a conveyor belt to be sorted at Waste Management

China is no longer taking the world's waste. The U.S. recycling industry is overwhelmed — it can't keep up with the plastic being churned out. This doesn't bode well for our plastic waste problem.

(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

23 Texas towns hit by coordinated ransomware attack [The Verge - All Posts]

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

More US towns have been hit by ransomware. Last Friday, 23 small Texas towns were affected by a coordinated ransomware attack that appears to have been pulled off by “one single threat actor,” according to the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR). A Texas DIR spokesperson told The New York Times that the majority of the targets were specific departments in the towns. In a statement to Gizmodo, the Texas DIR declined to specify which towns or departments, saying it did not want to make the “impacted entities” a target for other bad actors.

It’s not clear how these towns are dealing with the issue, but it doesn’t seem like they’re just paying up to make the problem go away. A DIR spokesperson told NPR that he was “not aware” of...

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Netflix’s TV app can now remind you when new shows are released [The Verge - All Posts]

Netflix

Netflix doesn’t want people to forget about shows they plan to watch in the future. The company is updating its TV app with a “Latest” section that’ll list movies and TV show seasons that’ll be released that week and the one following, according to Variety. Listed titles will have a trailer, and users can ask to be reminded when a program they want to watch becomes available, meaning people will likely receive a notification when they open the app. The list is curated to individual members and their taste.

The section is coming to smart TVs, streaming devices, and game consoles around the world today, and it’s located on the app’s sidebar. It’ll be updated daily. The feature is similar to the “coming soon” section that’s already...

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Apple TV Plus can afford to gamble $6 billion in a way that Disney and Hulu can’t [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: Apple

Apple is reportedly spending $6 billion on its initial lineup of TV shows, documentary series, and other originals that will land on its streaming service, Apple TV Plus. That’s about $5 billion more than what Apple was originally slated to spend, according to a Financial Times report. It’s also about 25 percent of Disney’s entire 2019 content budget.

Unlike Disney — which will allocate just under $7 billion of its estimated $24 billion content budget this year on sports properties like ESPN and another huge portion on theatrical releases — Apple is focusing its content budget entirely on streaming. So it might make more sense to compare Apple’s creative budget to Netflix’s. While Netflix is currently spending upwards of $15 billion on...

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Drako Motors’ 1,200-horsepower GTE is Silicon Valley’s latest crack at electric cars [The Verge - All Posts]

There are a number of aspiring electric vehicle startups in and around Silicon Valley, but very few have shipped actual cars, let alone established a steady business. A new startup called Drako Motors is the latest company to try to change that, and it wants to do so with a 1,200-horsepower $1.25 million supercar called the GTE.

Unveiled at Monterey Car Week, Drako Motors showed off what it says is the first production version of the GTE. The startup pulled no punches in how it described the car, either. The GTE is a “four passenger ultra luxury supercar” with “cornering precision unlike any other supercar on the road today,” Drako Motors says. It achieves this thanks to a quad-motor setup, with an electric motor at each wheel, and...

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15:00 EDT

The death of “Works with Nest” begins now with Google account migrations [Ars Technica]

Coming soon to a Nest near you: Your Google account.

Enlarge / Coming soon to a Nest near you: Your Google account. (credit: Google Nest)

The smart home company Nest is currently in the middle of a rocky transition from standalone Alphabet company to a full-on merger with Google's hardware team, where it will exist as a Google sub-brand. The details were announced during Google I/O 2019 and include the debut of the first "Google Nest" product, the shutdown of the "Works with Nest" (WWN) ecosystem, and the death of standalone Nest accounts and the Nest/Google data separation. Until now, the transition has mostly involved news and new products, but now a recent update to the Nest app will let existing Nest users "migrate their account to Google." Be warned that doing this will break a lot of things and is irreversible.

So far, it looks like the Nest-to-Google transition more or less involves shutting down everything that was unique to Nest and switching to the Google Home/Google Assistant ecosystem. Migrating your Nest account to a Google account basically means jumping ecosystems, leaving behind any "Works with Nest" integrations with other apps or devices. Basic things like the Nest app, website, and Google voice commands will still work, but that's about it. Amazon Alexa users will probably see the current "Works with Nest" skill stop working, but apparently there is a new "Google Nest" skill that will replace some of the functionality.

