Rick Schumann writes: Researchers at a Cleveland clinic performed a study with 1,914 patients into a phenomenon called "Broken Heart Syndrome," where someone can be experiencing heart attack-like symptoms, but it's not a heart attack or anything related to blocked blood flow to the heart. Turns out that it seems likely that the aggregate stresses of the pandemic (so-called "social distancing," lack of contact with fellow humans, enforced isolation, and so on) appear to create emotional stresses that manifest with physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack.
"The pandemic has created a parallel environment which is not healthy," said Dr. Ankur Kalra, the cardiologist who led the study. "Emotional distancing is not healthy. The economic impact is not healthy. We've seen that as an increase in non-coronavirus deaths, and our study says that stress cardiomyopathy has gone up because of the stress that the pandemic has created." The study didn't examine whether or not there could be a medical link between this phenomenon and the coronavirus, but all the participants in the study were tested for infection and were found to be free of the virus. The study has been published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: Leveraging close ties to Twitter, controversial artificial intelligence startup Dataminr helped law enforcement digitally monitor the protests that swept the country following the killing of George Floyd, tipping off police to social media posts with the latest whereabouts and actions of demonstrators, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The monitoring seems at odds with claims from both Twitter and Dataminr that neither company would engage in or facilitate domestic surveillance following a string of 2016 controversies. Twitter, up until recently a longtime investor in Dataminr alongside the CIA, provides the company with full access to a content stream known as the "firehose" -- a rare privilege among tech firms and one that lets Dataminr, recently valued at over $1.8 billion, scan every public tweet as soon as its author hits send. Both companies denied that the protest monitoring meets the definition of surveillance.
Dataminr's Black Lives Matter protest surveillance included persistent monitoring of social media to tip off police to the locations and activities of protests, developments within specific rallies, as well as instances of alleged "looting" and other property damage. According to the source with direct knowledge of Dataminr's protest monitoring, the company and Twitter's past claims that they don't condone or enable surveillance are "bullshit," relying on a deliberately narrowed definition. "It's true Dataminr doesn't specifically track protesters and activists individually, but at the request of the police they are tracking protests, and therefore protesters," this source explained. According to internal materials reviewed by The Intercept, Dataminr meticulously tracked not only ongoing protests, but kept comprehensive records of upcoming anti-police violence rallies in cities across the country to help its staff organize their monitoring efforts, including events' expected time and starting location within those cities. A protest schedule seen by The Intercept shows Dataminr was explicitly surveilling dozens of protests big and small, from Detroit and Brooklyn to York, Pennsylvania, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Company documents also show the firm instructed members of its staff to look for instances of "lethal force used against protesters by police or vice-versa," "property damage," "widespread arson or looting against government or commercial infrastructure," "new instances of officer-involved shootings or death with potential interpretation of racial bias," and occasions when a "violent protests spreads to new major American city." Staff were also specifically monitoring social media for posts about "Officers involved in Floyd's death" -- all of which would be forwarded to Dataminr's governmental customers through a service named "First Alert." [...] First Alert also scans other popular platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, the latter being particularly useful for protest organizers trying to rapidly mobilize their communities. On at least one occasion, according to MPD records, Dataminr was able to point police to a protest's Facebook event page before it had begun.
Long-time Slashdot reader kartis writes: Canada's Supreme Court upheld the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) which prohibits under criminal penalty, employers or insurers from demanding or using genetic information. This was a result of a private member's bill in Parliament, which meant it passed without the government's support, and in fact both the Federal government and Quebec government (which had gotten it declared unconstitutional as outside federal powers) argued that it extended criminal powers into a provincial jurisdiction. Well, the Supreme Court has surprisingly upheld it in a 5-4 decision, which means great things for Canadians' privacy, and also suggests a wider ability for federal privacy legislation than many jurists had thought.
At Tyson's 26,000-square-foot, multi-million dollar Manufacturing Automation Center near its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, the company will apply the latest advances in machine learning to meat manufacturing, with the goal of eventually eliminating jobs that can be physically demanding, highly repetitive and at times dangerous. Bloomberg reports: Advances in technology are making it possible to make strides in automation. For example, machine vision is now accurate and speedy enough to apply to meat production, which is highly labor intensive compared with other food manufacturing. Also, a lot of washing and sanitizing occurs in a meat-packing plant, which has traditionally been difficult on robots, but now the machines are built to withstand that. At Tyson's new facility, a series of laboratories showcase different types of robots. Mechanical arms in glass cases use smart cameras to sort colorful objects or stack items. In another room, a larger machine called a palletizer performs stacking tasks. There's also a training space.
Many of the types of robots that a meatpacking plant would need are not on the market currently, so the company needs to innovate and collaborate with partners to create them, said Doug Foreman, a director in engineering at Tyson. But the technology is ready. The processing capabilities of cameras are "so advanced even from a few years ago," Foreman said. "Processing-speed-wise, it's there now for us."
