Effective: 2016-June to 2016-December
Updated by: NCommander
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New York State will now fine those who rent out homes and apartments illegally:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that will fine residents who rent out their apartments for illegal short-term stays, striking a blow against Airbnb in one of its most important markets. Airbnb said it would file a lawsuit immediately to block the measure. The fines for those who advertise vacant apartments in a multi-unit building for 30 days or less could be as high as $7,500 for repeat offenders. Airbnb has acknowledged this rule is ignored by thousands of members. People are allowed to rent out a room in their house or apartment while they are also staying there, however.
The law will also fine residents for simply advertising an illegal rental listing. Airbnb tried to offer concessions to prevent the bill from passing. Also at ABC, ConsumerAffairs, and Reuters.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
South Africa has formally requested to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to a document seen by Reuters news agency on Thursday.
The move comes as several African countries have expressed concern that The Hague-based court has tried mostly African leaders.
Last year, South Africa said it planned to exit ICC after it faced criticism for not arresting Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocides and war crimes, when he visited the country.
"The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court," according to the document.
[...] The ICC, which opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Another African country, Burundi, appeared set to become the first county to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the global court, after its parliament voted last week to leave.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
The massive hypothetical object, which supposedly looms at the edge of our solar system, has been invoked to explain the strange clustering of objects in the Kuiper belt and the unusual way they orbit the Sun.
Now Planet Nine predictors Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of Caltech, along with graduate student Elizabeth Bailey, offer another piece of evidence for the elusive sphere's existence: It adds "wobble" to the solar system, they say, tilting it in relation to the sun.
"Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," lead author Bailey said in a statement.
Before we go any further, a caveat about Planet Nine: It's purely theoretical at this point. Batygin and Brown predict its existence based on unusual perturbations of the solar system that aren't otherwise easily explained. (This is the same technique scientists used to find Neptune.) But the history of astronomy is rife with speculation that is never borne out: The same guy who correctly predicted the existence of Neptune also believed that a planet he called Vulcan was responsible for the wobble of Mercury. That "discovery" caused the astronomy world to waste years looking for something that wasn't there. (Mercury's wobble was eventually explained by the theory of general relativity.)
But the evidence offered by Batygin and Brown is compelling. When the pair announced their find in January, planetary scientist Alessandro Morbidelli of the Côte d'Azur Observatory in Nice, France, told The Washington Post: "I don't see any alternative explanation to that offered by Batygin and Brown."
"We will find it one day," he added. "The question is when."
Planet Nine's angular momentum is having an outsized impact on the solar system based on its location and size. A planet's angular momentum equals the mass of an object multiplied by its distance from the sun, and corresponds with the force that the planet exerts on the overall system's spin. Because the other planets in the solar system all exist along a flat plane, their angular momentum works to keep the whole disk spinning smoothly.
Planet Nine's unusual orbit, however, adds a multi-billion-year wobble to that system. Mathematically, given the hypothesized size and distance of Planet Nine, a six-degree tilt fits perfectly, Brown says.
Google has decided that your privacy is no longer their "number one priority" and reversed their long-standing policy towards anonymous online ad tracking and user names; the Google DoubleClick advertising database will now be combined with all other information Google has on users, such as from Gmail and all other accounts and logins.
excerpt of the new policy:
We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services -- for example to make it easier to share things with people you know. [...] Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google's services and the ads delivered by Google. [...]
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Things were different in Silicon Valley in the distant year of 2012, when iPhone sales were skyrocketing and you could still buy a house in Palo Alto for less than $2 million. Back then, most restaurants had menus, not tasting menus. Chief executive officers could say something grandiose at a tech conference without worrying about getting mocked on HBO six months later by the Beavis and Butt-head guy. And a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist's office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. "That pitch was enough to get going," says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. "It's not enough anymore."
Botha should know. Over the past five years he's been one of Silicon Valley's most successful investors, thanks to early bets on such companies as Instagram, Tumblr, and Square, all successes owed to the mass adoption of smartphones. Now, though, smartphone growth rates are near zero in the U.S. and falling around the world. And while there are candidates to succeed the iPhone as the next revolutionary computing platform (wearable gadgets, virtual reality), none has made a compelling must-have argument to the mainstream.
