Space

Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth (theguardian.com) 14

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Reproduction may be possible in space, Japanese researchers have said, after freeze-dried sperm stored on the International Space Station for nine months produced healthy offspring. The scientists said their findings could have significant ramifications for human settlements in space, which they consider "likely." The average daily radiation dose on the ISS is about 100 times stronger than that on Earth, posing a threat of serious reproductive problems for any space-dwelling organism. But mouse sperm stored on the ISS for 288 days from August 2013 to May 2014, then returned to Earth, fertilized in vitro and transferred into female mice, produced healthy offspring. The space-preserved samples showed evidence of slightly increased DNA damage compared with control samples preserved on Earth, but this was found to be largely repaired in embryos following fertilization. The birth rate and sex ratio of pups derived from the sperm stored in space was comparable to those of pups derived from the control samples. Subsequent whole genome analysis revealed only minor differences, and the pups developed into adults with normal fertility. The study was published in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
Earth

Remote Pacific Island Is the Most Plastic-Contaminated Spot Yet Surveyed (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Plastic is durable -- very, very durable -- which is why we like it. Since it started being mass-produced in the 1950s, annual production has increased 300-fold. Because plastic is so durable, when our kids grow up and we purge our toy chests, or even just when we finish a bottle of laundry detergent or shampoo, it doesn't actually go away. While we're recycling increasing amounts of plastic, a lot of it still ends up in the oceans. Floating garbage patches have brought some attention to the issue of our contamination of the seas. But it's not just the waters themselves that have ended up cluttered with plastic. A recent survey shows that a staggering amount of our stuff is coming ashore on the extremely remote Henderson Island. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Pitcairn Group of Islands in the South Pacific, roughly half way between New Zealand and Peru. According to UNESCO, Henderson is one of the best examples we have of an elevated coral atoll ecosystem. It was colonized by Polynesians between the 12th and 15th centuries but has been uninhabited by humans since then. It is of interest to evolutionary biologists because it has 10 plant species and four bird species that are only found there. Despite its uninhabited status and its extremely remote location, a recent survey of beach plastic on Henderson Island revealed that the island has the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world: an estimated minimum of 37.7 million items weighing 17.6 tons. This represents the total amount of plastic that is produced in the world every 1.98 seconds. Further reading: Here And Now
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 18

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Could Be Worth More Than Bitcoin Very Soon (inc.com) 55

Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, according to Blockgeeks. It is currently the second most valuable cryptocurrency on the planet, but it could overthrow Bitcoin and become the most valuable cryptocurrency in the near future. Inc.com reports: If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract." Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online. As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.
Medicine

Baking Soda Shortage Has Hospitals Frantic, Delaying Treatments and Surgeries (arstechnica.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Amid a national shortage of a critical medicine, US hospitals are hoarding vials, delaying surgeries, and turning away patients, The New York Times reports. The medicine in short supply: solutions of sodium bicarbonate -- aka, baking soda. The simple drug is used in all sorts of treatments, from chemotherapies to those for organ failure. It can help correct the pH of blood and ease the pain of stitches. It is used in open-heart surgery, can help reverse poisonings, and is kept on emergency crash carts. But, however basic and life-saving, the drug has been in short supply since around February. The country's two suppliers, Pfizer and Amphastar, ran low following an issue with one of Pfizer's suppliers -- the issue was undisclosed due to confidentiality agreements. Amphastar's supplies took a hit with a spike in demand from desperate Pfizer customers. Both companies told the NYT that they don't know when exactly supplies will be restored. They speculate that it will be no earlier than June or August. With the shortage of sodium bicarbonate, hospitals are postponing surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. A hospital in Mobile, Alabama, for example, postponed seven open-heart surgeries and sent one critically ill patient to another hospital due to the shortage.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Could Cost America's Professional Drivers Up To 25,000 Jobs a Month (cnbc.com) 102

The full impact of self-driving cars on society is several decades away -- but when it hits, the job losses will be substantial for American truck drivers, according to a new report from Goldman Sachs. From a report: When autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year, according to a report from Goldman Sachs Economics Research. Truck drivers, more so than bus or taxi drivers, will see the bulk of that job loss, according to the report. That makes sense, given today's employment: In 2014, there were 4 million driver jobs in the U.S., 3.1 million of which were truck drivers, Goldman said. That represents 2 percent of total employment.
Businesses

Tech-Savvy Workers Increasingly Common in Non-IT Roles (betanews.com) 95

An anonymous reader shares an article: IT professionals are becoming an increasingly common presence outside of the traditional IT departments, new research has found. According to CompTIA, it seems executives are calling for specialized skills, faster reflexes and more teamwork in their workers. According to the report, a fifth (21 percent) of CFOs say they have a dedicated tech role in their department. Those roles include business scientists, analysts, and software developers. There are also hybrid positions -- in part technical, but also focused on the business itself. "This isn't a case of rogue IT running rampant or CIOs and their teams becoming obsolete," says Carolyn April, senior director, industry analysis, CompTIA. "Rather, it signals that a tech-savvier workforce is populating business units and job roles."
Patents

