Feed aggregator

  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.
  • warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/Los_Angeles' for 'PDT/-7.0/DST' instead in /nfs/cristina/home1/b/brian/public_html/drupal-6.28/modules/aggregator/aggregator.pages.inc on line 259.

Review: Netflix debuts two solid German offerings with Biohackers and Freaks

ArsTechnica - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 6:30am
Luna Wedler (left) plays a young medical student with a secret in in the German drama <em>Biohackers</em>, and Cornelia Gröschel (right) stars as a diner waitress who discovers she has super strength in the German film, <em>Freaks: You're One of Us</em>. Both are currently streaming on Netflix.

Enlarge / Luna Wedler (left) plays a young medical student with a secret in in the German drama Biohackers, and Cornelia Gröschel (right) stars as a diner waitress who discovers she has super strength in the German film, Freaks: You're One of Us. Both are currently streaming on Netflix. (credit: Netflix/Sean Carroll)

As someone who enjoys discovering lesser-known films and TV series from around the world, I applaud Netflix's continued commitment to bringing a wide range of international fare to its platform—whether it's South Korean zombie horror/period drama, modern Norwegian reworkings of Norse mythology, Arabic supernatural YA dramas, or Belgian sci-fi thrillers. And the excellent sci-fi series Dark recently wrapped a mind-bending third and final season on Netflix.

If that's left you peckish for more German Netflix fare, you might check out two recent debuts: a sci-fi thriller series, Biohackers, about an ambitious young medical student seeking revenge on her mentor for the scientific sins of the past; and a film called Freaks: You're One of Us, about a diner waitress who discovers she has a superpower—and she's not the only "freak" with a special gift. Neither even comes close to the multilayered conceptual level of Dark, alas, but both provide well-executed, solid entertainment—and you won't need a chart of multiple timelines to follow the plot.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Netflix’s Away splendidly brings a humans-to-Mars mission to life

ArsTechnica - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 6:00am

One evening in early November 2017, I met Andrew Hinderaker at a Houston restaurant named Nobi. Located just down the road from Johnson Space Center, Nobi offers a fantastic combination of Vietnamese food and a rich, rotating selection of draft beer. It’s a classic Houston joint, a fusion of cultures that is the better for it. As such, the restaurant serves as a popular watering hole for the space set.

Hinderaker and a friend of mine named Chris Jones were starting to write on a television show about a realistic human mission to Mars. “From the beginning, Chris and I have believed that this show should be neither naive nor pessimistic,” Hinderaker explained to me. “We believe that there is something aspirational about space exploration, even if the mechanisms that enable it are often bureaucratic.”

I loved the idea. Then, as now, I covered spaceflight, particularly the efforts of NASA, other space agencies, and private companies to expand humanity beyond low-Earth orbit. I had thought a lot about the politics and the technology that might one day enable a small band of humans to travel from Earth to Mars, land on the Red Planet for a while, and travel back. So Hinderaker and I talked through these issues.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

When building an embryo, timing is everything

ArsTechnica - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 5:30am
The repeated light and dark pattern you can see down the side of this embryo is caused by the presence of somites.

The repeated light and dark pattern you can see down the side of this embryo is caused by the presence of somites. (credit: Flickr user Lunar Caustic)

There's a bit of a problem in biology that's so obvious that most biologists don't end up thinking of it as a problem. Humans and mice (and most other mammals) all make pretty much the same collection of stuff as they develop from a fertilized egg. And they do that using a near-identical set of genes. But mice do it all in 21 days; it takes humans over 10 times longer to do it.

You might try to ascribe that to the different number of cells, but as you move across the diversity of mammals, none of that really lines up. Things get even more confusing when you try to account for things like birds and reptiles, which also use the same genes to make many of the same things. The math just doesn't work out. How do developing organisms manage to consistently balance cell number, development time, and a static network of genes?

Biologists are just starting to figure that out, and two papers published this week mark some major progress in the field.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What’s in wildfire smoke, and how dangerous is it?

ArsTechnica - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 5:00am
Juniper Hills, CA, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 - A fire engine drives into air thick with smoke along Juniper Hills Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances North into the Antelope Valley.

