An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Southern Spain will be reduced to desert by the end of the century if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, researchers have warned. Anything less than extremely ambitious and politically unlikely carbon emissions cuts will see ecosystems in the Mediterranean change to a state unprecedented in the past 10 millennia, they said. The study, published in the journal Science, modeled what would happen to vegetation in the Mediterranean basin under four different paths of future carbon emissions, from a business-as-usual scenario at the worst end to keeping temperature rises below the Paris climate deal target of 1.5C at the other. Temperatures would rise nearly 5C globally under the worst case scenario by 2100, causing deserts to expand northwards across southern Spain and Sicily, and Mediterranean vegetation to replace deciduous forests. Even if emissions are held to the level of pledges put forward ahead of the Paris deal, southern Europe would experience a "substantial" expansion of deserts. The level of change would be beyond anything the region's ecosystems had experienced during the holocene, the geological epoch that started more than 10,000 years ago. The real impact on Mediterranean ecosystems, which are considered a hotspot of biodiversity, could be worse because the study did not look at other human impacts, such as forests being turned over to grow food. The researchers fed a model with 10,000 years of pollen records to build a picture of vegetation in the region, and used that to infer previous temperatures in the Mediterranean. They then ran the model to see what would happen to the vegetation in the future, using four different scenarios of warming, three of them taken from the UN's climate science panel, the IPCC. Only the most stringent cut in emissions -- which is roughly equivalent to meeting the Paris aspiration of holding warming to 1.5C -- would see ecosystems remain within the limits they experienced in the Holocene.
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At a media event on Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the Touch ID on the new MacBook Pros will make it incredibly easy for people to do online money transactions. After the event, speaking to reporters Cook made a bold statement about how he sees Apple Pay. CNET reports: "We're going to kill cash," he said. "Nobody likes to carry around cash." He makes most of his purchases with Apple Pay (which is not surprising).Cook's comment comes days after Australia's top banks refused to support Apple Pay, saying that the company has been 'intransigent, closed and controlling'.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today imposed new privacy rules on Internet service providers, and the Commission said it has begun working on rules that could limit the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in the contracts customers sign with ISPs. The new privacy rules require ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The rules apply both to home Internet service providers like Comcast and mobile data carriers like Verizon Wireless. The commission's Democratic majority ensured the rules' passage in a 3-2 vote, with Republicans dissenting. Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was disappointed that the rules passed today did not include any action on mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from suing ISPs. But Chairman Tom Wheeler said that issue will be addressed in a separate rule-making. In the case of privacy rules, the FCC passed the NPRM in March and the final rules today. Clyburn argued that the FCC could have imposed mandatory arbitration restrictions today, because the privacy NPRM sought public comment about whether to ban mandatory arbitration. Under the FCC rules, ISPs that want to share consumer data with third parties such as advertisers must obtain opt-in consent for the most sensitive information and give customers the ability to opt out of sharing less sensitive information. Here's how the FCC describes the new opt-in and opt-out requirements: "Opt-in: ISPs are required to obtain affirmative 'opt-in' consent from consumers to use and share sensitive information. The rules specify categories of information that are considered sensitive, which include precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children's information, Social Security numbers, Web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications. Opt-out: ISPs would be allowed to use and share non-sensitive information unless a customer 'opts-out.' All other individually identifiable customer information -- for example, e-mail address or service tier information -- would be considered non-sensitive, and the use and sharing of that information would be subject to opt-out consent, consistent with consumer expectations. Exceptions to consent requirements: Customer consent is inferred for certain purposes specified in the statute, including the provision of broadband service or billing and collection. For the use of this information, no additional customer consent is required beyond the creation of the customer-ISP relationship." ISPs must clearly notify customers about the types of information they collect, specify how they use and share the information, and identify the types of entities they share the information with.