The Supreme Court Is Cracking Down on Patent Trolls (fortune.com) 101

The Supreme Court on Monday limited the ability of patent holders to bring infringement lawsuits in courts that have plaintiff friendly reputations, a notable decision that could provide a boost to companies that defend against patent claims. The high court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled unanimously that a lower court has been following an incorrect legal standard for almost 30 years that made it possible for patent holders to sue companies in almost any U.S. jurisdiction. From a report: The justices sided 8-0 (PDF) with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz, ruling that patent infringement suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. The decision overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington-based patent court, that said patent suits are fair game anywhere a defendant company's products are sold.
Android

Hackers Hit Russian Bank Customers, Planned International Cyber Raids (reuters.com) 19

Russian cyber criminals used malware planted on Android mobile devices to steal from domestic bank customers and were planning to target European lenders before their arrest, investigators and sources with knowledge of the case told Reuters. From the report: Their campaign raised a relatively small sum by cyber-crime standards -- more than 50 million roubles ($892,000) -- but they had also obtained more sophisticated malicious software for a modest monthly fee to go after the clients of banks in France and possibly a range of other western nations. Russia's relationship to cyber crime is under intense scrutiny after U.S. intelligence officials alleged that Russian hackers had tried to help Republican Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency by hacking Democratic Party servers. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegation. The gang members tricked the Russian banks' customers into downloading malware via fake mobile banking applications, as well as via pornography and e-commerce programs, according to a report compiled by cyber security firm Group-IB which investigated the attack with the Russian Interior Ministry.
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Price Hits Fresh Record High Above $2,200 (cnbc.com) 160

An anonymous reader writes: Monday marks the seven-year anniversary of Bitcoin Pizza Day -- the moment a programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz spent 10,000 bitcoin on two Papa John's pizzas. More important than the episode being widely recognized as the first transaction using the cryptocurrency is what it tells us about the bitcoin rally that saw it break through the $2,100 mark on Monday. Bitcoin was trading as high as $2,185.89 in the early hours of Monday morning, hitting a fresh record high, after first powering through the $2,000 barrier over the weekend, according to CoinDesk data. Throughout the weekend, the value of cryptocurrency was looming around $2,000.
Open Source

Linux 4.10 Kernel Reaches End of Life (softpedia.com) 54

prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: As it's not an LTS (Long Term Support) branch, the Linux 4.10 kernel series was doomed to reach end of life sooner or later, and it happened this weekend with the release of the Linux kernel 4.10.17 patch, which is a major one changing a total of 103 files, with 981 insertions and 538 deletions. Therefore, users are now urged to move to the Linux 4.11 kernel series. If you're using a GNU/Linux distribution powered by a kernel from the Linux 4.10 series you need to update to version 4.10.17 as soon as it makes its way into the stable repositories. However, please inform your OS vendor that they need to upgrade the kernel packages to the Linux 4.11 series immediately.
Open Source

Why The US Government Open Sources Its Code (opensource.com) 57

He's been the White House technology advisor since 2015, and this month Alvand Salehi delivered a keynote address at OSCON about the U.S. government's commitment to open source software. An anonymous reader quotes OpenSource.com: The Federal Source Code Policy, released in August 2016, was the first U.S. government policy to support open source across the government... All new custom source code developed by or for the federal government must be available to all other federal agencies for sharing and reuse; and at least 20% of new government custom-developed code must be released to the public as open source. It also established Code.gov as a platform for access to government-developed open source code and a way for other developers to participate.

Before this policy was released, agencies were spending a lot of money to redevelop software already in use by other government agencies. This initiative is expected to save the government millions of dollars in wasteful and duplicative spending on software development. Because of this, Salehi said, open source is not a partisan issue, and "Code.gov is here to stay." Another benefit: Releasing open source code allows the government to benefit from the brainpower of developers across the country to improve their code.

Code.gov points potential contributors to their code repository on GitHub.
Transportation

Texas Legislature Clears Road For Uber and Lyft To Return To Austin (austinmonitor.com) 102

schwit1 shared this article from the Austin Monitor: The Texas Legislature has cleared the road for Uber and Lyft to return to Austin on their own terms. On Wednesday, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved House Bill 100 on second and third readings, sending the statewide ride-hailing regulations to Governor Greg Abbott's desk for his signature. If Abbott signs it, as he is expected to do, the new law will preempt regulations City Council passed in December 2015 that both Uber and Lyft deemed too restrictive on transportation network companies such as themselves.
The new rules still require criminal background checks, but drop the requirement for fingerprinting. "We find it unfortunate that the 36 lobbyists deployed by the Silicon Valley giants were effective in convincing the State Legislature that there was a need to overrule the Austin voters," said a local ride-sharing company, which vowed to continue operating -- and to at least continue fingerprinting their own drivers. Houston's mayor complained the new statewide rules handed down are "another example of the legislature circumventing local control to allow corporations to profit at the expense of public safety."
Data Storage

Endless OS Now Ships With Steam And Slack FlatPak Applications (endlessos.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Steam and Slack are now both included as Flatpak applications on the Endless OS, a free Linux distribution built upon the decades of evolution of the Linux operating system and the contributions of thousands of volunteers on the GNOME project. The beauty of Flatpak is the ability to bridge app creators and Linux distributions using a universal framework, making it possible to bring this kind of software to operating systems that encourage open collaboration...

