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From Apes To Birds, There Are 65 Animal Species That 'Laugh' (arstechnica.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Among humans, laughter can signify a lot of different things, from intimacy to discomfort. Among animals, however, laughter usually communicates something along the lines of "this is playtime -- I'm not actually going for your throat." According to new research from the University of California, Los Angeles, there are likely at least 65 different creatures, including humans, that make these vocalizations. They're most commonly found in primates, but they have also been noted in distant relatives like birds. It's not clear whether this is because laughter has arisen several times over the course of evolution or if it's more widespread and we just haven't noticed.

The list of "laughing" animals is mostly made up of primates, but there are a few other mammals on the list, such as the degu -- whose laugh is described as purring or grumbling -- and the killer whale. There are even three birds on the list, such as the kea parrot, which uses play vocalizations discovered in 2017. According to [Sasha Winkler, a PhD student in UCLA's anthropology department], there have been other surveys of the primates who laugh, but little work has been done outside that group. "To my knowledge, no one has gone through and tried to see a comprehensive look of all the vocalizations during play across all mammals, and we even found some birds," she said. Winkler told Ars that understanding animal laughter could help us understand the origins of human laughter. Laughter in humans plays several other functions beyond play, such as indicating membership in a group.
The findings appear in the journal Bioacoustics.
Desktops (Apple)

Craig Federighi Says the Mac Has An 'Unacceptable' Malware Problem (9to5mac.com) 99

Craig Federighi is currently testifying during the Apple vs. Epic lawsuit. While facing questioning from Apple's lawyers, Federighi made some interesting comments about security, particularly noting that the Mac currently has a level of malware that Apple "does not find acceptable." 9to5Mac reports: One of Federighi's goals is to paint the iPhone ecosystem, including the App Store and lack of side-loading support, as a secure and trusted environment for users. To do this, it appears that part of Federighi's strategy is to throw the Mac under the bus. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is presiding over the Epic vs. Apple case, asked Federighi about why the Mac can have multiple app stores, but not the iPhone. "It is regularly exploited on the Mac," Federighi explained. "iOS has established a dramatically higher bar for customer protection. The Mac is not meeting that bar today." "Today, we have a level of malware on the Mac that we don't find acceptable," Federighi added.

The Apple executive also pointed to Android as another example of a platform with multiple app stores that suffers from security problems. "It's well understood in the security community that Android has a malware problem," he explained. "iOS has succeeded so far in staying ahead of the malware problem." Federighi added that Apple is essentially playing "an endless game of whack-a-mole" with malware on the Mac and has to block "many instances" of infections that can affect "hundreds of thousands of people" every week. Since last May, Federighi testified there have been 130 types of Mac malware, and one of them infected 300,000 systems. When asked whether side-loading would affect security on iOS, Federighi said things would change "dramatically. No human policy review could be enforced because if software could be signed by people and downloaded directly, you could put an unsafe app up and no one would check that policy," he said.

Science

ADM Buries Corn Plant Emissions Equal To 1.2 Million Cars (bnnbloomberg.ca) 93

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., one of the world's biggest grain traders, is injecting carbon dioxide released by its corn plants underground, using commercial-scale technology that's the first of its kind. BNN Bloomberg reports: The company just completed a project with the University of Illinois proving that its methods to capture carbon are safe, according to a Wednesday release. That will aid its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% against a 2019 baseline. In the project, ADM used wells to pump carbon dioxide 6,500 feet underground. The site was able to accept and store 1 million metric tons over three years. That's equivalent to annual emissions from about 1.2 million passenger cars, according to the release. The corn plant in Decatur, Illinois, where the emissions originated from processes the grain into starches and sweeteners, among other products. ADM has another well set to operate until 2022 that could store 5.5 million metric tons of the gas. Together, the two projects have already stored 3.4 million tons.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin, Dogecoin See Big Drops After China Reiterates Ban On Crypto Services (cnet.com) 185

Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum and seemingly every cryptocurrency out there took a big hit Wednesday following the news of China reconfirming its criticism of the crypto service. This appeared to contribute to a sell-off across the board and is even affecting the stock market. CNET reports: The China Internet Finance Association said it will not allow the country's financial institutions to partake in any business related to cryptocurrency due to the volatile nature of the digital coins, according to a Chinese media report Tuesday that was spotted earlier by Coindesk. This move isn't new. China took a similar stance back in 2017, which also resulted in a massive Bitcoin selloff.

