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United States

32% of All US Adults Watch Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 9

Nearly a third of all US adults admit to having downloaded or streamed pirated movies or TV-shows, a new survey has found. Even though many are aware that watching pirated content is not permitted, a large number of pirates are particularly hard to deter. According to a report from TorrentFreak: This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted by anti-piracy firm Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Twentieth Century Fox and Starz. Through YouGov, the company conducted a representative survey of over 1,000 respondents which found that 32 percent of all US adults admit to streaming or downloading pirated video content. These self-confessed pirates are interested in a wide variety of video content. TV-shows and movies that still play in theaters are on the top of the list for many, with 24 percent each, but older movies, live sports and Netflix originals are mentioned as well. The data further show that the majority of US adults (69%) know that piracy is illegal. Interestingly, this also means that a large chunk of the population believes that they're doing nothing wrong.
United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 38

Ads for Google and related companies were found in the top spot in 91% of 25,000 searches related to items, according to a report on WSJ. For example, a search for "phones" would produce ads for Google Pixel, which the company launched last year. From a report: Similar results were found for searches on "Watches" or "smoke detector," which produced ads for Android smartwatches and Nest devices, respectively. In a statement, Google says their marketing programs are "carefully designed" to not impact outside advertisers. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes -- set to tougher levels than our customers -- to govern the use of our own ads products." The auction is a process deciding which ads will appear for users when they type in certain search queries. Strategies such as using relevant keywords give advertisers a better shot at their ad appearing on a search results page.
Transportation

Tesla Avoids Recall After Autopilot Crash Death (bbc.com) 94

Tesla will not be ordered to recall its semi-autonomous cars in the US, following a fatal crash in May 2016. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation after it found no evidence of a defect in the vehicle. From a report: Joshua Brown was killed when his car collided with a lorry while operating in Autopilot mode. Tesla has stated Autopilot is only designed to assist drivers, who must keep their hands on the wheel. The feature is intended to be used on the motorway, where is lets cars automatically change lanes and react to traffic. The NHTSA report said data from the car showed that "the driver took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision". Bryan Thomas from the NHSTA said the driver should have been able to see the lorry for seven seconds, which "should have been enough time to take some action".
Education

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60 (nytimes.com) 206

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League -- Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown -- more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. From a report on the NYTimes (alternate non-paywall link): Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college -- universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of "elite" at the bottom). In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. "Free tuition only helps if you can get in," said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.
Books

Amazon, Apple To End Audiobook Exclusivity: EU (marketwatch.com) 16

European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Amazon.com to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple. From a report: The European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon's unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple's iTunes store. The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.
Earth

How the Human Brain Decides What Is Important and What's Not (neurosciencenews.com) 49

New submitter baalcat writes: A new study reported by Neuroscience News sheds light on how we learn to pay attention in order to make the most of our life experiences. From the report: "The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy to 'pay no attention to that man behind the curtain' in an effort to distract her, but a new Princeton University study sheds light on how people learn and make decisions in real-world situations. The findings could eventually contribute to improved teaching and learning and the treatment of mental and addiction disorders in which people's perspectives are dysfunctional or fractured. Participants in the study performed a multidimensional trial-and-error learning task, while researchers scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The researchers found that selective attention is used to determine the value of different options. The results also showed that selective attention shapes what we learn when something unexpected happens. For example, if your pizza is better or worse than expected, you attribute the learning to whatever your attention was focused on and not to features you decided to ignore. Finally, the researchers found that what we learn through this process teaches us what to pay attention to, creating a feedback cycle -- we learn about what we attend to, and we attend to what we learned high values for. 'If we want to understand learning, we can't ignore the fact that learning is almost always done in a multidimensional 'cluttered' environment,' says senior author Yael Niv, an associate professor in psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 'We want kids to listen to the teacher, but a lot is going on in the classroom -- there is so much to look at inside it and out the window. So, it's important to understand how exactly attention and learning interact and how they shape each other.'" The study has been published in the journal Neuron.
China

China Cancels Over 100 Coal-Fired Power Plants (reuters.com) 220

In an effort to improve air quality, the Chinese government has canceled over 100 coal-fired power plants in 11 provinces -- totaling a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts. Reuters reports: In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction. The projects worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) were to have been spread across provinces and autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi and other northwestern areas. Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government's effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation's power supply. To put it in perspective, some 130 GW of additional solar and wind power will be installed by 2020, equal to France's total renewable power generation capacity, said Frank Yu, principal consultant at Wood Mackenzie. "This shows the government is keeping its promise in curbing supplies of coal power," Yu said. Some of the projects will still go ahead, but not until 2025 and will likely replace outdated technology, he said.
Earth