Foxconn plans to invest up to $1 billion to expand a factory in southern India where the Taiwanese contract manufacturer assembles Apple iPhones. Fox Business reports: The move, the scale of which has not previously been reported, is part of a quiet and gradual production shift by Apple away from China as it navigates disruptions from a trade war between Beijing and Washington and the coronavirus crisis. "There's a strong request from Apple to its clients to move part of the iPhone production out of China," one of the sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Foxconn's planned investment in the Sriperumbur plant, where Apple's iPhone XR is made some 50 km west of Chennai, will take place over the course of three years. Some of Apple's other iPhones models, made by Foxconn in China, will be made at the plant.
Taipei-headquartered Foxconn will add some 6,000 jobs at the Sriperumbur plant in Tamil Nadu state under the plan. It also operates a separate plant in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where it makes smartphones for China's Xiaomi Corp, among others. "With India's labour cheaper compared with China, and the gradual expansion of its supplier base here, Apple will be able to use the country as an export hub," Neil Shah of Hong Kong-based tech researcher Counterpoint said.
Julianne Pepitone from IEEE Spectrum writes about the uncertain future of ham radio. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: Will the amateur airwaves fall silent? Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators -- hams -- have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalize amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognize. The number of U.S. amateur licenses has held at an anemic 1 percent annual growth for the past few years, with about 7,000 new licensees added every year for a total of 755,430 in 2018. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission doesn't track demographic data of operators, but anecdotally, white men in their 60s and 70s make up much of the population. As these baby boomers age out, the fear is that there are too few young people to sustain the hobby.
This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others grouse that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it. No matter where they land on these battle lines, however, everyone understands one fact. The world is changing; the amount of spectrum is not. And it will be hard to argue that spectrum reserved for amateur use and experimentation should not be sold off to commercial users if hardly any amateurs are taking advantage of it. One of the key debates in ham radio is its main function in the future: Is it a social hobby? A utility to deliver data traffic? And who gets to decide? "Those questions have no definitive or immediate answers, but they cut to the core of the future of ham radio," writes Pepitone. "Loring Kutchins, president of the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc. (ARSFi) -- which funds and guides the 'global radio email' system Winlink -- says the divide between hobbyists and utilitarians seems to come down to age."
"Younger people who have come along tend to see amateur radio as a service, as it's defined by FCC rules, which outline the purpose of amateur radio -- especially as it relates to emergency operations," Kutchins (W3QA) told Spectrum last year. Kutchins, 68, expanded on the theme in a recent interview: "The people of my era will be gone -- the people who got into it when it was magic to tune into Radio Moscow. But Grandpa's ham radio set isn't that big a deal compared to today's technology. That doesn't have to be sad. That's normal."
"Ham radio is really a social hobby, or it has been a very social hobby -- the rag-chewing has historically been the big part of it," says Martin F. Jue (K5FLU), founder of radio accessories maker MFJ Enterprises, in Starkville, Miss. "Here in Mississippi, you get to 5 or 6 o' clock and you have a big network going on and on -- some of them are half-drunk chattin' with you. It's a social group, and they won't even talk to you unless you're in the group."
Charter is raising the "Broadcast TV" fee it imposes on cable plans from $13.50 to $16.45 a month starting in August. "Charter has raised the fee repeatedly -- it stood at $9.95 in early 2019 before a series of price increases," reports Ars Technica. "It $16.45 a month, the fee will cost customers an additional $197.40 per year." From the report: Charter says the Broadcast TV fee covers the amount it pays broadcast television stations (e.g. affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) for the right to carry their channels. But for consumers, it is essentially a hidden fee because Charter's advertised TV prices don't include it. Charter imposes a smaller Broadcast TV fee on its streaming TV plans, but is raising that charge from $6 to $8.95 a month, Stop the Cap wrote. Charter is also raising the base price of its TV service. "Spectrum's most popular TV Select package is expected to increase $1.50/month to $73.99/month," Stop the Cap wrote. "Customers on a promotional pricing plan will not see this rate increase until their promotional pricing expires."
The Broadcast TV fee change will apparently apply even to customers who are on promotional deals that lock in a price for a set amount of time. Charter told us that promotional prices apply to the "package price," which "will not change until the end of their promotional period." But Charter said that the "Broadcast TV Service Charge is separate from the TV package price," so it can go up regardless of whether a customer is still on a promotional deal. For comparison, Comcast's Broadcast TV fee is $14.95 a month.
Google announced that Android is seeing the fastest adoption rates of any version of Android. The Verge reports: According to Google, Android 10 was installed on 100 million devices five months after its launch in September 2019 â" 28 percent faster than it took the company to reach a similar milestone for Android Pie. Google credits the faster adoption rate to improvements the company has been making over the years, like Android Oreo's Project Treble and Android 10's Project Mainline, which makes it easier for hardware companies to create new updates.
