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  • 08.21.17
  • 6:01 am

It’ll now cost you up to 80% more to grab an Uber in Hong Kong

The company was forced to raise prices in the region after Hong Kong authorities evaluated Uber’s business practices, Reuters reports. Beginning today, fees for UberX and UberASSIST rides will start at $45 HKD ($5.75 USD)–a rise up to 80%. Uber says the price rise will mainly benefit the drivers themselves and in a statement said that the company is committed to their investment in Hong Kong.MG

  • 08.21.17
  • 5:54 am

Formula One is launching an eSports world championship

The real world motor racing championship is set to embrace the virtual world this September to November, reports Reuters. Its new eSports Series will allow gamers to compete in races on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC to determine who the 40 fastest virtual racers are. The semifinals will be held in London in late October, with 20 winners going on to compete in the finals at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit in late November. Formula One managing director Sean Bratches said the new eSports series was “an amazing opportunity for our business–strategically and in the way we engage fans.”MG

  • 08.21.17
  • 5:46 am

Elon Musk urges the UN to ban artificially intelligent killer robots

The Tesla CEO along with 115 other experts in robotics and AI have signed a letter warning of “a third revolution in warfare,” reports the BBC. The experts want the UN to add artificially intelligent and autonomous mechanized weapons to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which currently include devices ranging from landmines to laser weapons. The short letter is extremely urgent in its tone, ending with:

Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.

MG

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  • 08.21.17
  • 5:00 am

Will Censoring Alt-Right Media Online Backfire?

After numerous mainstream companies banned and denounced many so-called alt-right media sites, questions arise about whether this reduces their influence or encourages a victim mentality.FS

  • 08.20.17

Solar eclipse live stream: Here’s where to watch online, from NASA to Twitter

In case you haven’t noticed, eclipse fever has swept the nation, and with good reason. Monday’s astronomical event will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979. The eclipse will be visible from across the country beginning in Lincoln City, Oregon (home to the World’s Smallest River!), at 9:05 a.m. PDT as a partial solar eclipse, becoming a total eclipse at 10:16 a.m. The eclipse will then make its way across the country, ending at 2:44 p.m. EDT near Columbia, South Carolina, providing free entertainment for any and all, if they have real solar eclipse viewing glasses.

If you can’t find any solar eclipse glasses at the library or in stores (here’s where to check), don’t have a colander handy, or simply are unable to tear yourself away from your cubicle, here’s where you can live-stream the eclipse:

• NASA will have not one, but two live streams of the eclipseNASA TV, the space agency’s television service, will broadcast live footage compiled from terrestrial video feeds, “eclipse jets,” spacecraft, high-altitude balloons, specially modified telescopes, and from aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Stream the eclipse on your favorite platform, including YouTubePeriscopeTwitch, and Facebook Live.

The space organization will also broadcast a live stream from NASA EDGE, its unscripted live feed, and if lizard people emerge during the eclipse, you’re probably gonna want to be watching NASA’s unscripted feed.

• Twitter and the Weather Channel will live-stream the event. Coverage will include live shots from 10 locations in the eclipse’s “path of totality,” including Nashville, Casper, Wyoming; McMinnville, Oregon; and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the point where totality is expected to stretch out the longest.

• Virtual Telescope Project will host a free online observing session with views of the total solar eclipse beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. Watch here.

• Time and Life VR will be producing a 360-degree VR livestream of the solar eclipse on Time‘s Facebook and YouTube pages, in partnership with Mesmerise Global.

The Ballooning Project will use its high-altitude balloons to stream videos of the eclipse. Watch here.

Slooh, a space broadcaster, will cover the eclipse as it travels from sea to shining sea, broadcasting its view of the eclipse from a perch in Idaho, capping off a three-day long-eclipse fest. Watch here.

• Exploratorium, the San Francisco science museum, will have five live streams of the eclipse filmed in Madras, Oregon, and Casper, Wyoming. They’ll have Spanish- and English-narrated eclipse feeds and a special “sonification” of the eclipse by the Kronos Quartet. You can also watch on their app. Watch here.

• Science Channel will broadcast views from Madras, Oregon, in partnership with the Lowell Observatory, while retired astronaut Mike Massimino will host the proceedings from Charleston, South Carolina. Watch here.

• CNN and Volvo will provide a 360-degree view of the eclipse from various locations along the path of totality. The stream will also be viewable in virtual reality, in case reality is too much of a bummer. The livestream begins at 12:03 p.m. EDT. Watch here.

If you sleep through the entire thing, lay off the Ambien and tune in to NOVA’s Eclipse Over America,  which will premiere Monday night and recap the great eclipse.