Twitter's plan to refocus on its core business consists of laying off 9 percent of its staff, and also killing off Vine. The company announced today that it will shut down Vine's video app in the coming months. From a Recode report: Vine has been struggling for some time, so Thursday's move is surprising but not unbelievable. The app was never a revenue driver for the company, and it was no longer growing. Many of its top executives left over the spring and early summer. What's interesting is that Twitter is shutting the app down instead of trying to sell it off. Or perhaps it did try and simply couldn't find a buyer (like a buyer for itself). Either way, Vine will soon shut down. The company says that users will be able to download their Vine videos before that happens, but there has been no specific timetable announced. Vine general manager Hannah Davis, who just joined the company this spring, will stay on to oversee the transition, according to a spokesperson.
Samsung's smartphone division struggled to breakeven between July and September as sales plunged due to the recall of its high-end Note 7. The smartphone giant said quarterly sales in its IT and Mobile Communications division were down 15 percent on the same period last year to 22.5 trillion Korean won (US$19.8 billion) while operating profit crashed 95 percent to 100 billion won. From a PCWorld report: Problems with the Note 7 starting hitting sales shortly after it went on sale in mid-August. By early September, reports that several units had caught on fire prompted Samsung to begin a costly recall and replacement program. When it became clear that the replacements had the same problem, Samsung pulled the phone for good. Perhaps remarkably, Samsung said it saw no significant effect during the quarter on sales of its two other high-end handsets, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, but it conceded that "regaining consumer confidence" will be a key objective in the months ahead. And for the current quarter, which includes the key year-end sales period, Samsung said it expects profit in the smartphone divison to bounce back to normal levels due to solid sales of the two flagship phones and increasing sales of mid-level Galaxy A- and J-series handsets. "As for 2017, the company anticipates a turnaround with the launch of new flagship smartphones," it said in a statement. "Next year will also see expansion of Samsung Pay rollouts and cloud-related services as well as the introduction of artificial intelligence related offerings."
Qualcomm, the largest maker of mobile-phone chips, will acquire NXP Semiconductors NV in a transaction valued at $47 billion, aiming to speed an expansion into new industries and reduce its dependence on the smartphone market. Bloomberg reports: San Diego-based Qualcomm agreed to pay $110 a share in cash for NXP, the biggest supplier of chips used in the automotive industry, or 11 percent more than Wednesday's close, the companies said in a statement Thursday. The deal will be funded with cash on hand as well as new debt. Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf is betting the deal, the largest in the chip industry's history, will accelerate his company's entry into the burgeoning market for electronics in cars. Eindhoven, Netherlands-based NXP is strong in that sector following its acquisition last year of Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. "It's no secret that we've been looking around," Mollenkopf said in an interview. "If you look at our growth strategy it's to grow into adjacent markets at the time that they are being disrupted by the technology of mobile."
Uber has revealed a new project through which it aims to bring flying cars to commuters by 2026. The company published a white paper today outlining its plans for Uber Elevate, a network of on-demand electric aircraft. Business Insider adds: Known as VTOL aircraft -- short for Vertical Take-Off and Landing -- the aircraft would be used to shorten commute times in busy cities, turning a two-hour drive into a 15-minute trip. According to a piece out from Wired on the new plans, Uber doesn't plan to build the aircraft themselves. The ride-hailing company will bring together private companies and the government to deal with the larger issues of making this project a reality, Wired reports. The vehicles would be able to travel at about 150 mph for up to 100 miles and carry multiple people, including a pilot, according to Wired.
Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, BBC reports citing The Living Planet assessment by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF. The report adds that if the trend continues, the decline would reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines. From the report: Dr Mike Barrett. head of science and policy at WWF, said: "It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on. This analysis looked at 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles - about 6% of the total number of vertebrate species in the world. The team collected data from peer-reviewed studies, government statistics and surveys collated by conservation groups and NGOs. Any species with population data going back to 1970, with two or more time points (to show trends) was included in the study.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A hotel executive said a recently-passed New York law cracking down on Airbnb hosts will enable the company to raise prices for New York City hotel rooms, according to the transcript of the executive's words on a call with shareholders last week. The law, signed by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, slaps anyone who lists their apartment on a short-term rental site with a fine up to $7,500. It "should be a big boost in the arm for the business," Mike Barnello, chief executive of the hotel chain LaSalle Hotel Properties, said of the law last Thursday, "certainly in terms of the pricing." Barnello's comment adds fuel the argument, made repeatedly by Airbnb and its proponents, that a law that was passed in the name of affordable housing also allows established hotels to raises prices for consumers. It was included in a memo written by Airbnb's head of global policy, Chris Lehane, to the Internet Association, a tech trade group, reviewed by the Washington Post. LaSalle, a Bethesda, MD-based chain, owns hotels around the country, including New York City. The memo is the latest volley in a bitter fight that has pit the hotel industry, unions, and affordable housing advocates against Airbnb and its supporters. At the heart of the fight is a debate over the societal value of the Airbnb platform and its role in the economy of cities throughout the world. The question is whether Airbnb has been a net benefit, by enabling middle class city-dwellers to make extra money by renting out their homes, or whether it has had the unintended consequence of exacerbating affordable housing crises in expensive cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a small recent study, researchers from New York University found that those who considered themselves in higher classes looked at people who walked past them less than those who said they were in a lower class did. The results were published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science. According to Pia Dietze, a social psychology doctoral student at NYU and a lead author of the study, previous research has shown that people from different social classes vary in how they tend to behave towards other people. So, she wanted to shed some light on where such behaviors could have originated. The research was divided into three separate studies. For the first, Dietze and NYU psychology lab director Professor Eric Knowles asked 61 volunteers to walk along the street for one block while wearing Google Glass to record everything they looked at. These people were also asked to identify themselves as from a particular social class: either poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or upper class. An independent group watched the recordings and made note of the various people and things each Glass wearer looked at and for how long. The results showed that class identification, or what class each person said they belonged to, had an impact on how long they looked at the people who walked past them. During Study 2, participants viewed street scenes while the team tracked their eye movements. Again, higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. For the third and final study, the results suggested that this difference could stem from the way the brain works, rather than being a deliberate decision. Close to 400 participants took part in an online test where they had to look at alternating pairs of images, each containing a different face and five objects. Whereas higher class participants took longer to notice when the face was different in the alternate image compared to lower classes, the amount of time it took to detect the change of objects did not differ between them. The team reached the conclusion that faces seem to be more effective in grabbing the attention of individuals who come from relatively lower class backgrounds.
anderzole writes from a report via BGR: Tesla on Wednesday posted its earnings report for the quarter gone by and investors will have a lot to cheer about. While analysts on Wall St. were expecting Tesla to post a loss, Tesla during its September quarter actually posted a profit, and an impressive profit at that. When the dust settled, Tesla posted a quarterly profit of $22 million and EPS of $0.71. Revenue for the quarter checked in at $2.3 billion. Illustrating how impressive Tesla's performance was this past quarter, Wall St. was anticipating Tesla to post a loss amid $1.9 billion in revenue for the quarter. As far as deliveries are concerned, Tesla during the quarter boasted that it achieved record vehicle production, deliveries and revenue. More importantly, Tesla reaffirmed via a shareholder letter that the Model 3 is still on track for a late 2017 release. You can read Tesla's shareholder letter here.
