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Përditësimi: 3 orë 26 min më parë

Heat Waves Grip 3 Continents as Climate Change Warms Earth

7 orë 14 min më parë
An anonymous reader shares a report: Punishing heat waves gripped three continents on Tuesday, breaking records in cities around the Northern Hemisphere less than two weeks after the Earth recorded what scientists said were likely its hottest days in modern history. Firefighters in Greece scrambled to put out wildfires, as parched conditions raised the risk of more blazes throughout Europe. Beijing logged another day of 95-degree heat, and people in Hangzhou, another Chinese city, compared the choking conditions to a sauna. From the Middle East to the American Southwest, delivery drivers, airport workers and construction crews labored under blistering skies. Those who could stay indoors did. The temperatures, afflicting so much of the world all at once, were a withering reminder that climate change is a global crisis, driven by human-made forces: the emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, sought to coordinate some of the global response with the Chinese premier in Beijing, as a heat wave clutched a huge swath of China. "The world really is looking to us for that leadership, particularly on the climate issue," Mr. Kerry told Chinese officials. "Climate, as you know, is a global issue, not a bilateral issue. It's a threat to all of humankind." The planet has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century and will continue to grow hotter until humans essentially stop burning coal, oil and gas, scientists say. The warmer temperatures contribute to extreme weather events and help make periods of extreme heat more frequent, longer and more intense. Also affecting this year's conditions is the return of El Nino, a cyclical weather pattern that, depending on the sea surface temperature and the pressure of the air above it, can originate in the Pacific and have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world.

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Microplastics Discovered In Human Penises For the First Time

12 orë 5 min më parë
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have found microplastics in human penises for the first time, as concerns over the tiny particles' proliferation and potential health effects mount. Seven different kinds of microplastics were found in four out of five samples of penis tissue taken from five different men as part of a study published in IJIR: Your Sexual Medicine Journal on Wednesday. Microplastics are polymer fragments that can range from less than 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) down to 1/25,000th of an inch (1 micrometer). Anything smaller is a nanoplastic that must be measured in billionths of a meter. They form when larger plastics break down, either by chemically degrading or physically wearing down into smaller pieces. Some minuscule particles can invade individual cells and tissues in major organs, experts say, and evidence is mounting that they are increasingly present in our bodies. Study lead author Ranjith Ramasamy, an expert in reproductive urology who conducted the research while working at the University of Miami, told CNN that he used a previous study that found evidence of microplastics in the human heart as a basis for his research. Ramasamy said he wasn't surprised to find microplastics in the penis, as it is a "very vascular organ," like the heart.

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Pornhub To Block Five More States Over Age Verification Laws

14 orë 20 min më parë
Pornhub plans to block access to its website in Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, and Nebraska in response to age verification laws designed to prevent children from accessing adult websites. From a report: The website has now cut off access in more than half a dozen states in protest of similar age verification laws that have quickly spread across conservative-leaning US states. Indiana, Idaho, and Kansas will lose access on June 27th, according to alerts on Pornhub's website that were seen by local news sources and Reddit users; Kentucky will lose access on July 10th, according to Kentucky Public Radio.

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FedEx's Secretive Police Force Is Helping Cops Build An AI Car Surveillance Network

16 orë 20 min më parë
Twenty years ago, FedEx established its own police force. Now it's working with local police to build out an AI car surveillance network. From a report: Forbes has learned the shipping and business services company is using AI tools made by Flock Safety, a $4 billion car surveillance startup, to monitor its distribution and cargo facilities across the United States. As part of the deal, FedEx is providing its Flock video surveillance feeds to law enforcement, an arrangement that Flock has with at least five multi-billion dollar private companies. But publicly available documents reveal that some local police departments are also sharing their Flock feeds with FedEx -- a rare instance of a private company availing itself of a police surveillance apparatus. To civil rights activists, such close collaboration has the potential to dramatically expand Flock's car surveillance network, which already spans 4,000 cities across over 40 states and some 40,000 cameras that track vehicles by license plate, make, model, color and other identifying characteristics, like dents or bumper stickers. Lisa Femia, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said because private entities aren't subject to the same transparency laws as police, this sort of arrangement could "[leave] the public in the dark, while at the same time expanding a sort of mass surveillance network."