Google's support page on the transition warns that the process "is not reversible" and that "During the migration process, you will need to remove and disconnect all your WWN third-party product connections (also not reversible)." This means you'll have to take careful stock of your Nest integrations before you switch and make sure you know what will and won't break. If you mess up, there's no going back.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Super-Earth at a nearby star is a Mercury-like hunk of rock [Ars Technica]

Image of a dark brown planet on a black background

Enlarge / An artist's view of what's undoubtedly the cooler side of the planet. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

The most common star in our galaxy is a red dwarf, smaller and dimmer than the Sun. Because these small stars put out much less radiation, the region where planets could have liquid water on their surfaces is much closer to the star. In these exosolar systems, the habitable zone is typically closer to the star than Mercury is to our Sun.

That's a good match to our current technology, which is best at identifying planets close to their host stars. But it has raised questions about whether these close-in planets could actually be habitable, given that red dwarf stars are prone to violent outbursts. Now, researchers have taken a close look at a planet orbiting close to a red dwarf and have found that it looks like a bare rock, suggesting that its star may have stripped off any atmosphere that once existed.

Redistribution

Studying the atmosphere of an exoplanet typically involves observations of it creating a partial eclipse of its host star. In these cases, some of the starlight passes through the planet's atmosphere, allowing us to get a sense of its composition. If there's no sign of this sort of change, then we typically infer that the planet doesn't have an atmosphere.

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A Diet Based on Caloric Restriction Might Make You Live Longer. It'll Certainly Feel Like Longer. [Slashdot]

A diet based on caloric restriction might make you live longer. It'll certainly feel like longer. Called Prolon, it's a five-day, $250 meal kit which arrives in a white cardboard container a little bigger than a shoebox. It involves eating about 800 calories each day. The idea is that temporarily shifts your body into a starvation state, prompting your cells to consume years of accumulated cellular garbage before unleashing a surge of restorative regeneration. The idea that starving yourself while still taking in crucial nutrients will let you live longer is not new. The practice, called caloric restriction, is the only proven way to extend life in a wide variety of creatures. There are currently trials underway to see if the diet might help protect human patients from the ravages of chemotherapy, too. However, experiments have found that doing it for extended periods is a problem, and probably not practical for most people. Research on the "fast-mimicking diet" is still limited, but the Prolon diet has been sold in 15 countries and tried by more than 150,000 people. Read how Adam Piore got on when he tried it out.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

You Can Finally See All Of The Info Facebook Collected About You From Other Websites [Slashdot]

Facebook said Tuesday it's rolling out a long-awaited privacy feature that will let users see and clear information from apps and websites they browse outside of the social network. Some people in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain will gain access to this feature first, but the company plans to broaden the availability soon. From a report: Facebook collects information about its users in two ways: first, through the information you input into its website and apps, and second, by tracking which websites you visit while you're not on Facebook. That's why, after you visit a clothing retailer's website, you'll likely see an ad for it in your Facebook News Feed or Instagram feed. Basically, Facebook monitors where you go, all across the internet, and uses your digital footprints to target you with ads. But Facebook users have never been able to view this external data Facebook collected about them, until now. Facebook tracks your browsing history via the "Login with Facebook" button, the "like" button, Facebook comments, and little bits of invisible code, called the Facebook pixel, embedded on other sites. Today the company will start to roll out a feature called "Off-Facebook Activity" that allows people to manage that external browsing data -- finally delivering on a promise it made over a year ago when CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at a company event that it would develop a feature then called "Clear History." The new tool will display a summary of those third-party websites that shared your visit with Facebook, and will allow you to disconnect that browsing history from your Facebook account. You can also opt out of future off-Facebook activity tracking, or selectively stop certain websites from sending your browsing activity to Facebook. Nearly a third of all websites include a Facebook tracker, according to several studies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

First detailed look at Poland's challenge to the EU Copyright Directive [Boing Boing]

After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law.

Now, the first official documents from that court challenge have been made public for the first time. As expected, the challenge asks the court to rule on whether filters are "proportional and necessary" to preventing copyright filters.

Poland has asked the court, at a minimum, to strike parts b) and c) of Article 17 (originally Article 13). These are the rules that require online providers to make "best efforts to ensure the unavailability" of works that someone, somewhere has claimed as their copyrighted work; and to make "best efforts to prevent their future uploads."

Poland's anticipated that the court may find that removing these parts will prove difficult, and so it's proposed that, as an alternative, the court could just strike down all of Article 17.

The Republic of Poland claims specifically that the imposition on online content-sharing service providers of the obligation to make best efforts to ensure the unavailability of specific works and other subject matter for which the rightholders have provided the service providers with the relevant and necessary information (point (b) of Article 17(4) of [EU Copyright] Directive 2019/790) and the imposition on online content-sharing service providers of the obligation to make best efforts to prevent the future uploads of protected works or other subject-matter for which the rightsholders have lodged a sufficiently substantiated notice (point (c), in fine, of Article 17(4) of Directive 2019/790) make it necessary for the service providers -- in order to avoid liability -- to carry out prior automatic verification (filtering) of content uploaded online by users, and therefore make it necessary to introduce preventive control mechanisms. Such mechanisms undermine the essence of the right to freedom of expression and information and do not comply with the requirement that limitations imposed on that right be proportional and necessary.