Bitcoin's price dropped sharply Wednesday morning to a low of just below $32,000. It has since rebounded to $37,000, according to Coindesk, which still makes it a loss of 12% for the day. Ethererum and Dogecoin also saw drops at about the same time and are down 12% and 13% respectively.

Transportation

Sidewalk Labs Launches Pebble, a Sensor That Uses Real-Time Data To Manage City Parking (techcrunch.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's urban innovation organization, has announced the launch of Pebble, a vehicle sensor that's designed to help manage parking in cities by providing real-time parking and curb availability data. Here's how it works: Small spherical sensors are stuck to the ground on parking spaces to note the absence or presence of a vehicle. Then solar-powered gateway hardware, which can be strapped easily to street poles, uses IoT to connect the sensor to the cloud through the cellular network. The data is then viewed and analyzed by real estate developers, parking operators or municipal agencies via a dashboard. Pebble doesn't use cameras or collect identifying information about a person or vehicle, and is touting a "privacy preserving" approach.

Between 9% and 56% of traffic, and all the pollution that comes with it, is caused by people who are cruising for parking. Pebble says its real-time parking availability can be integrated into navigation apps, like Google Maps, through an API to help users spend less time circling the block. "Real-time parking information can also alert would-be drivers when spaces are limited before they even leave home, leading them to use alternative travel modes, such as park-and-ride transit or ferries," wrote Sidewalk Labs' senior creative technologist, Nick Jonas, in a blog post announcing the launch. "For example, a smart parking program at a BART park-and-ride station reduced driving by a monthly average of nearly 10 miles per person -- and even shortened commutes."

The Internet

Freenode IRC Staff Quit After New Owner 'Seizes' Control of Network (boingboing.net) 143

Staff at the world's largest FOSS IRC network, Freenode, have resigned following a "hostile takeover." "Seeking to take control of the Freenode IRC network after acquiring Freenode Limited as their live conference organization is reported to be Andrew Lee, the founder of VPN service Private Internet Access (PIA)," reports Phoronix. Aaron Jones, a member of the staff since March 2019, details the sequence of events. Another staff member has provided additional details. slashdot reader rastos1 writes: As it is now known, the Freenode IRC network has been taken over by a "narcissistic Trumpian wannabe korean royalty bitcoins millionaire," [writes (former) staff member Marco d'Itri]. "To make a long story short, the former freenode head of staff secretly 'sold' the network to this person even if it was not hers to sell, and our lawyers have advised us that there is not much that we can do about it without some of us risking financial ruin."

Fuck you Christel, lilo's life work did not deserve this. What you knew as Freenode after 12:00 UTC of May 19 will be managed by different people.
Freenode Limited has responded to the backlash, writing: "Given the millions I have injected into freenode thus far, the fact I own it and the fact that I protected the freenode staff with professional legal work and funding when they needed help and they could still lie and slander like this... says a lot about who they are. It saddens me that christel was forced out, and I wish she'd feel safe returning. I'm frustrated that tomaw's hostile takeover seems likely to succeed, in spite of all. I simply want freenode to keep on being a great IRC network, and to support it financially and legally as I have for a long time now."
Supercomputing

Google Plans To Build a Commercial Quantum Computer By 2029 (engadget.com) 55

Google developers are confident they can build a commercial-grade quantum computer by 2029. Engadget reports: Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the plan during today's I/O stream, and in a blog post, quantum AI lead engineer Erik Lucero further outlined the company's goal to "build a useful, error-corrected quantum computer" within the decade. Executives also revealed Google's new campus in Santa Barbara, California, which is dedicated to quantum AI. The campus has Google's first quantum data center, hardware research laboratories, and the company's very own quantum processor chip fabrication facilities.