Enlarge / Juniper Hills, CA, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 - A fire engine drives into air thick with smoke along Juniper Hills Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances North into the Antelope Valley. (credit: Robert Gauthier | Getty Images)

The West Coast’s wildfire crisis is no longer just the West Coast’s wildfire crisis: As massive blazes continue to burn across California, Oregon, and Washington, they’re spewing smoke high into the atmosphere. Winds pick the haze up and transport it clear across the country, tainting the skies above the East Coast.

But what are you breathing, exactly, when these forests combust and waft smoke near and far? Charred trees and shrubs, of course, but also the synthetic materials from homes and other structures lost in the blazes. Along with a variety of gases, these give off tiny particles, known as PM 2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller), that weasel their way deep into human lungs. All told, the mixture of solids and gases actually transforms chemically as it crosses the country, creating different consequences for the health of humans thousands of miles apart. In other words, what you breathe in, and how hazardous it remains, may depend on how far you live from the Pacific coast.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Telegram messages are a focus in newly uncovered hack campaign from Iran

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 1:36pm
Rampant Kitty has been targeting Telegram like a feline to twine.

Enlarge / Rampant Kitty has been targeting Telegram like a feline to twine. (credit: Check Point)

Researchers said they have uncovered an ongoing surveillance campaign that for years has been stealing a wide range of data on Windows and Android devices used by Iranian expatriates and dissidents.

The campaign, which security firm Check Point has named Rampant Kitten, comprises two main components, one for Windows and the other for Android. Rampant Kitten’s objective is to steal Telegram messages, passwords, and two-factor authentication codes sent by SMS and then also take screenshots and record sounds within earshot of an infected phone, the researchers said in a post published on Friday.

The Windows infostealer is installed through a Microsoft Office document with a title that roughly translates to “The Regime Fears the Spread of the Revolutionary Cannons.docx.” Once opened, it urges readers to enable macros. If a user complies, a malicious macro downloads and installs the malware. The Android infostealer is installed through an app that masquerades as a service to help Persian-language speakers in Sweden get their driver’s license.

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Tesla wins key ruling in legal battle against former employee

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 1:27pm
The Tesla Gigafactory under construction in 2016. Tripp would start work there the following year.

Enlarge / The Tesla Gigafactory under construction in 2016. Tripp would start work there the following year. (credit: Troy Harvey/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A federal judge in Nevada has thrown out a defamation case by former Tesla employee Martin Tripp against his former employer. At the same time, Judge Miranda Du refused to dismiss Tesla's charge that Tripp had violated Nevada's computer crime law when he provided confidential Tesla information to a reporter.

Tripp came to public attention in the spring of 2018 when he told several news organizations—including Ars Technica—that he had evidence that Tesla was wasting raw materials and exaggerating its progress toward producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week. When someone claiming to be a friend of Tripp's called Tesla to warn that Tripp was heavily armed and might "come back and shoot people," Tesla repeated the claim to news organizations. The accusation proved unfounded.

Tesla sued Tripp for violating trade secret and computer crime laws. Tripp counter-sued for defamation over the shooting claims. In a Thursday ruling, Du dismissed Tripp's defamation claims but let some of Tesla's claims move forward to trial.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

$100,000 in bribes helped fraudulent Amazon sellers earn $100 million, DOJ says

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 12:47pm
A pile of Amazon boxes in front of the door of a house.

Enlarge / Amazon boxes. (credit: Getty Images | Julie Clopper)

Six people were indicted on allegations of paying over $100,000 in bribes to Amazon employees and contractors as part of a scheme to give third-party sellers unfair advantages on the Amazon marketplace. Among other things, the indictment says that Amazon workers who accepted bribes reinstated sellers whose accounts had been suspended for offering dangerous products, and these workers suspended the seller accounts of fraudulent sellers' competitors.

The US Department of Justice today announced the indictment handed down by a grand jury in the Western District of Washington. The "defendants paid bribes to at least ten different Amazon employees and contractors," the DOJ said. In one case, a 31-year-old defendant named Nishad Kunju "accepted bribes as a seller-support associate in Hyderabad, India, before becoming an outside consultant who recruited and paid bribes to his former colleagues," the DOJ said.

