Education

Kazakhstan Is Changing Its Alphabet From Cyrillic To Latin-Based Style Favored By the West (bbc.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant -- and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan's current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population -- a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev's iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it "ugly." The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy'bli'kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes. The BBC article goes on to explain the economics of such a change, citing a restuarant owner that marketed his business using the first version of the alphabet. "All his marketing materials, the labelling on napkin holders and menus, and even the massive sign outside the building will have to be replaced," reports the BBC. "In his attempt to get ahead by launching in the new alphabet, [the owner] had not predicted that the government would revise it. He thinks it will cost about $3,000 to change the spelling of the name on everything to the new version, Sabiz." The full transition to the Latin-based script is expected to be completed by 2025, impacting this owner and many other small business owners.
Crime

Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal (arstechnica.com) 78

The Belgian Gaming Commission has reviewed several big video games and found that randomized loot boxes in at least three of the titles count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation. Ars Technica reports: A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance." Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said. The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country's gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to 800,000EU (~$973,680) and five years in prison, which can be doubled if "minors are involved." But Geens says he wants to start a "dialogue" with loot box providers to "see who should take responsibility where."
Transportation

Ford To Stop Selling Every Car In North America But the Mustang, Focus Active (techcrunch.com) 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Ford today announced it will phase out most cars it sells in North America. According to its latest financial release, the auto giant "will transition to two vehicles" -- the Mustang and an unannounced vehicle, the Focus Active, being the only traditional cars it sells in the region. Ford sees 90 percent of its North America portfolio in trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles. Citing a reduction in consumer demand and product profitability, Ford is in turn not investing in the next generation of sedans. The Taurus is no more. The press release also talks about a new type of vehicle, though it sounds like a crossover. This so-called white space vehicle will "combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space and versatility." Currently, Ford sells six sedans and coupes in North America: the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, C-Max, Mustang and Taurus. This lineup hits multiple segments, from the compact Fiesta to the mid-size Focus, C-Max and Fusion to the full-size Taurus. The Mustang stands alone as the lone coupe.
Businesses

Trump Meets With Apple's Tim Cook To Talk Trade (reuters.com) 22

New submitter genfail shares a report from Reuters: President Donald Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday to discuss trade issues as the technology industry grapples with a U.S. spat over import tariffs with China, a manufacturing hub for the iPhone maker and other companies. Apple, the world's largest technology company, and other hardware makers have deep ties with China, where many of their products are built for export around the world. Cook urged an easing of U.S.-China tensions and called for more open trade after the trade dispute flared last month between the world's two largest economies. Trump announced about $50 billion in planned tariffs on certain Chinese imports, China retaliated with proposed tariffs on some American goods and Trump responded that the United States could counter with $100 billion in additional levies. U.S. and Chinese officials have been working to resolve the dispute.
Medicine

Medicare To Require Hospitals To Post Prices Online (pbs.org) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer. Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don't reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital's payments on how good a job they do. Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced Medicare is starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for a costly new form of immunotherapy called CAR-T. It's an expensive gene therapy that turbocharges a patient's own immune system cells to attack cancer. The cost for such a procedure can exceed $370,000 per patient.
Government

More FISA Orders Were Denied During President Trump's First Year in Office Than in the Court's 40-Year History (zdnet.com) 174

In its first year, the Trump administration kept one little-known courtroom in the capital busy. From a report: A secretive Washington DC-based court that oversees the US government's foreign spy programs denied more surveillance orders during President Donald Trump's first year than in the court's 40-year history, according to newly released figures. Annual data published Wednesday by the US Courts shows that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court last year denied 26 applications in full, and 50 applications in part. That's compared to 21 orders between when the court was first formed in 1978 and President Barack Obama's final year in office in 2016.
Bitcoin