"As we look 10 years into the future, many of the greatest global challenges, from climate change to handling the next pandemic, demand a new kind of computing," Lucero said. "To build better batteries (to lighten the load on the power grid), or to create fertilizer to feed the world without creating 2 percent of global carbon emissions (as nitrogen fixation does today), or to create more targeted medicines (to stop the next pandemic before it starts), we need to understand and design molecules better. That means simulating nature accurately. But you can't simulate molecules very well using classical computers."

The Internet

frontier Lied About Internet Speed, FTC Says In Post-Net Neutrality Case (reuters.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and several states filed a lawsuit against frontier Communications on Wednesday, accusing them of lying about internet speeds, in one of the first cases the regulator has overseen since net neutrality rules were repealed. In the complaint, the agency and state attorneys general said frontier advertised internet via a digital subscriber line (DSL) at certain speeds to consumers but then failed to deliver.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The FTC was joined on the lawsuit by attorneys general from Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. District attorneys' offices from two California counties also joined the complaint to represent California. The complaint said frontier has more than 3 million U.S. internet service subscribers, offering internet via DSL to some 1.3 million consumers in 25 states, many in rural areas. frontier has advertised different tiers of speeds to consumers, including an August 2018 mailer that offered download speeds of 12 megabits per second for $12, the complaint said. But, the complaint said, since 2015, frontier has "in numerous instances" promised certain speeds for its DSL internet access but did not deliver. "Indeed, network limits imposed by frontier prevent numerous consumers from receiving DSL Internet service at speeds corresponding to the tiers of service they pay for," the complaint said.
A spokesperson for frontier, which is emerging from bankruptcy protection, said that the lawsuit was "without merit." "frontier's DSL Internet speeds have been clearly and accurately articulated, defined and described in the company's marketing materials and disclosures," the spokesperson said.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Finally Retiring Internet Explorer in 2022 (theverge.com) 103

Microsoft is finally retiring Internet Explorer next year, after more than 25 years. The aging web browser has largely been unused by most consumers for years, but Microsoft is putting the final nail in the Internet Explorer coffin on June 15th, 2022, by retiring it in favor of Microsoft Edge. From a report: "We are announcing that the future of Internet Explorer on Windows 10 is in Microsoft Edge," says Sean Lyndersay, a Microsoft Edge program manager. "The Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10." While the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) of Windows 10 will still include Internet Explorer next year, all consumer versions will end support of the browser. Microsoft doesn't make it clear (and we're checking), but it's likely that we'll finally see the end of Internet Explorer being bundled in Windows either in June 2022 or soon after.
Businesses

Colonial Pipeline CEO Tells Why He Paid Hackers a $4.4 Million Ransom (wsj.com) 160

The operator of the Colonial Pipeline learned it was in trouble at daybreak on May 7, when an employee found a ransom note from hackers on a control-room computer. By that night, the company's chief executive came to a difficult conclusion: He had to pay. From a report: Joseph Blount, CEO of Colonial Pipeline, told The Wall Street Journal that he authorized the ransom payment of $4.4 million because executives were unsure how badly the cyberattack had breached its systems or how long it would take to bring the pipeline back. Mr. Blount acknowledged publicly for the first time that the company had paid the ransom, saying it was an option he felt he had to exercise, given the stakes involved in a shutdown of such critical energy infrastructure. The Colonial Pipeline provides roughly 45% of the fuel for the East Coast, according to the company. "I know that's a highly controversial decision," Mr. Blount said in his first public remarks since the crippling hack. "I didn't make it lightly. I will admit that I wasn't comfortable seeing money go out the door to people like this. But it was the right thing to do for the country," he added.

[...] Mr. Blount said Colonial paid the ransom in consultation with experts who had previously dealt with the criminal organization behind the attacks. He and others involved declined to detail who assisted in those negotiations. Colonial said it has cyber insurance, but declined to provide details on ransomware-related coverage. In return for the payment, made in the form of bitcoin, about 75 in all, according to a person familiar with the matter, the company received a decryption tool to unlock the systems hackers penetrated. While it proved to be of some use, it was ultimately not enough to immediately restore the pipeline's systems, the person said.