That means fewer opportunities for entrepreneurs, at least in the short term. The Bloomberg U.S. Startups Barometer—an index that considers capital raised and number of deals, first financings, and successful acquisitions or initial public offerings—remains high by historical standards but has fallen 21 percent since November 2015.
Earlier this year, One Kings Lane, the online home goods retailer once worth almost $1 billion, sold itself to Bed Bath & Beyond, one of the companies it was supposed to displace, for just $12 million. Jawbone, the maker of sleek wearable fitness hardware once seen as a threat to Apple's, has seen its value fall 50 percent. Since 2015, researcher CB Insights has counted 80 "down rounds," instances of a startup accepting a reduced valuation to raise more venture funding. "There was this fog hanging over Silicon Valley in 2001," says Botha, referring to the last big tech bust. "And there's a fog hanging over it now. There's no underlying wave of growth."
Startups' struggles to grow and woo venture capitalists are only half the story, though, because the VCs themselves are more flush than ever. With global interest rates low, Silicon Valley remains a safe-looking diversification strategy for investors, especially wealthy Middle Easterners and Russians with little regard for rates of return. These investors have poured money into new funds raised by the likes of Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. (Bloomberg LP, which owns Bloomberg Businessweek, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.)
[...] In instituting these four forms of privacy—privacy within team boundaries, privacy limits on employee data, privacy in decision-making, and privacy about time—the organizations Bernstein studied refused the temptation to observe (or try to observe) everything. That refusal did not cost them profits or effectiveness. Instead, respect for privacy enhanced their success.
[...] That suggests that privacy's defenders should not concede that total surveillance is safest (or most efficient or most profitable), before going on to say that it would be creepy to have to fly naked. That's important in a society where monitoring technology is ever cheaper and ever more powerful, and the notion is spreading that surveillance, and the data it generates, can solve any problem. Privacy, so often depicted as the enemy of efficiency in public life, can be its friend.
[Discussion]: Privacy Makes Workers More Productive
[Related]: Duet Ex Machina
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Microsoft's ongoing move to the cloud paid off once again over the past quarter, as strong growth from Azure and Office 365 offset declines in the PC market.
The company announced on Thursday that its quarterly revenue for the three-month period ending in September was flat overall at $20.5 billion. The company's net profit was down 4 percent year-over-year from $4.9 billion to $4.7 billion.
Those results were driven by quarterly revenue from the company's Intelligent Cloud segment, which includes Azure and Windows Server, and its Productivity and Business Processes segment, which includes Office 365 and Dynamics. Intelligent Cloud revenue grew 8 percent year-over-year to $6.4 billion, while Productivity and Business Processes segment revenue grew 6 percent to $6.7 billion.
It's another positive sign for the cloud-focused strategy that the company adopted under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella.
Azure revenue grew by 116 percent year over year, and Microsoft revealed for the first time that its profit margin from its cloud platform is 49 percent. The company continues to keep the exact revenue and profit numbers from its public cloud platform under wraps, however.
Office 365 commercial revenue grew 51 percent year-over-year. Microsoft reported it now has more than 85 million commercial monthly active users of its cloud-based productivity suite as a service offering.
IBM has blamed a supplier for causing the failure of Australia's online census, which went offline on the very night millions of households were required to describe their disposition.
Big Blue's submission (PDF) to Australia's Standing Committees on Economics, which is conducting an Inquiry into the Preparation, Administration and Management of the 2016 Census by The Australian Bureau of Statistics puts the blame for the failure at the feet of a company called NextGen Networks.
IBM does so because it says it devised a distributed denial of service (DDoS) prevention plan called "Island Australia" that involved "blocking or diverting international traffic intended for the eCensus site before it reaches the site, while leaving the system free to continue to process domestic traffic."
"This method was chosen because the primary risk of DDoS attacks of sufficient size to disrupt site availability was considered to be from foreign sources."