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Plan for New Accounting Rules on Software Costs Moves Forward

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 11:50md
U.S. companies may need to report cash amounts tied to their software expenditures, more of which would be moved off corporate balance sheets under a forthcoming proposal to update decades-old accounting rules. From a report: The Financial Accounting Standards Board voted Tuesday, 7-0, to propose requiring companies to report cash amounts tied to their software costs and help them determine when to expense or capitalize costs. The proposal is a scaled-back version of rule-making around these expenses. The standard setter wants to require U.S. public and private companies to provide a line item in their cash-flow statement to account for cash spending on software. Rules around software costs have gone largely unchanged since the 1980s and 1990s. The proposal would cover use of software ranging from enterprise resource planning systems to hosting services and mobile banking applications, meaning it applies to almost every company. It would exclude development of software licensed to customers. Under the plan, companies would no longer have to evaluate the stage of their software project to determine whether to expense the costs on the income statement or to capitalize, or delay fully recognizing them, on the balance sheet. Companies are now required to expense their software costs as incurred on the income statement during the initial planning and post-implementation stages. When building the programs or applications, companies have to capitalize eligible costs. These current requirements involve significant judgment for companies, creating higher compliance costs. Instead, companies would only have to determine when to begin capitalizing software costs based on executives' signoff for a project and the likelihood that the project will be completed and the software will carry out its intended use.

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EU Chat Control Law Proposes Scanning Your Messages - Even Encrypted Ones

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 10:40md
The European Union is getting closer to passing new rules that would mandate the bulk scanning of digital messages -- including encrypted ones. On Thursday, EU governments will adopt a position on the proposed legislation, which is aimed at detecting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The vote will determine whether the proposal has enough support to move forward in the EU's law-making process. From a report: The law, first introduced in 2022, would implement an "upload moderation" system that scans all your digital messages, including shared images, videos, and links. Each service required to install this "vetted" monitoring technology must also ask permission to scan your messages. If you don't agree, you won't be able to share images or URLs. As if this doesn't seem wild enough, the proposed legislation appears to endorse and reject end-to-end encryption at the same time. At first, it highlights how end-to-end encryption "is a necessary means of protecting fundamental rights" but then goes on to say that encrypted messaging services could "inadvertently become secure zones where child sexual abuse material can be shared or disseminated."

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OpenAI Co-Founder Ilya Sutskever Launches Venture For Safe Superintelligence

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 8:23md
Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI who recently left the startup, has launched a new venture called Safe Superintelligence Inc., aiming to create a powerful AI system within a pure research organization. Sutskever has made AI safety the top priority for his new company. Safe Superintelligence has two more co-founders: investor and former Apple AI lead Daniel Gross, and Daniel Levy, known for training large AI models at OpenAI. From a report: Researchers and intellectuals have contemplated making AI systems safer for decades, but deep engineering around these problems has been in short supply. The current state of the art is to use both humans and AI to steer the software in a direction aligned with humanity's best interests. Exactly how one would stop an AI system from running amok remains a largely philosophical exercise. Sutskever says that he's spent years contemplating the safety problems and that he already has a few approaches in mind. But Safe Superintelligence isn't yet discussing specifics. "At the most basic level, safe superintelligence should have the property that it will not harm humanity at a large scale," Sutskever says. "After this, we can say we would like it to be a force for good. We would like to be operating on top of some key values. Some of the values we were thinking about are maybe the values that have been so successful in the past few hundred years that underpin liberal democracies, like liberty, democracy, freedom." Sutskever says that the large language models that have dominated AI will play an important role within Safe Superintelligence but that it's aiming for something far more powerful. With current systems, he says, "you talk to it, you have a conversation, and you're done." The system he wants to pursue would be more general-purpose and expansive in its abilities. "You're talking about a giant super data center that's autonomously developing technology. That's crazy, right? It's the safety of that that we want to contribute to."