Google

Google Rekindles Interest in RSS (techcrunch.com) 34

Chrome, at least in its experimental Canary version on Android (and only for users in the U.S.), is getting an interesting update in the coming weeks that brings back RSS, the once-popular format for getting updates from all the sites you love in Google Reader and similar services. From a report: In Chrome, users will soon see a 'Follow' feature for sites that support RSS and the browser's New Tab page will get what is essentially a (very) basic RSS reader -- I guess you could almost call it a "Google Reader." Now we're not talking about a full-blown RSS reader here. The New Tab page will show you updates from the sites you follow in chronological order, but it doesn't look like you can easily switch between feeds, for example. It's a start, though.

"Today, people have many ways to keep up with their favorite websites, including subscribing to mailing lists, notifications and RSS. It's a lot for any one person to manage, so we're exploring how to simplify the experience of getting the latest and greatest from your favorite sites directly in Chrome, building on the open RSS web standard," Janice Wong, Product Manager, Google Chrome, writes in today's update. "Our vision is to help people build a direct connection with their favorite publishers and creators on the web." A Google spokesperson told me that the way the company has implemented this is to have Google crawl RSS feeds "more frequently to ensure Chrome will be able to deliver the latest and greatest content to users in the Following section on the New Tab page."

Businesses

Zoom Events Will Try To Re-create the In-person Conference Experience (theverge.com) 17

Zoom is announcing an expanded live events product today that's launching this summer. From a report: Zoom Events builds on Zoom's previous paid event marketplace, OnZoom, by layering in features that can support larger multiday events and non-video activities like chat. Zoom says it's still building out Zoom Events in the lead up to its launch, but as it stands, it's both a rebranding of the more small-business focused OnZoom, with new features that serve Zoom's original pre-pandemic customers -- enterprise companies. Like OnZoom, with a paid Zoom Meetings or Zoom Webinar license you'll be able to host live events, organize them in a hub, sell tickets, and track stats like ticket sales or attendance.
Earth

Twenty Firms Produce 55% of World's Plastic Waste, Report Reveals (theguardian.com) 149

Twenty companies are responsible for producing more than half of all the single-use plastic waste in the world, fuelling the climate crisis and creating an environmental catastrophe, new research reveals. From a report: Among the global businesses responsible for 55% of the world's plastic packaging waste are both state-owned and multinational corporations, including oil and gas giants and chemical companies, according to a comprehensive new analysis. The Plastic Waste Makers index reveals for the first time the companies who produce the polymers that become throwaway plastic items, from face masks to plastic bags and bottles, which at the end of their short life pollute the oceans or are burned or thrown into landfill. It also reveals Australia leads a list of countries for generating the most single-use plastic waste on a per capita basis, ahead of the United States, South Korea and Britain.

ExxonMobil is the greatest single-use plastic waste polluter in the world, contributing 5.9m tonnes to the global waste mountain, concludes the analysis by the Minderoo Foundation of Australia with partners including Wood Mackenzie, the London School of Economics and Stockholm Environment Institute. The largest chemicals company in the world, Dow, which is based in the US, created 5.5m tonnes of plastic waste, while China's oil and gas enterprise, Sinopec, created 5.3m tonnes. Eleven of the companies are based in Asia, four in Europe, three in North America, one in Latin America, and one in the Middle East. Their plastic production is funded by leading banks, chief among which are Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.

Businesses

Epic Tries To Show Apple Is Antitrust Violator Beyond App Store (bloomberg.com) 102

A top Apple executive tasked with defending the App Store in a monopoly lawsuit by Epic Games found himself having to answer Tuesday for a spate of other alleged antitrust fouls by the world's most valuable company. From a report: During Phil Schiller's cross-examination in a trial in Oakland, California, Apple's former global marketing chief was confronted about several instances in which the company has locked in users and made it difficult for them to switch away from its devices. Katherine Forrest, a lawyer for Epic, pointed out that Schiller emailed his colleagues a 2016 news article titled "iMessage is the glue that keeps me stuck to the iPhone," which explained that Apple's messaging platform is a reason people don't switch to Android devices.

She also quizzed Schiller on the idea that users can't easily move music and video purchased on Apple services to Google's Android. She went further, indicating that Apple's iCloud Keychain service for storing passwords on Apple devices can't synchronize with Android devices. Her point: Apple doesn't just lock in developers with its App Store rules, it also locks in consumers, limiting their ability to switch to competitors. In response, Schiller said many users subscribe to video and music streaming services and can input their passwords into a new device manually. He also suggested that users could use third-party password managers.