Whatever live stream you follow, be sure to use Twitter’s #Eclipse2017 hashtag

[Photo: Williams College Eclipse Expedition/Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu and Craig Malamut/NASA]

ML

  • 08.18.17

Some of the ridiculously long and weird company names just banned by China

After banning “bizarre” buildings last year, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce launched a campaign this week against a not-uncommon phenomenon in the country: weird and long company names. Monikers that are paragraphs, long sentences, or entire literary narratives, or that include sensitive language or political terms, are now considered “inappropriate.” According to the Legal Daily and some sleuthing netizens, some (translated) candidates for prohibition include:

  • Shenyang Prehistoric Powers Hotel Management Limited Company: named for swimmer Fu Yuanhui, who, after winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, declared: “I have used all my prehistoric powers to swim!”
  • There Is a Group of Young People With Dreams, Who Believe They Can Make the Wonders of Life Under the Leadership of Uncle Niu Internet Technology Co Ltd., or Uncle Niu, a condom maker.
  • What Are You Looking At Shenzhen Technology Co. Ltd., a virtual reality company.
  • “Skinny Blue Mushroom”: Some restaurants and cafés have included in their names a phrase made popular by a meme from last year that mocked a man from Guangxi province. “Unbearable, I want to cry,” he moaned, but his accent made it sound more like “skinny blue mushroom.”
  • King of Nanning, Guangxi and His Friends Trading Company Ltd., which runs two Vietnamese restaurants.
  • Beijing Under My Wife’s Thumb Technology Co. Ltd.
  • Beijing Scared of Wife Technology Company
  • Anping County Scared of Wife Netting Products Factory
  • Hangzhou No Trouble Looking for Trouble Internet Technology

Also a no-go: Names that discriminate according to gender, race or ethnicity, or that reference terrorism, separatism, extremism, religion, the names of national leaders, or illegal organizations. Companies are also forbidden from using their names to imply they are nonprofit organizations.

Despite the new rules, Uncle Niu and some other owners of weirdly named companies the New York Times spoke to have said they plan to keep their monikers for now, or at least until they’re explicitly told to change them.AP

  • 08.18.17

Donald Trump’s Arts Council just resigned, and they want him to do the same

Donald Trump’s Arts Council just resigned, and they want him to do the same
[Photo: Flickr user Phil Roeder]

Artist Chuck Close, author Jhumpa Lahiri, musician Paula Boggs, and actor Kal Penn were among the 16 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities who resigned today in the wake of President Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. They issued a harsh rebuke of the president’s “false equivocation” and “refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred,” and called on him to resign. Director George C. Wolfe was the lone member of the council to not sign on to the missive, and presumably is sitting in the conference room all alone, eating a donut.

The commission was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, according to the AP, and while mostly ceremonial, it works to advise the president on cultural policy and funding initiatives. But now no one wants to do that. “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values,” the committee members wrote in a letter announcing their resignation. “Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.

It should be noted that the move is not particularly surprising. Most of the members were appointed by the Obama administration, and stayed after Trump was elected, until new people were appointed. What is surprising is that it took the artists, writers, and actors longer to step up–er, step down–than the business folks. Kenneth C. Frazier, the CEO of Merck, resigned from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council on Monday, followed by other CEOs, which led to the disbanding of the council.ML

  • 08.18.17

Nearly a quarter of Donald Trump’s weeks as president have been his “worst week”

Nearly a quarter of Donald Trump’s weeks as president have been his “worst week”
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons]

How many bad weeks can a person have in one year? If your name is Donald Trump, many.

According to more than a few headlines, this past week has been his worst. After a slow and ineffective response to the deadly rallies in Charlottesville, pressure is mounting against Trump—even from within his own party. But as we read that this is, by far, Trump’s worst week, let’s not forget that a mere few weeks ago he had another worst week. And another one preceded that. And another, ad infinitum.

By my count, Trump has had at least seven worst weeks. We’re 30 weeks in, so that’s a little less than a quarter of his entire presidency thus far.

For the sake of accuracy, and hopefully future better headlines, here’s a surely non-exhaustive list of all the times people have called any given week “Trump’s worst week”:

Winter to Spring–a slow but steady rise of bad weeks

February 17: A mere five weeks after being inaugurated, US News called this week Donald Trump’s worst as more than a few of his nominees were shot down and the call for more information about his campaign’s collision with Russia began.

A note about March and April: While these months did not feature “worst weeks” for Trump, CNN’s Chris Cillizza did take the time to write during this period that both Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer experienced worst weeks. (A fun thing to do is Google “Chris Cillizza” and “worst week” if you want to learn about a certain sort of headline construction.)

May 16: After James Comey revealed that Trump asked him last year to halt Mike Flynn’s investigation, Julian Zelizer wrote for CNN that this was “Trump’s worst week in politics, and that’s saying a lot.”

May 20: Russian tensions are getting higher, and it becomes known that the government has determined a “person of interest” inside the White House who may have colluded with Russia. This, with Trump’s sinking numbers, allows Reuters to dub it as “Trump’s Worst Week.”

Summer–And now the worst begins

June 19: Now it’s Cillizza’s turn. He writes for CNN that “Donald Trump had the absolute worst week in Washington.” This is due to the Russian investigation. At the time, it was just revealed that Trump himself is under investigation.

July 29: After getting flak for turning a Boy Scouts youth rally into a political soapbox as well as encouraging police officers at another event to increase brutality, the Guardian dubbed this week “the worst week in Trump’s short presidency.”