In exchange for bribes, Amazon workers "baselessly and fraudulently conferred tens of millions of dollars of competitive benefits upon hundreds of [third-party] seller accounts that the Defendants purported to represent," the indictment said. The DOJ said that workers "helped reinstate products and merchant accounts that Amazon had suspended or blocked entirely from doing business on the Amazon Marketplace" and that "the fraudulently reinstated products included dietary supplements that had been suspended because of customer-safety complaints, household electronics that had been flagged as flammable, consumer goods that had been flagged for intellectual-property violations, and other goods." These fraudulently reinstated seller accounts included ones Amazon had "suspended for manipulating product reviews to deceive consumers, making improper contact with consumers, and other violations of Amazon's seller policies and codes of conduct," the DOJ said.

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CDC dramatically restores COVID-19 testing advice marred by political meddling

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 11:26am
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

In a dramatic move, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday restored its recommendation to test people who have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, but don’t have symptoms—erasing politically motivated changes made by members of the Trump administration without the support or input of CDC scientists.

The CDC had—until August 24—always recommended testing for all people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, regardless of symptoms. The CDC stated clearly that this is “important” and should be done quickly “because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission,” which is largely thought to drive the pandemic.

But the guidance was abruptly and quietly changed August 24 to say that exposed people who do not have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.”

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PS5 retailers have many fewer Digital Edition systems for preorder [Updated]

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 11:24am

The $399, disc-drive-free Digital Edition of the PlayStation 5 may be in much shorter supply at US retailers this holiday season than the $499 version with a standard disc drive. That's based on an Ars Technica analysis of PS5 preorder hardware allocations this week at GameStop locations across the country.

Ars was able to confirm the initial PS5 preorder allocations for nine separate GameStop locations. All told, roughly 24 percent of the stock available at these locations was taken up by the Digital Edition, with the remaining 76 percent for the Standard Edition.

The Digital Edition ratios at individual locations ranged from 13 to 33 percent of all the available PS5 preorders, with 20 percent being the most common ratio. Each individual GameStop location in our sample received anywhere from 15 to 30 PS5 units total, with 20 being the most common number.

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Wayback Machine and Cloudflare team up to archive more of the Web

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 10:53am
Screenshot of the Internet Archive's home page, describing the site as

Enlarge / Screenshot of the Internet Archive's home page, including the WayBack Machine's search box. (credit: Internet Archive)

The Internet Archive and Cloudflare have teamed up to archive the content of websites that use Cloudflare's Always Online service, increasing the odds that users will be able to view a recent version of a website during outages. The partnership will increase the number of webpages scanned by the Internet Archive, making the organization's Wayback Machine more useful to Internet users in general.

"Websites that enable Cloudflare's Always Online service will now have their content automatically archived, and if by chance the original host is not available to Cloudflare, then the Internet Archive will step in to make sure the pages get through to users," said an announcement by Mark Graham, director of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

Cloudflare says its Always Online feature saves "a limited copy of your cached website to keep it online for your visitors" when the origin server is unavailable, ensuring that a website's "most popular pages are represented." Using the Wayback Machine will improve the Always Online service, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said.

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The Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, and 8th-gen iPad hit store shelves

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 10:01am

Three days after they were all announced in a livestream on Tuesday, three new Apple products are arriving at consumers' doorsteps and available at retail: the Apple Watch Series 6, the Apple Watch SE, and the 8th-generation iPad.

The Apple Watch Series 6 adds new color options (like blue aluminum, gold stainless steel, graphite stainless steel, and Product Red red), an altimeter, and blood oxygen level monitoring, among other features. It succeeds the Series 5 as Apple's flagship watch and offers the key features of its predecessor as well, like an always-on display. The Series 6 is available in two sizes and starts at $399, but that price can go way up, depending on the customization options like material or band.

The Apple Watch SE doesn't have an always-on display, but it's a lot cheaper. It offers a more basic set of features—but it includes most of the sensors in the Series 6—for $279 and up. That said, it's not the lowest-end Apple Watch; the Series 3 is still available for $199 and up, making that the cheapest option.

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Cop arrests apparently sleeping Tesla driver going 93mph

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 9:29am
 Tesla Model S luxury electric sedan.