Businesses

IFA Berlin 2021 is Canceled, Citing 'Uncertainties' Around Vaccine Rollouts (techcrunch.com) 22

After IFA became one of an extremely small number of in-person trade shows in 2020, the Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH is pulling the plug on this year's event. Initially planned for September 3-7 at the Messe in Berlin, the large-scale consumer electronics trade show is going on hiatus. From a report: Among other concerns, organizer are citing the emergency of Covid-19 variants and concerns around the speed and consistency with which vaccines have been rolled out globally. "Ultimately, several key global health metrics did not move as fast in the right direction as had been hoped for -- from the rapid emergence of new COVID-19 variants, for example in South Asia, to continued uncertainties about the speed of the rollout of vaccination programmes around the world," the organization said in a press release.
Facebook

Facebook Calls Links To Depression Inconclusive. These Researchers Disagree (npr.org) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: At a hearing this March on Capitol Hill, the Republican congresswoman [Cathy McMorris Rodgers] from Washington confronted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai with a list of statistics: From 2011 to 2018, rates of teen depression increased by more than 60%, and from 2009 to 2015, emergency room admissions for self-harm among 10- to 14-year-old girls tripled. "It's a battle for their development. It's a battle for their mental health -- and ultimately a battle for their safety," McMorris Rodgers told the tech leaders. But when she pointed a question specifically to Zuckerberg, about whether he acknowledged a connection between children's declining mental health and social media platforms, he demurred. "I don't think that the research is conclusive on that," replied Zuckerberg.

It's a position that he and his company, which is working on expanding its offerings to even younger children, have held for years. But mental health researchers whom NPR spoke with disagree. They describe an increasingly clear correlation between poor mental health outcomes and social media use, and they worry that Facebook (which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) in particular may be muddying the waters on that connection to protect its public image. "The correlational evidence showing that there is a link between social media use and depression is pretty definitive at this point," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. "The largest and most well-conducted studies that we have all show that teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to be depressed or unhappy."

Correlation is not causation, and one area of further study is whether greater social media usage leads to poor mental health outcomes or whether those who are depressed and unhappy are drawn to spend more time on social media. But researchers also worry that not enough government funding is going toward getting objective data to answer these sorts of questions. Facebook also almost certainly knows more than it has publicly revealed about how its products affect people.
Zuckerberg told McMorris Rodgers that the company has specifically researched the mental health effects Facebook has on children, but when McMorris Rodgers' staff followed up the company declined to share any of its research.

"I believe that they have done the research. They're not being transparent," McMorris Rodgers told NPR in an interview. "They seem to be more concerned about their current business model, and they have become very wealthy under their current business model. But the fact of the matter is we're seeing more and more evidence ... that their current business model is harming our kids."
AI

Amazon Extends Moratorium On Police Use of Facial Recognition Software (reuters.com) 56

Amazon said on Tuesday it is extending a moratorium on police use of its facial recognition software. The company imposed the ban last year after the murder of George Floyd by law enforcement in June 2020. Reuters reports: Civil liberties advocates have long warned that inaccurate face matches by law enforcement could lead to unjust arrests, as well as to a loss of privacy and chilled freedom of expression. Amazon's extension, which Reuters was first to report, underscores how facial recognition remains a sensitive issue for big companies. The world's largest online retailer did not comment on the reason for its decision. Last year, it said it hoped Congress would put in place rules to ensure ethical use of the technology, though no such law has materialized. Amazon also faced calls this month from activists who wanted its software ban to be permanent.
Google

Chrome Now Uses Duplex To Fix Your Stolen Passwords (theverge.com) 14

The same technology that powers Google Duplex to call businesses and make appointments for you is being used to help you automatically change your password to a website that's been compromised in a security breach. TechCrunch reports: This new feature will start to roll out slowly to Chrome users on Android in the U.S. soon (with other countries following later), assuming they use Chrome's password-syncing feature. It's worth noting that this won't work for every site just yet. As a Google spokesperson told us, "the feature will initially work on a small number of apps and websites, including Twitter, but will expand to additional sites in the future."

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