Nasdaq 'Would Consider' Creating a Crypto Exchange, Says CEO (coindesk.com) 36

The CEO of Nasdaq suggested Wednesday that the company could open a cryptocurrency exchange in the future. From a report: The subject came up in an interview with CNBC, during which CEO Adena Friedman expressed openness to the idea. "Certainly Nasdaq would consider becoming a crypto exchange over time," Friedman remarked, adding: "If we do look at it and say 'it's time, people are ready for a more regulated market,' for something that provides a fair experience for investors... I believe that digital currencies will continue to persist it's just a matter of how long it will take for that space to mature. Once you look at it and say, 'do we want to provide a regulated market for this?' Certainly Nasdaq would consider it."
Windows

E-Waste Innovator Will Go To Jail For Making Windows Restore Disks That Only Worked With Valid Licenses (gizmodo.com) 382

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: California man Eric Lundgren, an electronic waste entrepreneur who produced tens of thousands of Windows restore disks intended to extend the lifespan of aging computers, lost a federal appeals court case in Miami after it ruled "he had infringed Microsoft's products to the tune of $700,000," the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Per the Post, the appeals court ruled Lundgren's original sentence of 15 months in prison and a $50,000 fine would stay, despite the software being freely available online and only compatible with valid Windows licenses: "The appeals court upheld a federal district judge's ruling that the disks made by Eric Lundgren to restore Microsoft operating systems had a value of $25 apiece, even though they could be downloaded free and could be used only on computers with a valid Microsoft license. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit initially granted Lundgren an emergency stay of his prison sentence, shortly before he was to surrender, but then affirmed his original 15-month sentence and $50,000 fine without hearing oral argument in a ruling issued April 11." All told, the court valued 28,000 restore disks he produced at $700,000, despite testimony from software expert Glenn Weadock that they were worth essentially zero.
Businesses

EPA Proposes Limits To Science Used In Rulemaking (reuters.com) 304

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule on Tuesday that would limit the kinds of scientific research it can use in crafting regulations, an apparent concession to big business that has long requested such restrictions. Under the new proposals, the EPA will no longer be able to rely on scientific research that is underpinned by confidential medical and industry data. The measure was billed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as a way to boost transparency for the benefit of the industries his agency regulates. But scientists and former EPA officials worry it will hamstring the agency's ability to protect public health by putting key data off limits.

The EPA has for decades relied on scientific research that is rooted in confidential medical and industry data as a basis for its air, water and chemicals rules. While it publishes enormous amounts of research and data to the public, the confidential material is held back. Business interests have argued the practice is tantamount to writing laws behind closed doors and unfairly prevents them from vetting the research underpinning the EPA's often costly regulatory requirements. They argue that if the data cannot be published, the rules should not be adopted. But ex-EPA officials say the practice is vital.

Yahoo!

SEC Issues $35 Million Fine Over Yahoo Failing To Disclose Data Breach (theverge.com) 35

Altaba, the company formerly known as Yahoo, will have to pay a $35 million fine for failing to disclose a 2014 data breach in which hackers stole info on over 500 million accounts. "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that Altaba, which contains Yahoo's remains, agreed to pay the fine to settle charges that it misled investors by not informing them of the hack until September 2016, despite known of it as early as December 2014," reports The Verge. From the report: The SEC goes on to admonish Yahoo for its failure to disclose the breach to investors, saying that the agency wouldn't "second-guess good faith exercises of judgment" but that Yahoo's decisions were "so lacking" that a fine was necessary. Yahoo isn't being fined for having poor security practices, not informing users, or really anything related to the hack happening. The SEC is just mad that investors weren't told about it, because -- as Yahoo even noted in filings to investors -- data breaches can have financial impacts and legal implications. With a breach this large, the SEC believes that was obviously a real risk. "Public companies should have controls and procedures in place to properly evaluate cyber incidents and disclose material information to investors," Jina Choi, director of the SEC's San Francisco Regional Office, said in a statement. The SEC released guidance to public companies on what to disclose about data breaches earlier this year, which could help to avoid similar situations in the future.
AI