Female Shark Learns To Reproduce Without Males After Years Alone (newscientist.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: A female shark separated from her long-term mate has developed the ability to have babies on her own. Leonie the zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) met her male partner at an aquarium in Townsville, Australia, in 1999. They had more than two dozen offspring together before he was moved to another tank in 2012. From then on, Leonie did not have any male contact. But in early 2016, she had three baby sharks. Intrigued, Christine Dudgeon at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and her colleagues began fishing for answers. One possibility was that Leonie had been storing sperm from her ex and using it to fertilize her eggs. But genetic testing showed that the babies only carried DNA from their mum, indicating they had been conceived via asexual reproduction. Some vertebrate species have the ability to reproduce asexually even though they normally reproduce sexually. These include certain sharks, turkeys, Komodo dragons, snakes and rays. However, most reports have been in females who have never had male partners. In sharks, asexual reproduction can occur when a female's egg is fertilized by an adjacent cell known as a polar body, Dudgeon says. This also contains the female's genetic material, leading to "extreme inbreeding", she says. "It's not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability." Nevertheless, it may be necessary at times when males are scarce. "It might be a holding-on mechanism," Dudgeon says. "Mum's genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with." It's possible that the switch from sexual to asexual reproduction is not that unusual; we just haven't known to look for it, Dudgeon says.
Government

Julian Assange Will Not Hand Himself In Because Chelsea Manning's Release Won't Happen Immediately, Lawyer Says (independent.co.uk) 482

President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning's prison sentence yesterday, reducing her time required to serve behind bars from 35 years to just over seven years. Prior to the commutation, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Roughly 24 hours have passed since the news broke and it appears that Assange will not hand himself in to the Department of Justice. The Independent reports: Mr Assange's lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through -- telling reporters that he stood by his earlier comments -- but it appears now that Mr Assange will stay inside the embassy. The commitment to accept extradition to the U.S. was based on Ms Manning being released immediately, Mr Assange's lawyer told The Hill. Ms Manning won't actually be released until May -- to allow for a standard 120-day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live, an official told The New York Times for its original report about Ms Manning's clemency. "Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought," Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S.-based attorney, told the site. "Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately."
Windows

Microsoft Adds Intel's Clear Linux Open-Source OS To Azure Market (networkworld.com) 24

JG0LD quotes a report from Network World: Microsoft announced today that it has added support for the Intel-backed Clear Linux distribution in instances for its Azure public cloud platform. It's the latest in a lengthy string of Linux distributions to become available on the company's Azure cloud. BrianFagioli adds from BetaNews: In other words, users of the company's cloud platform can set up a virtual machine using this distribution in addition to existing Linux-based operating systems. "Today, we're excited to announce the availability of Clear Linux OS for Intel Architecture in Azure Marketplace. Clear Linux OS is a free, open-source Linux distribution built from the ground up for cloud and data center environments and tuned to maximize the performance and value of Intel architecture. Microsoft Azure is the first public cloud provider to offer Clear Linux, and we're really excited about what it means for Linux users in the cloud and the community at large," says Jose Miguel Parrella, Open Source Product Manager, Microsoft.
EU

Apple Increases App Store Prices By 25% Following Brexit Vote (theguardian.com) 153

Following the UK's vote to leave the European Union last year, Apple is raising prices on its UK App Store by almost 25 percent to counter the depreciation of the pound. For example, an app that costs $0.99 in the U.S., and used to cost 0.79 British pounds, will now cost 0.99 British pounds. The Guardian reports: Apple announced the price rises in an email to app developers on Tuesday, and told them "when foreign exchange rates or taxation changes, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store." It says the new prices will roll out over the next seven days, giving customers a short opportunity to beat the price increase. Similar price increases are expected to hit other Apple stores, including the iTunes Store for music and video and the iBooks Store. Britain isn't the only country experiencing price changes. India is seeing price increases due to changes in service taxes, while Turkish prices are also rising due to depreciation of the Turkish Lira. Since the vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound has fallen by 18.5% against the U.S. dollar. In a statement, Apple said: "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time."
Education