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Senate Passes Bill To Support Advanced Nuclear Energy Deployment

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 8:03md
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to accelerate the deployment of nuclear energy capacity, including by speeding permitting and creating new incentives for advanced nuclear reactor technologies. From a report: Expanding nuclear power has broad bipartisan support, with Democrats seeing it as critical to decarbonizing the power sector to fight climate change and Republicans viewing it as a way to ensure reliable electricity supply and create jobs. A version of the bill had already passed in the House of Representatives and it will now go to President Joe Biden for a signature to become law. It passed the Senate 88-2 votes. "In a major victory for our climate and American energy security, the U.S. Senate has passed the ADVANCE Act with overwhelming, bipartisan support," said Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat, who is Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Today, we sent the ADVANCE Act to the president's desk because Congress worked together to recognize the importance of nuclear energy to America's future and got the job done," said Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a ranking member of the committee.

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Officials Query if Any Deaths Directly Linked To UK Hospital Hack

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 7:00md
Officials are asking if this month's UK hospital hack resulted in fatalities. From a report: As the fallout from a cyberattack affecting hospitals in London enters its third week, doctors have been asked to report any deaths or other serious harms directly linked to the incident. On June 3, a group of ransomware hackers compromised a lab services provider, Synnovis, and locked down the company's systems, triggering major disruptions at hospitals and clinics in South East London. In the first week, doctors delayed 800 planned operations and 700 outpatient appointments and resorted to handwritten records, while a hospital solicited blood from its own clinical workers after the hack. Some of the worst interruptions have been resolved, but many services still haven't been restored. [...] But amid the recovery, health officials last week circulated a so-called "harms monitoring" form to doctors and clinicians, asking them to record the human toll of the cyberattack. The form, which I have seen, seeks to categorize the damage through a series of questions ranging from minor to major, including "patient died as a DIRECT result of the incident."

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Britain's Universities in Existential Crisis?

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 6:00md
Britain's university sector, a key contributor to the country's economy and global standing, is facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens its very existence, according to an analysis by Glen O'Hara, a professor of modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes University. Despite collectively generating over $61.1 billion in annual income and $28 billion in export earnings, universities across the UK are grappling with declining funding, widespread cuts, and internal divisions. The sector's annual losses stand at $2.55 billion, with one in four universities in the red. Job cuts have become a daily occurrence, with institutions such as Coventry, Goldsmith's, Kent, and Lincoln slashing staff numbers. The downsizing is primarily occurring through retirements and voluntary severance schemes, but the long-term outlook remains bleak. Experts cited in an analysis by Prospect magazine warn that without fundamental re-engineering and strategic direction, the sector risks a gradual decline, with some universities potentially facing bankruptcy. The government's focus on the "culture wars" has further divided the public from their local campuses, while the real crisis lies in the finance and organization of the sector. The frozen tuition fees for home students, coupled with unpredictable inflation, have left universities struggling to cover costs. Attempts to offset losses by recruiting more students in cheaper-to-teach subjects and attracting international students have reached their limits, with the latter now in decline. As the next government grapples with this crisis, stopgap measures such as small funding injections, slight fee increases, and encouraging university mergers may provide temporary relief.