CIA Plans To Replace Spies With AI (thenextweb.com) 80

Human spies could soon be relics of the past. Dawn Meyerriecks, CIA's deputy director for technology development, recently told an audience at an intelligence conference in Florida that CIA was adapting to a new landscape where its primary adversary is a machine, not a foreign agent. From a report: Meyerriecks, speaking to CNN after the conference, said other countries have relied on AI to track enemy agents for years. She went on to explain the difficulties encountered by current CIA spies trying to live under an assumed identity in the era of digital tracking and social media, indicating the modern world is becoming an inhospitable environment to human spies. But the CIA isn't about to give up. America's oldest spy agency is transforming from the kind of outfit that sends people around the globe to gather information, to the type that uses computers to accomplish the same task more efficiently. This transition from humans to computers is something the CIA has spent more than 30 years preparing for.
Businesses

Patent 'Death Squad' System Upheld by US Supreme Court (bloomberg.com) 86

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an administrative review system that has helped Google, Apple and other companies invalidate hundreds of issued patents. From a report: The justices, voting 7-2, said Tuesday a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board that critics call a patent "death squad" wasn't unconstitutionally wielding powers that belong to the courts. Silicon Valley companies have used the system as a less-expensive way to ward off demands for royalties, particularly from patent owners derided as "trolls" because they don't use their patents to make products. Drugmakers and independent inventors complain that it unfairly upends what they thought were established property rights. "It came down to this: Is the patent office fixing its own mistakes or is the government taking property?" said Wayne Stacy, a patent lawyer with Baker Botts. "They came down on the side of the patent office fixing its own mistakes." The ruling caused shares to drop in companies whose main source of revenue -- their patents -- are under threat from challenges. VirnetX, which is trying to protect almost $1 billion in damages it won against Apple, dropped as much as 12 percent. The patent office has said its patents are invalid in a case currently before an appeals court.
United States

Senate Confirms Trump's Pick for NSA, Cyber Command (politico.com) 58

An anonymous reader shares a report: The Senate Tuesday quietly confirmed President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. U.S. Army Cyber Command chief Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone was unanimously confirmed by voice vote to serve as the "dual-hat" leader of both organizations. The two have shared a leader since the Pentagon established Cyber Command in 2009. He will replace retiring Navy Adm. Mike Rogers after a nearly four-year term. The Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees both previously approved Nakasone's nomination by voice vote.
AI

Scientists Plan Huge European AI Hub To Compete With US (theguardian.com) 68

Leading scientists have drawn up plans for a vast multinational European institute devoted to world-class artificial intelligence (AI) research in a desperate bid to nurture and retain top talent in Europe. From a report: The new institute would be set up for similar reasons as Cern, the particle physics lab near Geneva, which was created after the second world war to rebuild European physics and reverse the brain drain of the brightest and best scientists to the US. Named the European Lab for Learning and Intelligent Systems, or Ellis, the proposed AI institute would have major centres in a handful of countries, the UK included, with each employing hundreds of computer engineers, mathematicians and other scientists with the express aim of keeping Europe at the forefront of AI research. In an open letter that urges governments to act, the scientists describe how Europe has not kept up with the US and China, where the vast majority of leading AI firms and universities are based. The letter adds that while a few "research hotspots" still exist in Europe, "virtually all of the top people in those places are continuously being pursued for recruitment by US companies."
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, and Major Studios Try To Shut Down $20-Per-Month TV Service (arstechnica.com) 209

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Netflix, Amazon, and the major film studios have once again joined forces to sue the maker of a TV service and hardware device, alleging that the products are designed to illegally stream copyrighted videos. The lawsuit was filed against the company behind Set TV, which sells a $20-per-month TV service with more than 500 channels.

"Defendants market and sell subscriptions to 'Setvnow,' a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs' copyrighted motion pictures and television shows," the complaint says. Besides Netflix and Amazon, the plaintiffs are Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The complaint was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The companies are asking for permanent injunctions to prevent further distribution of Set TV software and devices, the impoundment of Set TV devices, and for damages including the defendants' profits.