IBM's submission says two carriers were chosen to bring traffic to the Census site, Telstra and NextGen. Both were informed about "Island Australia" and how to implement it. But come Census day, IBM says "a Singapore link operated by one of NextGen's upstream suppliers (Vocus Communications or Vocus) had not been closed off and this was the route through which the attack traffic had entered the NextGen link to the eCensus site."
Big Blue's document says Vocus 'fessed up to the error on Census night.
[...] In a delicious irony, NextGen's submission also notes its recent acquisition by none other than Vocus. Which will make life interesting at the first all-hands meeting once the acquisition closes.
The Inquiry will issue a report on November 24th. The Register's Australian outpost has laid in copious stocks of popcorn ahead of the report's release.
Australian Census: Hacked or Just Ill-Prepared?
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Going back nearly a decade, we've been talking about the ridiculousness of Congress refusing to publicly release reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). As we've discussed many times, CRS is an in-house think tank for Congress that is both famously non-partisan and actually really good at what they do. CRS reports tend to be really useful and highly credible (which is part of the reason why Congress isn't a fan of letting them out into the public). Of course, as works of the federal government, CRS reports are in the public domain, but the way it's always worked is that the reports are released only to members of Congress. These include both general reports on topics that are released to every member of Congress, or specific research tasked by a member for the CRS to investigate and create a new report. The members who receive the reports are able to release them to the public, and some do, but the vast majority of CRS work remains hidden from public view. For the most part, both CRS and Congress have resisted any attempt to change this. Going back decades, they've put together a mostly ridiculous list of reasons opposing plans to more widely distribute CRS reports.
Some members of Congress keep introducing bills to make these public domain CRS reports actually available to the public. We've written about such attempts in 2011, 2012, 2015 and earlier this year. And each time they get shot down, often for completely ridiculous reasons, including the belief that making these reports public will somehow hurt CRS's ability to continue to do good, non-partisan research.
[...] But earlier this week, there was a new entrant: EveryCRSReport.com. Unlike basically all of the other aggregators of CRS reports that collect released reports and aggregate them, it appears that EveryCRSReport basically has teamed up with members of Congress who have access to a massive stash of CRS reports loaded onto the Congressional intranet, all of which have been released via the site -- and it appears that the site is automatically updated, suggesting that the still nameless Congressional partners have set up a way to continually feed in new reports. To avoid public pressure or harassment (one of the core reasons used by Congress and CRS to reject proposals to open up the content), the site removes the names and contact info of the CRS staffers who create the reports. The reports that are available are not just in unsearchable PDFs, but they're fully HTML and fully searchable.
When the world's first digital computer was completed in 1946 it opened up new vast new worlds of possibility. Still, early computers were only used for limited applications because they could only be programmed in machine code. It took so long to set up problems that they were only practical for massive calculations.
That all changed when John Backus created the first programming language, FORTRAN, at IBM in 1957. For the first time, real world problems could be quickly and efficiently transformed into machine language, which made them far more practical and useful. In the 1960's, the market for computers soared.
Like early digital computers, quantum computing offers the possibility of technology millions of times more powerful than current systems, but the key to success will be translating real world problems into quantum language. At D-Wave, which is already producing a commercial version, that process is already underway and it is revealing massive potential.
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
Weebly, a popular web-hosting service featuring a drag-and-drop website builder, has been breached, and email addresses/usernames, IP addresses and encrypted passwords for some 43 million users have been stolen.
Unfortunately, the company did not notice the breach when it happened, around February 2016. They were notified of it once LeakedSource got its hands on the stolen data.
"Unlike nearly every other hack, the co-founder and CTO of Weebly Chris Fanini fortunately did not have his head burried [sic] deeply in the sand and actually responded to our communication requests. We have been working with them to ensure the security of their users meaning password resets as well as notification emails are now being sent out," the group noted.
Weebly also published a security update on the site, explaining what they did once they were made aware of the breach:
- Confirmed the authenticity of the data
- Called in security consultants to help with the investigation
- Reset passwords of affected users and notified them via email
- Took steps to enhance their network security to prevent future breaches
- Implemented tougher password requirements
- Set up a dashboard for users to monitor their log-in history.