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Former Cisco CEO: Nvidia's AI Dominance Mirrors Cisco's Internet Boom, But Market Dynamics Differ

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 5:00md
Nvidia has become the U.S.'s most valuable listed company, riding the wave of the AI revolution that brings back memories of one from earlier this century. The last time a big provider of computing infrastructure was the most valuable U.S. company was in March 2000, when networking-equipment company Cisco took that spot at the height of the dot-com boom. Former Cisco CEO John Chambers, who led the company during the dot-com boom, said the implications of AI are larger than the internet and cloud computing combined, but the dynamics differ. "The implications in terms of the size of the market opportunity is that of the internet and cloud computing combined," he told WSJ. "The speed of change is different, the size of the market is different, the stage when the most valuable company was reached is different." The story adds: Chambers said [Nvidia CEO] Huang was working from a different playbook than Cisco but was facing some similar challenges. Nvidia has a dominant market share, much like Cisco did with its products as the internet grew, and is also fending off rising competition. Also like Nvidia, Cisco benefited from investments before the industry became profitable. "We were absolutely in the right spot at the right time, and we knew it, and we went for it," Chambers said.

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Security Bug Allows Anyone To Spoof Microsoft Employee Emails

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 4:00md
A researcher has found a bug that allows anyone to impersonate Microsoft corporate email accounts, making phishing attempts look credible and more likely to trick their targets. From a report: As of this writing, the bug has not been patched. To demonstrate the bug, the researcher sent an email to TechCrunch that looked like it was sent from Microsoft's account security team. Last week, Vsevolod Kokorin, also known online as Slonser, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he found the email-spoofing bug and reported it to Microsoft, but the company dismissed his report after saying it couldn't reproduce his findings. This prompted Kokorin to publicize the bug on X, without providing technical details that would help others exploit it.

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China's DeepSeek Coder Becomes First Open-Source Coding Model To Beat GPT-4 Turbo

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 3:00md
Shubham Sharma reports via VentureBeat: Chinese AI startup DeepSeek, which previously made headlines with a ChatGPT competitor trained on 2 trillion English and Chinese tokens, has announced the release of DeepSeek Coder V2, an open-source mixture of experts (MoE) code language model. Built upon DeepSeek-V2, an MoE model that debuted last month, DeepSeek Coder V2 excels at both coding and math tasks. It supports more than 300 programming languages and outperforms state-of-the-art closed-source models, including GPT-4 Turbo, Claude 3 Opus and Gemini 1.5 Pro. The company claims this is the first time an open model has achieved this feat, sitting way ahead of Llama 3-70B and other models in the category. It also notes that DeepSeek Coder V2 maintains comparable performance in terms of general reasoning and language capabilities. Founded last year with a mission to "unravel the mystery of AGI with curiosity," DeepSeek has been a notable Chinese player in the AI race, joining the likes of Qwen, 01.AI and Baidu. In fact, within a year of its launch, the company has already open-sourced a bunch of models, including the DeepSeek Coder family. The original DeepSeek Coder, with up to 33 billion parameters, did decently on benchmarks with capabilities like project-level code completion and infilling, but only supported 86 programming languages and a context window of 16K. The new V2 offering builds on that work, expanding language support to 338 and context window to 128K -- enabling it to handle more complex and extensive coding tasks. When tested on MBPP+, HumanEval, and Aider benchmarks, designed to evaluate code generation, editing and problem-solving capabilities of LLMs, DeepSeek Coder V2 scored 76.2, 90.2, and 73.7, respectively -- sitting ahead of most closed and open-source models, including GPT-4 Turbo, Claude 3 Opus, Gemini 1.5 Pro, Codestral and Llama-3 70B. Similar performance was seen across benchmarks designed to assess the model's mathematical capabilities (MATH and GSM8K). The only model that managed to outperform DeepSeek's offering across multiple benchmarks was GPT-4o, which obtained marginally higher scores in HumanEval, LiveCode Bench, MATH and GSM8K. [...] As of now, DeepSeek Coder V2 is being offered under a MIT license, which allows for both research and unrestricted commercial use. Users can download both 16B and 236B sizes in instruct and base avatars via Hugging Face. Alternatively, the company is also providing access to the models via API through its platform under a pay-as-you-go model. For those who want to test out the capabilities of the models first, the company is offering the option to interact. with Deepseek Coder V2 via chatbot.