If you happen to walk through the Museum of Modern Art in New York between December to March of next year, you may see 176 emoji on display next to Van Gogh and Picasso. On Wednesday, the museum announced that Shigetaka Kurita's original pictographs would be added to its collection. Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly two decades ago, Shigetaka Kurita was given the task of designing simple pictographs that could replace Japanese words for the growing number of cellphone users communicating with text messages. Kurita, who was working for the Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo at the time, came up with 176 of them, including oddities like a rocking horse, two kinds of umbrellas (one open, one closed) and five different phases of the moon. He called them emojis. An estimated 74% of Americans now use emojis every day, nudging the written word to the side in favor of a medium that can succinctly and playfully convey emotions in a society often more adept at texting than talking. That marriage of design and utility prompted the art world to take notice. Museum officials say emojis are the modern-day answer to an age-old tradition of communicating with pictures. "Emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history," said Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at MoMA. "There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday sued the Nashville metro government and mayor to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. Comcast's complaint in U.S. District Court in Nashville (full text) is similar to one already filed by AT&T last month. Both ISPs are trying to invalidate a One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. The ordinance was passed largely to benefit Google Fiber, which is offering service in Nashville but says that it hasn't been able to deploy faster because it is waiting to get access to thousands of poles. Nearly all the Nashville utility poles are owned either by the municipal Nashville Electric Service or AT&T. Because Comcast has wires on many of the poles, it has some control over how quickly Google Fiber can expand its network. When Google Fiber wants to attach wires to a new pole, it needs to wait for ISPs like Comcast to move their wires to make room for Google Fiber's. The Nashville One Touch Make Ready ordinance "permits third parties to move, alter, or rearrange components of Comcast's communications network attached to utility poles without Comcast's consent, authorization, or oversight, and with far less notice than is required by federal law and by an existing Comcast contract with Metro Nashville," Comcast's complaint said. Comcast asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid and permanently enjoin Nashville from enforcing it. The pre-existing Make Ready process "seek[s] to ensure that all providers can share available pole space cooperatively and safely, without interfering with or damaging any provider's equipment or services," Comcast said. The new procedures mandated by Nashville "are so intrusive that, tellingly, Metro Nashville has wholly exempted its own utility pole attachments from the Ordinance's coverage." Even though Google Fiber announced yesterday that it will pause operations and cut 9% of its staff, the ISP said it would continue operations in Nashville.
Verizon is treading carefully with Yahoo, but still wants to seal the deal. From a CNET report: "The deal makes strategic sense," said Marni Walden, the executive vice president of business innovation for Verizon and the person who pushed for the acquisition. "We won't jump off of a cliff blindly." She continues to believe there's value in the Yahoo name, noting that it won't go away if Verizon completes its acquisition. Brands like Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance still draw plenty of eyeballs, and offer the kind of audience that Verizon and AOL lack, she said during a keynote session at The Wall Street Journal Digital conference on Wednesday. Her comments come just weeks after Yahoo disclosed a 2014 breach exposed at least 500 million accounts, making it the worst hack in history. Shortly after, reports found that Yahoo had participated in a government program to sniff user emails, further eroding trust. Verizon said this all had the potential to cause a "material impact" to the deal, which could mean Yahoo takes a reduced price or the deal falls through altogether.
While nobody knows exactly who was responsible for the internet outrage last Friday, business risk intelligence firm FlashPoint released a preliminary analysis of the attack agains Dyn DNS, and found that it was likely the work of "script kiddies" or amateur hackers -- as opposed to state-sponsored actors. TechCrunch reports: Aside from suspicion falling on Russia, various entities have also claimed or implied responsibility for the attack, including a hacking group called the New World Hackers and -- bizarrely -- WikiLeaks, which put a (perhaps joke) tweet suggesting some of its supporters might be involved. FlashPoint dubs these claims "dubious" and "likely to be false," and instead comes down on the side of the script kidding theory. Its reasoning is based on a few factors, including a detail it unearthed during its investigation of the attack: namely that the infrastructure used in the attack also targeted a well-known video game company. The attack on Dyn DNS was powered in part by a botnet of hacked DVRs and webcams known as Mirai. The source code for the malware that controls this botnet was put on Github earlier this month. And FlashPoint also notes that the hacker who released Mirai is known to frequent a hacking forum called hackforums[.]net. That circumstantial evidence points to a link between the attack and users and readers of the English-language hacking community, with FlashPoint also noting the forum has been known to target video games companies. It says it has "moderate confidence" about this theory. The firm also argues that the attacks do not seem to have been financially or politically motivated -- given the broad scope of the targets, and the lack of any attempts to extort money. Which just leaves the most likely being motivation to show off skills and disrupt stuff. Aka, script kiddies.