The Internet

Mosaic, the First HTML Browser That Could Display Images Alongside Text, Turns 25 (wired.com) 132

NCSA Mosaic 1.0, the first web browser to achieve popularity among the general public, was released on April 22, 1993. It was developed by a team of students at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and had the ability to display text and images inline, meaning you could put pictures and text on the same page together, in the same window. Wired reports: It was a radical step forward for the web, which was at that point, a rather dull experience. It took the boring "document" layout of your standard web page and transformed it into something much more visually exciting, like a magazine. And, wow, it was easy. If you wanted to go somewhere, you just clicked. Links were blue and underlined, easy to pick out. You could follow your own virtual trail of breadcrumbs backwards by clicking the big button up there in the corner. At the time of its release, NCSA Mosaic was free software, but it was available only on Unix. That made it common at universities and institutions, but not on Windows desktops in people's homes.

The NCSA team put out Windows and Mac versions in late 1993. They were also released under a noncommercial software license, meaning people at home could download it for free. The installer was very simple, making it easy for just about anyone to get up and running on the web. It was then that the excitement really began to spread. Mosaic made the web come to life with color and images, something that, for many people, finally provided the online experience they were missing. It made the web a pleasure to use.

Earth

Cow Could Soon Be Largest Land Mammal Left Due To Human Activity, Says Study (theguardian.com) 243

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The cow could be left as the biggest land mammal on Earth in a few centuries, according to a new study that examines the extinction of large mammals as humans spread around the world. The spread of hominims -- early humans and related species such as Neanderthals -- from Africa thousands of years ago coincided with the extinction of megafauna such as the mammoth, the sabre-toothed tiger and the glyptodon, an armadillo-like creature the size of a car. "There is a very clear pattern of size-biased extinction that follows the migration of hominims out of Africa," the study's lead author, Felisa Smith, of the University of New Mexico, said of the study published in the journal Science on Thursday. Humans apparently targeted big species for meat, while smaller creatures such as rodents escaped, according the report, which examined trends over 125,000 years. In North America, for instance, the mean body mass of land-based mammals has shrunk to 7.6kg (17lb) from 98kg after humans arrived. If the trend continues "the largest mammal on Earth in a few hundred years may well be a domestic cow at about 900kg", the researchers wrote. That would mean the loss of elephants, giraffes and hippos. In March, the world's last male northern white rhino died in Kenya.
Youtube

YouTube Says Computers Helped It Pull Down Millions of Objectionable Videos Last Quarter (recode.net) 147

YouTube says it has successfully trained computers to flag objectionable videos. In the last quarter of 2017, the company reportedly pulled down more than six million of these videos before any users saw them. The news comes from a brief aside in Google CEO Sundar Pichai's scripted remarks during parent company Alphabet's earnings call today. "He said YouTube had pulled down more than six million videos in the last quarter of 2017 after first being flagged by its 'machine systems,' and that 75 percent of those videos 'were removed before receiving a single view,'" reports Recode.
Government

US Government Weighing Sanctions Against Kaspersky Lab (cyberscoop.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CyberScoop: The U.S. government is considering sanctions against Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab as part of a wider round of action carried out against the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter. The sanctions would be a considerable expansion and escalation of the U.S. government's actions against the company. Kaspersky, which has two ongoing lawsuits against the U.S. government, has been called "an unacceptable threat to national security" by numerous U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Officials told CyberScoop any additional action against Kaspersky would occur at the lawsuits' conclusion, which Kaspersky filed in response to a stipulation in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that bans its products from federal government networks. If the sanctions came to fruition, the company would be barred from operating in the U.S. and potentially even in U.S. allied countries.

Advertising

Facebook Sued Over Fake Ads (theguardian.com) 62

shilly writes: British finance expert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for defamation, after a year of trying to persuade the company to stop accepting scam ads featuring his name and image. Facebook insists that he report to them every time he spots a scam; he wants them to check with him before they take money for an ad featuring his name or picture, so he can tell them if it's legit or not. "Lewis said he would not profit from any damages won, which he would donate to charities combating fraud, but that he hoped the action would prompt the site to stamp out scam adverts," reports The Guardian.

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