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Satellite 'Megaconstellations' May Jeopardize Recovery of Ozone Hole

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 12:00md
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: When old satellites fall into Earth's atmosphere and burn up, they leave behind tiny particles of aluminum oxide, which eat away at Earth's protective ozone layer. A new study finds that these oxides have increased 8-fold between 2016 and 2022 and will continue to accumulate as the number of low-Earth-orbit satellites skyrockets. The 1987 Montreal Protocol successfully regulated ozone-damaging CFCs to protect the ozone layer, shrinking the ozone hole over Antarctica with recovery expected within fifty years. But the unanticipated growth of aluminum oxides may push pause on the ozone success story in decades to come. Of the 8,100 objects in low Earth orbit, 6,000 are Starlink satellites launched in the last few years. Demand for global internet coverage is driving a rapid ramp up of launches of small communication satellite swarms. SpaceX is the frontrunner in this enterprise, with permission to launch another 12,000 Starlink satellites and as many as 42,000 planned. Amazon and other companies around the globe are also planning constellations ranging from 3,000 to 13,000 satellites, the authors of the study said. Internet satellites in low Earth orbit are short-lived, at about five years. Companies must then launch replacement satellites to maintain internet service, continuing a cycle of planned obsolescence and unplanned pollution. Aluminum oxides spark chemical reactions that destroy stratospheric ozone, which protects Earth from harmful UV radiation. The oxides don't react chemically with ozone molecules, instead triggering destructive reactions between ozone and chlorine that deplete the ozone layer. Because aluminum oxides are not consumed by these chemical reactions, they can continue to destroy molecule after molecule of ozone for decades as they drift down through the stratosphere. Yet little attention has yet been paid to pollutants formed when satellites fall into the upper atmosphere and burn. Earlier studies of satellite pollution largely focused on the consequences of propelling a launch vehicle into space, such as the release of rocket fuel. The new study, by a research team from the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, is the first realistic estimate of the extent of this long-lived pollution in the upper atmosphere, the authors said. [...] In 2022, reentering satellites increased aluminum in the atmosphere by 29.5% over natural levels, the researchers found. The modeling showed that a typical 250-kilogram (550-pound) satellite with 30% of its mass being aluminum will generate about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of aluminum oxide nanoparticles (1-100 nanometers in size) during its reentry plunge. Most of these particles are created in the mesosphere, 50-85 kilometers (30-50 miles) above Earth's surface. The team then calculated that based on particle size, it would take up to 30 years for the aluminum oxides to drift down to stratospheric altitudes, where 90% of Earth's ozone is located. The researchers estimated that by the time the currently planned satellite constellations are complete, every year, 912 metric tons of aluminum (1,005 U.S. tons) will fall to Earth. That will release around 360 metric tons (397 U.S. tons) of aluminum oxides per year to the atmosphere, an increase of 646% over natural levels. The study is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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Astronomers Detect Sudden Awakening of Black Hole For First Time

Mër, 19/06/2024 - 9:00pd
Astronomers are observing the sudden awakening of a giant black hole in the constellation of Virgo. "Decades of observations found nothing remarkable about the distant galaxy in the constellation of Virgo, but that changed at the end of 2019 when astronomers noticed a dramatic surge in its luminosity that persists to this day," reports The Guardian. "Researchers now believe they are witnessing changes that have never been seen before, with the black hole at the galaxy's core putting on an extreme cosmic light show as vast amounts of material fall into it." From the report: The galaxy, which goes by the snappy codename SDSS1335+0728 and lies 300m light years away, was flagged to astronomers in December 2019 when an observatory in California called the Zwicky Transient Facility recorded a sudden rise in its brightness. The alert prompted a flurry of new observations and checks of archived measurements from ground- and space-based telescopes to understand more about the galaxy and its past behavior. The scientists discovered the galaxy had recently doubled in brightness in mid-infrared wavelengths, become four times brighter in the ultraviolet, and at least 10 times brighter in the X-ray range. What triggered the sudden brightening is unclear, but writing in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the researchers say the most likely explanation is the creation of an "active galactic nucleus" where a vast black hole at the centre of a galaxy starts actively consuming the material around it. Active galactic nuclei emit a broad spectrum of light as gas around the black hole heats up and glows, and surrounding dust particles absorb some wavelengths and re-radiate others. But it is not the only possibility. The team has not ruled out an exotic form of "tidal disruption event," a highly restrained phrase to describe a star that is ripped apart after straying too close to a black hole. Tidal disruption events tend to be brief affairs, brightening a galaxy for no more than a few hundred days, but more measurements are needed to rule out the process.