Enlarge / Frankfurt, Germany - July 12, 2016: Tesla Model S luxury electric sedan. (credit: typhoonski / Getty)

Police in Alberta, Canada, arrested a driver in July who was going 140km/h (87mph) in a Tesla Model S. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the arrest yesterday.

The officer reported seeing "both front seats completely reclined and both occupants appearing to be asleep." The car "appeared to be self-driving," the RCMP says. When the officer turned on his emergency lights, the vehicle sped up to 150km/h (93mph).

Eventually, the RCMP pulled over the 20-year-old driver and charged him with speeding. They later added a dangerous driving charge.

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Humans reached Saudi Arabia at least 120,000 years ago

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 9:09am
Humans reached Saudi Arabia at least 120,000 years ago

Enlarge (credit: Stewart et al. 2020)

About 120,000 years ago, two or three people walked along the shore of a shallow lake in what is now northern Saudi Arabia. They left behind at least seven footprints in the mud, and today those tracks are the oldest known evidence of our species’ presence in Arabia.

A Pleistocene walk by the lake

Imagine that you’re a hunter-gatherer about 120,000 years ago, and you’re walking out of eastern Africa into Eurasia. Paleoanthropologists are still debating exactly why you’ve decided to do such a thing, and you almost certainly don’t have a destination in mind, but for now we’ll take it for granted that you just want to take a really, really long walk. Almost inevitably, you’ll come to the Levant, on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. From that important geographical crossroads, you’ve got some options: you could head north through Syria and Turkey, then veer east into Asia or west into Europe. You could also strike out east, across the northern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

That was a better option then than it sounds now. Off and on during the Pleistocene, the Arabian Peninsula had a wetter climate than it does today. Evidence from ancient sediments, pollen, and animal fossils all suggest that today’s deserts were once grasslands and woods, crossed by rivers and dotted with lakes like the one at Alathar in the western Nefud Desert.

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Report: Trump admin looking into Tencent’s US gaming investments

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 8:29am
 A woman walks outside the headquarters of Tencent on August 19, 2020 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Enlarge / SHENZHEN, CHINA - AUGUST 19: A woman walks outside the headquarters of Tencent on August 19, 2020 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The US government is reportedly scrutinizing Chinese tech giant Tencent and the US gaming companies in which it has an investment interest. Bloomberg reports that the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) has asked companies including Epic Games and Riot Games to answer questions about their data-security standards, according to "people familiar with the matter."

CFIUS has the authority to examine foreign investment in US companies when those investments could have an impact on national security. Historically, that has often meant examining foreign access to US natural resources or military secrets. More recently, though, CFIUS has taken an expanded interest in potential foreign access to US customer data.

“When you’re talking about massive amounts of data, there’s probably something for the committee to look at,” former Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Investment Security Aimen Mir told Bloomberg yesterday. “The question then becomes is the risk high enough that it actually warrants forcing deals apart?”

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After billion-dollar disasters, here’s what the US’ fall weather has in store

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 8:22am
Hey, another warm month...

Enlarge / Hey, another warm month... (credit: NOAA)

We’re reaching the end of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the weather in the US has been about as eventful as one expects for the year 2020. A highly active Atlantic hurricane season has lived up to expectations so far, while record-setting wildfires have blanketed the drought-beset West Coast, creating smoke that has drifted clear across the country.

NOAA’s latest monthly summary shows how all this developed in August and what we have to look forward to in the next three months. Critically, La Niña conditions in the Pacific seem to have settled in, which has implications for winter patterns across North America and beyond.

Looking back

Globally, this was the second-warmest August on record (going back to 1880) and the third-warmest June-August stretch. Looking at the entire year through August, 2020 is the second-warmest on record just behind 2016. With so little of the year left, it’s very unlikely to drop in the rankings, and it still has a chance at the top spot. NOAA currently puts the odds of a new record at about 40 percent, while other estimates continue to be a bit higher. La Niña conditions will hold down the global average, so topping 2016 and its warm El Niño would be remarkable.

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Comcast shut off Internet to hundreds, saying they were illegally connected

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 7:58am
A Comcast/NBC logo.

(credit: Comcast)

Comcast says that a broadband reseller illegally sold Comcast Internet service in residential buildings in the Denver area and has terminated the connections to those buildings.