College Fires IT Admin, Loses Access To Google Email, Successfully Sues IT Admin For $250K (theregister.co.uk) 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Shortly after the American College of Education (ACE) in Indiana fired IT administrator Triano Williams in April, 2016, it found that it no longer had any employees with admin access to the Google email service used by the school. In a lawsuit [PDF] filed against Williams in July, 2016, the school alleges that it asked Williams to return his work laptop, which was supposed to have the password saved. But when Williams did so in May that year, the complaint says, the computer was returned wiped, with a new operating system, and damaged to the point it could no longer be used. ACE claimed that its students could not access their Google-hosted ACE email accounts or their online coursework. The school appealed to Google, but Google at the time refused to help because the ACE administrator account had been linked to William's personal email address. "By setting up the administrator account under a non-ACE work email address, Mr Williams violated ACE's standard protocol with respect to administrator accounts," the school's complaint states. "ACE was unaware that Mr Williams' administrator account was not linked to his work address until after his employment ended." According to the school's court filing, Williams, through his attorney, said he would help the school reinstate its Google administrator account, provided the school paid $200,000 to settle his dispute over the termination of his employment. That amount is less than half the estimated $500,000 in harm the school says it has suffered due to its inability to access its Google account, according to a letter from William's attorney in Illinois, Calvita J Frederick. Frederick's letter claims that another employee set up the Google account and made Williams an administrator, but not the controlling administrator. It says the school locked itself out of the admin account through too many failed password attempts. Williams, in a counter-suit [PDF] filed last month, claims his termination followed from a pattern of unlawful discrimination by the school in the wake of a change in management. Pointing to the complaint she filed with the court in Illinois, Frederick said Williams wrote a letter [PDF] to a supervisor complaining about the poor race relations at the school and, as a result of that letter, he was told he had to relocate to Indianapolis.
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 113

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
Oracle

Labor Department Sues Oracle For Paying White Men More (usatoday.com) 268

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
NASA

Earth Hit Record Hot Year in 2016: NASA (news.com.au) 241

Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, government scientists have said. They mostly blame man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino, which has since disappeared. From a report: Measuring global temperatures in slightly different ways, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last year passed 2015 as the hottest year on record. NOAA calculated that the average 2016 global temperature was 14.84 degrees Celsius (58.69 degrees Fahrenheit) -- beating the previous year by 0.04 Celsius (0.07 degrees F). NASA's figures, which include more of the Arctic, are higher at 0.22 degrees (0.12 Celsius) warmer than 2015. The Arctic "was enormously warm, like totally off the charts compared to everything else," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, where the space agency monitors global temperatures. Records go back to 1880. This is the fifth time in a dozen years that the globe has set a new annual heat record. Records have been set in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2005.
Firefox

Mozilla's New Logo Reminds Us that It Is, In Fact, a Web Firm (cnet.com) 173

Mozilla has a new logo. The company has ditched the world "ill" from the name with a colon and two slashes. From a report: Last year, Mozilla, the internet company best known for the Firefox browser, publicly started the rebranding process by opening the door to public feedback. With several options on display, Mozilla asked for comments and input from all who cared to share. As of today, the new logo is official and the simple change is meant as a reminder that Mozilla is more than just a browser.
United States

Russia Extends Edward Snowden's Asylum To 2020, To Offer Citizenship Next Year (cnn.com) 239

Whistleblower and former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been allowed to remain in Russia for another three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian citizenship. From a report on CNN: Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN. Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a "couple of years" in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as "the perfect inauguration gift" to President-elect Donald Trump. Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after. In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.
Android

Low-Cost Android One Phones Coming To The US, Says Report (theverge.com) 91

The Android One platform is a program designed by Google to provide budget-friendly Android smartphones to developing markets. The phones are attractive because they contain no bloatware, competing services, and a lack of software and security updates -- the stuff that most low-end smartphones contain. According to a report from The Information, the program is about to make its way to the U.S. market. The Verge reports: Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven't heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal. Android One may not have been the rousing worldwide success Google was hoping for, but it's still an important initiative for the company. Especially at the low end, there's a lot of incentive for manufacturers to pile on extra software in a bid to make those devices more profitable -- but that could cut against Google's efforts to make its own services more pervasive and popular. If Google really does put some real effort behind Android One, it could make its plans for Android a little clearer. Google itself has taken a stand that it wants to make its own hardware at the high-end of the smartphone market with the Pixel, and if The Information's report is accurate, it wants to ensure that its services are not cut out from the low end.
Businesses

US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing (reuters.com) 57

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
The Almighty Buck

Blockchain Technology Could Save Banks $12 Billion a Year (silicon.co.uk) 108

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Accenture research has found Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent for eight of the world's ten biggest banks. That equates to annual cost savings of $8-12 billion. The findings of the "Banking on Blockchain: A Value Analysis for Investment Banks" report are based on an analysis of granular cost data from the eight banks to identify exactly where value could be achieved. A vast amount of cost for today's investment banks comes from complex data reconciliation and confirmation processes with their clients and counterparts, as banks maintain independent databases of transactions and customer information. However, Blockchain would enable banks to move to a shared, distributed database that spans multiple organizations. It has become increasingly obvious in recent months that blockchain will be key to the future of the banking industry, with the majority of banks expected to adopt the technology within the next three years.

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