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ASUS Releases Firmware Update for Critical Remote Authentication Bypass Affecting Seven Routers

Hën, 17/06/2024 - 1:34md
A report from BleepingComputer notes that ASUS "has released a new firmware update that addresses a vulnerability impacting seven router models that allow remote attackers to log in to devices." But there's more bad news: Taiwan's CERT has also informed the public about CVE-2024-3912 in a post yesterday, which is a critical (9.8) arbitrary firmware upload vulnerability allowing unauthenticated, remote attackers to execute system commands on the device. The flaw impacts multiple ASUS router models, but not all will be getting security updates due to them having reached their end-of-life (EoL). Finally, ASUS announced an update to Download Master, a utility used on ASUS routers that enables users to manage and download files directly to a connected USB storage device via torrent, HTTP, or FTP. The newly released Download Master version 3.1.0.114 addresses five medium to high-severity issues concerning arbitrary file upload, OS command injection, buffer overflow, reflected XSS, and stored XSS problems.

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Researchers Devise Photosynthesis-Based Energy Source With Negative Carbon Emissions

Hën, 17/06/2024 - 10:39pd
Researchers have devised a way to extract energy from the photosynthesis process of algae, according to an announcement from Concordia University. Suspended in a specialized solution, the algae forms part of a "micro photosynthetic power cell" that can actually generate enough energy to power low-power devices like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. "Photosynthesis produces oxygen and electrons. Our model traps the electrons, which allows us to generate electricity," [says Kirankumar Kuruvinashetti, PhD 20, now a Mitacs postdoctoral associate at the University of Calgary.] "So more than being a zero-emission technology, it's a negative carbon emission technology: it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and gives you a current. Its only byproduct is water." [...] Muthukumaran Packirisamy, professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering and the paper's corresponding author, admits the system is not yet able to compete in power generation with others like photovoltaic cells. The maximum possible terminal voltage of a single micro photosynthetic power cell is only 1.0V. But he believes that, with enough research and development, including artificial intelligence-assisted integration technologies, this technology has the potential to be a viable, affordable and clean power source in the future. It also offers significant manufacturing advantages over other systems, he says. "Our system does not use any of the hazardous gases or microfibres needed for the silicon fabrication technology that photovoltaic cells rely on. Furthermore, disposing of silicon computer chips is not easy. We use biocompatible polymers, so the whole system is easily decomposable and very cheap to manufacture." In the paper the researchers also described it as a âoemicrobial fuel cellâ...

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America's Defense Department Ran a Secret Disinfo Campaign Online Against China's Covid Vaccine