As reported by Denver7 this week, the shutoff affected hundreds of people who live in buildings serviced by AlphaWiFi, "which installs and services Internet in approximately 90 apartment buildings across Denver." The shutoff came as a surprise to residents, including Kaley Warren, who has been working at home during the pandemic.

"It is my entire lifeline," said Warren, who said that without warning last Friday, her Internet service disappeared. "I felt lost. It was truly the first time during the pandemic that I... had the feeling of 'What am I supposed to do?'"

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Trump admin orders TikTok, WeChat gone from app stores on Sunday

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 5:48am
If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few days.

Enlarge / If the Trump administration has its way, these logos will be scarce inside the US in a few days. (credit: Ivan Abreu | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Consumers inside the US will no longer be allowed to download TikTok or WeChat from any US app store after Sunday, the Trump administration announced today.

Any "provision of service to distribute or maintain" the mobile applications or their "constituent code" is prohibited beginning after 11:59pm ET September 20, the Department of Commerce said this morning. That means Google Play and Apple's App Store will have to yank their listings for the apps, and users who already have one or both apps will not be able to download updates or patches for them.

"At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of US laws and regulations," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a written statement.

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A bevy of new features makes iOS 14 the most secure mobile OS ever

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 4:48am
Multiple smartphones on table.

Enlarge / From left to right: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Eleven months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared privacy a “fundamental human right.” The affirmation came as the iPhones his customers carry in their pockets store ever more sensitive information and the company seeks to make privacy a key differentiator as it competes with Google and other rivals.

On Wednesday, the company sought to make good on its commitment with the release of iOS 14. It introduces a bevy of privacy features designed to give iPhone users more control over their personal information. The protections are intended to rein in app developers, online providers, and advertisers who all too often push the limits of acceptable data collection, assuming they don’t fully step over the line.

I spent a little more than an hour testing some of the features. Here’s a brief description of each, how to use them, and some first-blush impressions of how some work.

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iOS 14 on the iPhone 6S and SE: Performance is fine, other stuff is not

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 4:15am
Two smartphones side by side.

Enlarge / The iPhone 6S (left) and first-generation iPhone SE (right) running iOS 14. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

It’s September, and you know what that means: shorter days, the first tentative tinge of chill in the night air, Halloween candy at the grocery store, and—most relevantly for us—a new version of iOS.

Apple supports its own phones with new software updates for years longer than any of the Android phone makers do, but that doesn’t mean that using a new version of iOS on the oldest-supported hardware is always pleasant. For iOS 14, that hardware is the iPhone 6S and the original 4-inch iPhone SE, the same as it was for iOS 13.

Originally released in late 2015 (the 6S and 6S Plus) and early 2016 (the SE), both phones include an Apple A9 processor and 2GB of RAM, and both devices boast the bare minimum you need for things like augmented reality apps or hardware accelerated decoding of h.265/HEVC video. In the move from iOS 12 to iOS 13, we found that the phones slowed down a little but remained perfectly usable; the same was true of iPadOS on older hardware, which we didn’t re-test this time around. This year, we were pleasantly surprised on the performance front, but the second-generation iPhone SE makes upgrading much easier to justify now than it was last year.

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Rocket Report: Chinese rocket fails, Starship may make a leap in October

ArsTechnica - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 4:00am
A view of Astra's rocket.

Enlarge / The flight of Astra's rocket looked smooth coming off the pad. (credit: John Kraus for Astra)

Welcome to Edition 3.16 of the Rocket Report! This week, we have a couple of small-launch failures to discuss, as well as schedule slippages for the debut of European and Japanese rockets. Finally, Europe's next heavy-lift rocket, the Ariane 6, has been showing signs of progress.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Astra launches its first orbital rocket. Following months of technical and weather delays, Astra launched its first orbital rocket, Ars reports. The vehicle launched on September 11 from a spaceport in southern Alaska. The small rocket's five main engines lit several seconds before liftoff, and Rocket 3.1 appeared to climb straight and true for about 15 seconds before it began to sway back and forth a little bit. Later, the company's co-founder and chief technology officer, Adam London, explained that a problem with the rocket's computerized guidance system introduced a slight roll oscillation. Local video of the launch and explosion can be seen here.

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