Samsung appears to have filed copyright claims against YouTube videos mocking its recalled Galaxy Note 7 handset. Many gamers have showcased a modification to video game Grand Theft Auto V, in which sticky bombs were switched with exploding Samsung phones.
But some have reported that their videos have been blocked on YouTube following a copyright complaint.
Samsung has not yet responded to repeated BBC requests for comment.
Critics have warned that trying to remove gamers' videos will only draw more attention to them.
One US gamer - known as DoctorGTA - said restrictions had been put on his YouTube account as a result of Samsung's complaint. "It's going to take three months to get the strike removed from my channel... I got my live stream taken away," he said in a video.
The gamer HitmanNiko (non-Cloudflare link), and perhaps others, modified the sticky bomb weapon in Grand Theft Auto V , giving it the appearance of the trouble-prone Samsung Galaxy Note 7 mobile phone. Reportedly, Samsung sent a DMCA notice to YouTube, requesting that one of the videos showing the mod in use be taken offline, and YouTube, initially, complied. The video (N.B. shows violence) is currently available; according to the uploader, "YouTube finally put it back up."
Australian [paleontologists] have revealed two new dinosaurs, Savannasaurus elliottorum and Diamantinasaurus matildae.
As detailed in the Nature: Scientific Reports paper New Australian sauropods shed light on Cretaceous dinosaur palaeobiogeography , the dinos are remarkable because they are the first sauropods to be found in Australia.
Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus are other members of the sauropod family, but are most-often associated with the late Jurassic period. Savannasaurus elliottorum shares the above-named beasties' height, long neck and thin hips: the creature was probably 12-15 metres long and about 1.5m across the beam. But it looks to have lived in the Cretaceous, about 105m years ago.
Both of the new dinos also appear to be more like South American dinosaurs than others found in Australia. That helps theories suggesting that as continents drifted and climate changed, dinosaurs went with the flow, through South America, across Antarctica and into the then-friendlier climes of central Australia where Savannasaurus elliottorum and Diamantinasaurus matildae kept the Sauropod race alive as a new breed of Titanosaurs
Organic chemistry, a course considered intimidating by many students, desperately needs an ambassador. California Professor of the Year Neil Garg, who has been wildly successful in getting UCLA students to love organic chemistry, is more than happy to fill that role.
"The field of organic chemistry has made a tremendous mistake," Garg said, "in not showing students and the general public its importance and why they should love it — or at the very least, appreciate it."
That's why Garg cooked up BACON (Biology And Chemistry Online Notes), a set of fun and engaging online tutorials that make connections between organic chemistry and such topics as sports, health, genetics and even popular television shows. Garg's students have been eating it up, and now science educators around are using the tutorials to inspire their students as well.
"BACON makes organic chemistry less intimidating and really helps students learn chemical reactions and retain the knowledge ... while keeping the stress level down, said Michael Bailey, Jr., a UCLA senior and pre-medicine major. "The BACON tutorials completely changed my view of organic chemistry. I laughed, I cried, I learned."
Previously code-named NX, now named the Nintendo Switch, the device looks like a tablet computer with controllers that attach to its sides. The device was revealed in a short "teaser" video posted on YouTube.
One analyst said the device could be Nintendo's "last shot" at selling a home console. "The Wii U was a car crash, basically," said Paul Jackson of the Ovum consultancy. They fudged the communication and confused everybody with the controller and what the screen was for. As a result it sold about a tenth of what the original Wii sold."
The Wii U was rapidly outsold by Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, although Nintendo has enjoyed success with its handheld 3DS device. The new Switch console can be seated in a dock to play games on a television, or used as a stand-alone portable device. Games will be delivered on small cartridges - a nod to older Nintendo consoles.
The PS4 and Xbox One mid-cycle refreshes could allow Nintendo some breathing room to compete on graphics/processing capabilities, since developers will be forced to support the older consoles:
Strangely, though, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 may provide some relief. They aren't being abandoned – which means developers will already be focused on building games that scale down to less powerful hardware. It's not unreasonable to imagine the Switch will offer visual quality on par, or very nearly on par, with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 throughout its lifespan.
Also at WSJ.