Hën, 17/06/2024 - 7:45pd
"At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. military launched a secret campaign to counter what it perceived as China's growing influence in the Philippines..." reports Reuters. "It aimed to sow doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid that was being supplied by China, a Reuters investigation found." Reuters interviewed "more than two dozen current and former U.S officials, military contractors, social media analysts and academic researchers," and also reviewed posts on social media, technical data and documents about "a set of fake social media accounts used by the U.S. military" — some active for more than five years. Friday they reported the results of their investigation: Through phony internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military's propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vax campaign. Social media posts decried the quality of face masks, test kits and the first vaccine that would become available in the Philippines — China's Sinovac inoculation. Reuters identified at least 300 accounts on X, formerly Twitter, that matched descriptions shared by former U.S. military officials familiar with the Philippines operation. Almost all were created in the summer of 2020 and centered on the slogan #Chinaangvirus — Tagalog for China is the virus. "COVID came from China and the VACCINE also came from China, don't trust China!" one typical tweet from July 2020 read in Tagalog. The words were next to a photo of a syringe beside a Chinese flag and a soaring chart of infections. Another post read: "From China — PPE, Face Mask, Vaccine: FAKE. But the Coronavirus is real." After Reuters asked X about the accounts, the social media company removed the profiles, determining they were part of a coordinated bot campaign based on activity patterns and internal data. The U.S. military's anti-vax effort began in the spring of 2020 and expanded beyond Southeast Asia before it was terminated in mid-2021, Reuters determined. Tailoring the propaganda campaign to local audiences across Central Asia and the Middle East, the Pentagon used a combination of fake social media accounts on multiple platforms to spread fear of China's vaccines among Muslims at a time when the virus was killing tens of thousands of people each day. A key part of the strategy: amplify the disputed contention that, because vaccines sometimes contain pork gelatin, China's shots could be considered forbidden under Islamic law... A senior Defense Department official acknowledged the U.S. military engaged in secret propaganda to disparage China's vaccine in the developing world, but the official declined to provide details. A Pentagon spokeswoman... also noted that China had started a "disinformation campaign to falsely blame the United States for the spread of COVID-19." A senior U.S. military officer directly involved in the campaign told Reuters that "We didn't do a good job sharing vaccines with partners. So what was left to us was to throw shade on China's." At least six senior State Department officials for the region objected, according to the article. But in 2019 U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed "a secret order" that "elevated the Pentagon's competition with China and Russia to the priority of active combat, enabling commanders to sidestep the StateDepartment when conducting psyops against those adversaries." [A senior defense official] said the Pentagon has rescinded parts of Esper's 2019 order that allowed military commanders to bypass the approval of U.S. ambassadors when waging psychological operations. The rules now mandate that military commanders work closely with U.S. diplomats in the country where they seek to have an impact. The policy also restricts psychological operations aimed at "broad population messaging," such as those used to promote vaccine hesitancy during COVID... Nevertheless, the Pentagon's clandestine propaganda efforts are set to continue. In an unclassified strategy document last year, top Pentagon generals wrote that the U.S. military could undermine adversaries such as China and Russia using "disinformation spread across social media, false narratives disguised as news, and similar subversive activities [to] weaken societal trust by undermining the foundations of government." And in February, the contractor that worked on the anti-vax campaign — General Dynamics IT — won a $493 million contract. Its mission: to continue providing clandestine influence services for the military.

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ASUS Promises Support Overhaul After YouTube Investigators Allege Dishonesty