As an open-source deployment mechanism, Flatpak was developed by an independent cohort made up of volunteers and contributors from supporting organizations in the open-source community. Alexander Larsson, lead developer of Flatpak and principal engineer at Red Hat, provided comment saying, "We're particularly excited about the opportunity Endless affords to advance the benefits of open-source environments to entirely new audiences."

Displays

New Evidence of a Decline In Electricity Use By U.S. Households (wordpress.com) 312

There's some surprising news from the Energy Institute at the University of California's business school. America's households are using less electricity than they did five years ago. So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.

It is no surprise that LEDs have become so popular. LED prices have fallen 94% since 2008, and a 60-watt equivalent LED lightbulb can now be purchased for about $2. LEDs use 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, are much more durable, and work in a wide-range of indoor and outdoor settings.

"I would add LED TVs replacing LCD, Plasma and CRTs," writes Slashdot reader schwit1.
United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 456

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
United States

Aftermath From The Net Neutrality Vote: A Mass Movement To Protect The Open Internet? (mashable.com) 127

After Thursday's net neutrality vote, two security guards pinned a reporter against a wall until FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly had left the room, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Writers Guild of America calls the FCC's 2-to-1 vote to initiate a repeal of net neutrality rules a "war on the open internet," according to The Guardian. But the newspaper now predicts that online activists will continue their massive campaign "as the month's long process of reviewing the rules begins." The Hill points out that Mozilla is already hiring a high-profile tech lobbyist to press for both cybersecurity and an open internet, and in a blog post earlier this week the Mozilla Foundation's executive director sees a larger movement emerging from the engagement of millions of internet users. Today's support for net neutrality isn't the start of the Internet health movement. People have been standing up for an open web since its inception -- by advocating for browser choice, for open source practices, for mass surveillance reform. But net neutrality is an opportunity to propel this movement into the mainstream... If we make Internet health a mainstream issue, we can cement the web as a public resource. If we don't, mass surveillance, exclusion and insecurity can creep into every aspect of society. Hospitals held hostage by rogue hackers can become the status quo.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that it's not till the end of the FCC's review process that "a final FCC vote will decide the future of internet regulation," adding that however they vote, "court challenges are inevitable."
Earth

Arctic Stronghold of World's Seeds Flooded After Permafrost Melts (theguardian.com) 172

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world's most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity's food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel. The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide "failsafe" protection against "the challenge of natural or man-made disasters". But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world's hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. "It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that," said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault. "A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in," she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C. But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes.
Earth

Chemists May Be Zeroing In On Chemical Reactions That Sparked the First Life (sciencemag.org) 112

sciencehabit quotes a report from Scientific Magazine: DNA is better known, but many researchers today believe that life on Earth got started with its cousin RNA, since that nucleic acid can act as both a repository of genetic information and a catalyst to speed up biochemical reactions. But those favoring this "RNA world" hypothesis have struggled for decades to explain how the molecule's four building blocks could have arisen from the simpler compounds present during our planet's early days. Now chemists have identified simple reactions that, using the raw materials on early Earth, can synthesize close cousins of all four building blocks. The resemblance isn't perfect, but it suggests scientists may be closing in on a plausible scenario for how life on Earth began. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Robotics

Robots Could Wipe Out Another 6 Million Retail Jobs (cnn.com) 278

According to a new study this week from financial services firm Cornerstone Capital Group, between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of being replaced over the course of the next 10 years by some form of automation. "That represents at least 38% of the current retail work force, which consists of 16 million workers," reports CNN. "Retail could actually lose a greater proportion of jobs to automation than manufacturing has, according to the study." From the report: That doesn't mean that robots will be roving the aisles of your local department store chatting with customers. Instead, expect to see more automated checkout lines instead of cashiers. This shift alone will likely eliminate millions of jobs. "Cashiers are considered one of the most easily automatable jobs in the economy," said the report. And these job losses will hit women particularly hard, since about 73% of cashiers are women. There will also be fewer sales jobs, as more and more consumers use in-store smartphones and touchscreen computers to find what they need, said John Wilson, head of research at Cornerstone. There will still be some sales people on the floor, but just not as many of them. Rising wages are also helping to drive automation, as state and city governments hike their minimum wages. Additionally, several major retailers including Walmart, the nation's largest employer, have increased wages in order to find and retain the workers they need. The increased competition from e-commerce is also a factor, since it requires retailers to be as efficient as possible in order to compete.

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