Case C-401/19: Action brought on 24 May 2019 — Republic of Poland v European Parliament and Council of the European Union [EUR-LEX]

It's On: Details Emerge Of Polish Government's Formal Request For Top EU Court To Throw Out Upload Filters [Glyn Moody/Techdirt]

McDonald's employee burned by customer's "smoldering" dollar bill [Boing Boing]

In Hackettstown, New Jersey, a McDonald's drive-through customer reportedly paid with a "smoldering" dollar bill that burned the employee's hand. From NJ.com:

After taking the money, the employee realized the dollar was still smoldering and she was burned on the palm of her left hand, police said. The employee refused medical treatment.

Police are investigating the incident and said no further information would be released at this time.

Obviously the customer has money to burn.

From search-engine to walled garden: majority of Google searches do not result in a click [Boing Boing]

As tech began to concentrate, two dominant strategies emerged: Google's (instrument the whole internet for surveillance, which means that you don't have to lock people in in order to spy on them) and Apple's (lock everyone into a walled garden, and extract revenue by refusing to let them out again).

But the along came Facebook, whose strategy is lock everyone in and spy on them.

Now that Facebook has blazed that trail, everyone else is slowly turning into Facebook. Apple is using its walled garden to turn into a surveillance company and Google is likewise turning into a walled garden.

Google's original pitch to the rest of the web was, "We deliver traffic: people search here for answers, and we send them back to you to get them." But over time, and for a variety of reasons (not all of them bad, see e.g., "Not sending people to sites that have malvertising"), the company has been trying to serve the answer to your question with no further clicking required.

Now, that strategy has hit a tipping point. According to analytics from Jumpstream, the majority of Google searches no longer end with a click. On Sparktoro, Rand Fishkin calls this "a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden."

Much of Fishkin's post is about how Google's reps refused to give a clear answer to Congress when questioned on this subject (which is true), but the real lesson here is that firms do not practice forbearance: once a company dominates its market, whatever odious measures it took off the table to attain its dominance are reconsidered. Transhuman, immortal colony organisms do not tolerate limits on effective growth strategies over the long term. In the absence of competition, they will gradually become their own worst selves: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

While you're reading this, cast your mind back to 2012: "Sergei Brin on the existential crisis of the net: walled gardens + snooping governments."

June (as shown at the top of this post) is when zero-click searches in browsers passed 50%, but the pie chart above shows that even before that, Google was sending a huge portion of search clicks to their own properties (~6% of queries and ~12% of clicks). Those properties include YouTube, Maps, Android, Google’s blog, subdomains of Google.com, and a dozen or so others (full list here).

Maybe Google’s websites are ranking exclusively because they’re the best result, but if Congress is asking questions about whether a monopoly is potentially abusing its market dominance in one field to unfairly compete in another, I’ve got something else they’ll want to see. It’s a chart of where searches happened on major web properties in Q2, and as you can see, there’s no competition.

Google is almost certainly even more dominant than the chart above suggests. That’s because mobile apps, which Jumpshot doesn’t currently measure, aren’t included — this is just browser-based search data. The Google Maps App, Google Search App, and YouTube are installed on almost every mobile device in the US, and likely have so much usage that, if their search statistics were included, Google’s true market share would be 97%+.

(Image: Jumpshot)

(via Four Short Links)

Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie dog is a singing drama queen [Sound ON] [Boing Boing]

Who among us hasn't felt this way before, ourselves.

The difference between me and Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie dog, besides the fact he's cuter and weighs less, is the fact that Walter isn't afraid to yowl dramatically when he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

Oh, I'm just as ridiculous. I just use a keyboard to complain.

You're gonna want to unmute this, and prepare for any dogs to flip out if you have them nearby.

Walter is adorable and you should follow his antics here.

Okay, sound on? Play the videos.



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A post shared by Walter Geoffrey (@waltergeoffreythefrenchie) on



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When you’re stuck with a weak Bish and it takes forever to pack the car... #youcantlookbutchandbeweak #pickastruggle

A post shared by Walter Geoffrey (@waltergeoffreythefrenchie) on

How a cymbal is made [Boing Boing]

Founded in 1623 in Turkey and now based in Norwell, Massachusetts, Zildjian has manufactured cymbals continuously for almost 400 years. This is how they do it now.

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