Hën, 17/06/2024 - 4:25pd
ASUS has suddenly agreed "to overhaul its customer support and warranty systems," writes the hardware review site Gamers Nexus — after a three-video series on its YouTube channel documented bad and "potentially illegal" handling of customer warranties for the channel's 2.2 million viewers. The Verge highlights ASUS's biggest change: If you've ever been denied a warranty repair or charged for a service that was unnecessary or should've been free, Asus wants to hear from you at a new email address. It claims those disputes will be processed by Asus' own staff rather than outsourced customer support agents.... The company is also apologizing today for previous experiences you might have had with repairs. "We're very sorry to anyone who has had a negative experience with our service team. We appreciate your feedback and giving us a chance to make amends." It started five weeks ago when Gamers Nexus requested service for a joystick problem, according to a May 10 video. First they'd received a response wrongly telling them their damage was out of warranty — which also meant Asus could add a $20 shipping charge for the requested repair. "Somehow that turned into ASUS saying the LCD needs to be replaced, even though the joystick is covered under their repair policies," the investigators say in the video. [They also note this response didn't even address their original joystick problem — "only that thing that they had decided to find" — and that ASUS later made an out-of-the-blue reference to "liquid damage."] The repair would ultimately cost $191.47, with ASUS mentioning that otherwise "the unit will be sent back un-repaired and may be disassembled." ASUS gave them four days to respond, with some legalese adding that an out-of-warranty repair fee is non-refundable, yet still "does not guarantee that repairs can be made." Even when ASUS later agreed to do a free "partial" repair (providing the requested in-warranty service), the video's investigators still received another email warning of "pending service cancellation" and return of the unit unless they spoke to "Invoice Quotation Support" immediately. The video-makers stood firm, and the in-warranty repair was later performed free — but they still concluded that "It felt like ASUS tried to scam us." ASUS's response was documented in a second video, with ASUS claiming it had merely been sending a list of "available" repairs (and promising that in the future ASUS would stop automatically including costs for the unrequested repair of "cosmetic imperfections" — and that they'd also change their automatic emails.) Gamers Nexus eventually created a fourth, hour-long video confronting various company officials at Computex — which finally led to them publishing a list of ASUS's promised improvements on Friday. Some highlights: ASUS promises it's "created a Task Force team to retroactively go back through a long history of customer surveys that were negative to try and fix the issues." (The third video from Gamers Nexus warned ASUS was already on the government's radar over its handling of warranty issues.) ASUS also announced their repairs centers were no longer allowed to claim "customer-induced damage" (which Gamers Nexus believes "will remove some of the financial incentive to fail devices" to speed up workloads). ASUS is creating a new U.S. support center allowing customers to choose either a refurbished board or a longer repair. Gamers Nexus says they already have devices at ASUS repair centers — under pseudonyms — and that they "plan to continue sampling them over the next 6-12 months so we can ensure these are permanent improvements." And there's one final improvement, according to Gamers Nexus. "After over a year of refusing to acknowledge the microSD card reader failures on the ROG Ally [handheld gaming console], ASUS will be posting a formal statement next week about the defect."

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AI Researcher Warns Data Science Could Face a Reproducibility Crisis

Hën, 17/06/2024 - 2:16pd
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp shared this warning from a long-time AI researcher arguing that data science "is due" for a reckoning over whether results can be reproduced. "Few technological revolutions came with such a low barrier of entry as Machine Learning..." Unlike Machine Learning, Data Science is not an academic discipline, with its own set of algorithms and methods... There is an immense diversity, but also disparities in skill, expertise, and knowledge among Data Scientists... In practice, depending on their backgrounds, data scientists may have large knowledge gaps in computer science, software engineering, theory of computation, and even statistics in the context of machine learning, despite those topics being fundamental to any ML project. But it's ok, because you can just call the API, and Python is easy to learn. Right...? Building products using Machine Learning and data is still difficult. The tooling infrastructure is still very immature and the non-standard combination of data and software creates unforeseen challenges for engineering teams. But in my views, a lot of the failures come from this explosive cocktail of ritualistic Machine Learning: - Weak software engineering knowledge and practices compounded by the tools themselves; - Knowledge gap in mathematical, statistical, and computational methods, encouraged black boxing API; - Ill-defined range of competence for the role of data scientist, reinforced by a pool of candidates with an unusually wide range of backgrounds; - A tendency to follow the hype rather than the science. - What can you do? - Hold your data scientists accountable using Science. - At a minimum, any AI/ML project should include an Exploratory Data Analysis, whose results directly support the design choices for feature engineering and model selection. - Data scientists should be encouraged to think outside-of-the box of ML, which is a very small box - Data scientists should be trained to use eXplainable AI methods to provide context about the algorithm's performance beyond the traditional performance metrics like accuracy, FPR, or FNR. - Data scientists should be held at similar standards than other software engineering specialties, with code review, code documentation, and architectural designs. The article concludes, "Until such practices are established as the norm, I'll remain skeptical of Data Science."

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