But while those numbers are impressive, Google's post is notably missing some crucial information, like what percentage of Android devices are running Android 10 -- a number that's sure to be lower than Google would like. In fact, Google has effectively stopped publishing the breakdown percentage of which Android devices are running which version of Android entirely, following a similar announcement last August that looked back at Android 9 Pie adoption rates. (At the time, Android Pie had been installed on 22.6 percent of Android devices ahead of the release of Android 10.)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the U.S. election in November, according to people familiar with the company's thinking. The potential ban is still only being discussed and hasn't yet been finalized, said the people, who asked not to be named talking about internal policies. A halt on ads could serve as a defense against misleading election-related content spreading widely right as people prepare to vote. Still, there are also concerns that an ad blackout could hurt "get out the vote" campaigns, or limit a candidate's ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information.
Facebook doesn't fact-check ads from politicians or their campaigns, a point of contention for many lawmakers and advocates, who say the policy means ads on the platform could be used to spread lies and misinformation. The social-media giant has been criticized in recent weeks by civil rights groups that say it doesn't do enough to remove efforts to limit voter participation, and a recent audit of the company found Facebook failed to enforce its own voter suppression policies when it comes to posts from U.S. President Donald Trump. Hundreds of advertisers are currently boycotting Facebook's advertising products as part of a protest against its policies.
Google announced plans this week to ban ads that promote stalkerware, spyware, and other forms of surveillance technology that can be used to track other persons without their specific consent. From a report: The change was announced this week as part of an upcoming update to Google Ads policies, set to enter into effect next month, on August 11, 2020.
Examples of products and services that advertisers won't be able to promote via Google Ads anymore include: 1. Spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance including but not limited to spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history;
2. GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent;
3. Promotion of surveillance equipment (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) marketed with the express purpose of spying.
Following scathing reviews of a computer game it released in May, Amazon.com is delaying its next big-budget game by at least six months. From a report: The decision represents another setback for the technology giant's ambitions to break into the gaming industry. The next game, New World, was supposed to debut in late August but is now scheduled for spring 2021, Rich Lawrence, director of Amazon's game studio, wrote in a blog post Friday. The company wants extra time to implement changes suggested by players who have been testing the game, he wrote. Delays are fairly common in the video game industry, but this was an important opportunity for Amazon to redeem itself after a recent flop. Amazon is trying to make a name for itself as a maker of big-budget video games that can compete with those from the likes of Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. But Amazon's Crucible, a free-to-play PC game introduced in May, was panned by critics, prompting Amazon to take the highly unusual step of pulling the game from wide circulation.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Vice: Ever since NSA leaker Edward Snowden said "use Signal, use Tor," the end-to-end encrypted chat app has been a favorite of people who care about privacy and need a chat and calling app that is hard to spy on. One of the reasons security experts recommended Signal is because the app's developers collected -- and thus retained -- almost no information about its users. This means that, if subpoenaed by law enforcement, Signal would have essentially nothing to turn over. Signal demonstrated this in 2016, when it was subpoenaed by a court in Virginia. But a newly added feature that allows users to recover certain data, such as contacts, profile information, settings, and blocked users, has led some high-profile security experts to criticize the app's developers and threaten to stop using it.
Signal will store that data on servers the company owns, protected by a PIN that the app has initially been asking users to add, and then forced them to. The purpose of using a PIN is, in the near future, to allow Signal users to be identified by a username, as opposed to their phone number, as Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike explained on Twitter (as we've written before, this is a laudable goal; tying Signal to a phone number has its own privacy and security implications). But this also means that unlike in the past, Signal now retains certain user data, something that many cybersecurity and cryptography experts see as too dangerous. Matthew Green, a cryptographer and computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that this was "the wrong decision," and that forcing users to create a PIN and use this feature would force him to stop using the app.
Apple, in a new support document, is warning users against closing their MacBook lids with a cover over the camera. From a report: Placing a cover, sticker or tape over a laptop camera is a practice adopted by some privacy- and security-conscious individuals to protect against webcam hijacking. Now, however, Apple is explicitly advising against the tactic. In a support document published earlier in July, Apple urges users not to close their MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lids if there's a camera cover installed on it. "If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances," Apple notes. The support document also outlines some of the privacy and security functions of the camera, including the green indicator light that lets users know when the camera is active and the camera permission settings introduced in macOS Mojave.
The French Parliament unanimously agreed this week to introduce a nationwide age verification system for pornography websites, months after President Emmanuel Macron pledged to protect children against such content. From a report: Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet services providers and the adult movies industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don't have access to pornographic content. Within a broader law on domestic violence, the Senate decided in June to introduce an amendment requiring pornography websites to implement an age verification mechanism.
In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply -- sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order. The choice of verification mechanisms will be left up to the platforms. But lawmakers have suggested using credit card verification -- a system first adopted by the U.K., which mulled similar plans to control access to pornography but had to drop them in late 2019 because of technical difficulties and privacy concerns. Italy also approved a similar bill in late June, which raised the same concerns over its feasibility and compliance with the EU laws.
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