The future of Google Fiber has been shaky ever since Google's parent company, Alphabet, was founded. The original plan was to expand Fiber's blazing fast internet service to more than 20 cities, with the goal of eventually delivering nationwide gigabit service. However, Alphabet hit the reset button on those plans Tuesday. Not only is Google Fiber CEO Craig Barratt leaving, but about 9 percent of staff is being let go. That translates to about 130 job losses, since the business has about 1,500 employees. Bloomberg reports: Barratt wrote in a blog post that the company is pulling back fiber-to-the-home service from eight different cities where it had announced plans. Those include major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Moving into big cities was a contentious point inside Google Fiber, according to one former executive. Leaders like Barratt and Dennis Kish, who runs Google Fiber day-to-day, pushed for the big expansion. Others pushed back because of the prohibitive cost of digging up streets to lay fiber-optic cables across some of America's busiest cities. "I suspect the sheer economics of broad scale access deployments finally became too much for them," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "Ultimately, most of the reasons Google got into this in the first place have either been achieved or been demonstrated to be unrealistic."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Apple just posted its first annual sales decline since 2001, the year it launched the iPod and kicked off a tremendous run of groundbreaking products. The tech company revealed Tuesday that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, from a record $234 billion in 2015. The sales decline is closely connected to the falling sales for the iPhone, which remains Apple's largest source of revenue. Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the September quarter, down from 48 million iPhones in the same quarter a year earlier. That marks the third consecutive quarter when iPhone sales and overall revenue have declined from a year prior. Many analysts have raised concerns that the global smartphone market is saturated. Customers are taking longer to replace their phones. And Apple's latest iPhone is a dead ringer for the previous two models, eliminating some of the desire to upgrade. The good news is that this sales decline may prove to be a blip and not the new norm. Apple is projecting that it will post sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion a year earlier.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in digital forensics, has dominated the market in helping law enforcement access mobile phones. But one apparent reseller of the company's products is publicly distributing copies of Cellebrite firmware and software for anyone to download. Although Cellebrite keeps it most sensitive capabilities in-house, the leak may still give researchers, or competitors, a chance to figure out how Cellebrite breaks into and analyzes phones by reverse-engineering the files. The apparent reseller distributing the files is McSira Professional Solutions, which, according to its website, "is pleased to serve police, military and security agencies in the E.U. And [sic] in other parts of the world." McSira is hosting software for various versions of Cellebrite's Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), hardware that investigators can use to bypass the security mechanisms of phones, and then extract data from them. McSira allows anyone to download firmware for the UFED Touch, and a PC version called UFED 4PC. It is also hosting pieces of Cellebrite forensic software, such as the UFED Cloud Analyzer. This allows investigators to further scrutinize seized data. McSira is likely offering downloads so customers can update their hardware to the latest version with as little fuss as possible. But it may be possible for researchers to take those files, reverse-engineer them, and gain insight into how Cellebrite's tools work. That may include what sort of exploits Cellebrite uses to bypass the security mechanisms of mobile phones, and weaknesses in the implementation of consumer phones that could be fixed, according to one researcher who has started to examine the files, but was not authorised by his employer to speak to the press about this issue.
Samsung is stepping up its brand damage limitation efforts in the wake of the flaming battery disaster of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone by offering owners of the recalled device in South Korea the ability to upgrade to a Galaxy S8 or Note 8 device next year if they trade in their Note 7 for a Galaxy S7 now. TechCrunch adds:The offer implies Samsung is not in fact intending to retire the Note brand name for good, despite it now being associated with smoldering batteries and exploding smartphones. A cause for the battery overheating problem, which affected some replacement Note 7 devices as well as a number of original devices, has yet to be conclusively identified by the company. Users in its home country who opt for the upgrade program will only need to pay half the price of a Galaxy S7 in order to exchange to an S8 or Note 8 next year -- so they're being offered next year's flagship Samsung phablet at around half price. The company is presumably hoping brand loyalty to the Note can begin at home, although it's possible it might extent the offer to other markets.
An anonymous reader writes: In the arms race to build self-driving vehicles, Uber-owned Otto just reached a landmark milestone by completing the first-ever commercial cargo run for a self-driving truck. On October 20, the self-driving truck left Fort Collins, Colorado at 1 a.m. and drove itself 120 miles on I-25 to Colorado Springs. The driver, who has to be there to help the truck get on and off the interstate exit ramps, moved to the backseat alongside a crowd of transportation officials to watch the historic ride. 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer filled the trailer. "We're just thrilled. We do think this is the future of transportation," James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch, told Business Insider.