August 3: In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote that, after the insane rise and fall of Anthony Scaramucci, this first week in August was “Donald Trump’s worst week.”

August 18: Two weeks later and, what do you know, another worst week. This time it’s from NBC News, who deemed his Charlottesville response worthy of the now-too-used descriptor of “Trump’s worst week.”

What’s next?

We’re not even a year into this presidency—there will surely be more. But for the sake of my mental health, I hope we have merely mediocre weeks for the next little bit.CGW

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Zuck wants Facebook on your face: Patent shows augmented reality glasses design

Mark Zuckerberg has been clear and outspoken about his belief that some type of glasses will eventually replace smartphones as our go-to computing device. Facebook is already spending R&D resources on developing those stylish glasses. Today we see a new patent that offers some clues: The AR glasses design uses an optical technology similar to that used in Microsoft’s HoloLens and in an upcoming product from Google-backed Magic Leap. The technology senses the real-world view of the wearer and place digital objects within it.

The patent lists three Oculus (owned by Facebook) engineers as the inventors. Business Insider points out that one of the patent authors, Pasi Saarikko, led Microsoft’s HoloLens group until moving to Facebook in 2015. The design shown in the patent is far smaller and sleeker than the HoloLens headset. Analysts say, however, that the components needed for such a small form factor are not yet available in large numbers.

But it’s crucial for Facebook to be doing this research now rather than later. Facebook has long wanted to control the hardware on which people experience Facebook services. That’s the reason for the ill-fated “Facebook phone” and the main reason it bought Oculus and its virtual reality headset product. When personal computing does finally collide with augmented reality headwear, Facebook wants to be there with a product.

MS

  • 08.18.17

Report: Trump is finally ousting Steve Bannon

Report: Trump is finally ousting Steve Bannon
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

It looks like the inevitable has come to pass. Donald Trump has told his aides that he’s decided to remove Steve Bannon from his post as the White House’s chief strategist, according to sources speaking with the New York Times. (Although versions differ; other reports say Bannon is claiming that he resigned from the White House two weeks ago.)

Many have been calling for Bannon’s ousting for months. He helped Trump’s meteoric rise, thanks to his far-right connections and affiliations with organizations like Breitbart news. Given the events in Charlottesville last weekend, many have been calling on Trump to break ties with Bannon and his nationalist ilk. Not only that, but Bannon has reportedly had frequent disagreements with others inside the White House.

Now, it seems Bannon is really out. We’ll wait to see how Breitbart, et al. respond.CGW

  • 08.18.17

The Girl Scouts just teamed up with SETI for STEM classes and space merit badges

The Girl Scouts just teamed up with SETI for STEM classes and space merit badges
[Photo: Girl Scouts USA]

Girl Scouts of the USA have always learned to be good citizens of this planet, but now they are aiming a little higher. Your favorite cookie sellers have teamed up with the SETI Institute for a five-year program called Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts. While the program, which is funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and led by the SETI Institute, won’t train the bright minds of the future in the art of searching for intelligent life in the universe (unless they plan on showing Contact at the next Girl Scout Jamboree), it will hopefully encourage a lifelong love of science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM). According to a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, while girls say STEM fields are interesting, only 13% would choose a career in STEM, and only one-third have participated in STEM activities outside school. Meanwhile, 57% say that if they went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously. Hence the need for a STEM program aimed at young women.

As with many aspects of the Girl Scouts, learning is driven by competition and a burning desire to earn more badges than the kid sitting next to you at the campfire. To that end, the new Reaching for the Stars program coincides with the creation of the Girl Scouts’ first-ever Space Science badges. The new badges will be available for girls at every Girl Scout grade level, from kindergarten to 12th grade (or Daisies to Seniors, in scout parlance). While the badges are still being focus grouped, by 2019, starry-eyed Girl Scouts will be able to earn badges in NASA’s space sciences: astrophysics, planetary science, and heliophysics.

The program is a natural fit for the Girl Scouts as their current CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, is a rocket scientist who once worked for NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s not just Acevedo, either. As SETI notes, many female astronauts in the U.S. are Girl Scout alumnae. No word yet on whether they’ll try to sell Thin Mints to alien life-forms.

Want to sign up your future astronaut? Visit www.girlscouts.org/join.

ML

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Apple and Hollywood studios could be heading for a big game of chicken against theater chains

For years, Hollywood studios have wanted to offer earlier access to new movies at home, only to get shot down by theater chains. Now, at least a couple of studios are reportedly looking to play hardball. Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are among several studios talking with Apple and Comcast about selling early movie rentals for $30 to $50 a pop, Bloomberg reports. And this time, they may go ahead with the plan even if theater chains don’t approve. (Comcast owns Universal parent NBCUniversal, but operates somewhat independently.)

Effectively, this would result in a game of chicken. Theaters could respond by boycotting early release movies, as they have with Netflix’s original films, but doing so would risk a lot of money if the studios, Apple, and Comcast formed a united front. That’s still a big “if,” though. Bloomberg reports that some studios don’t want to fight with theaters, and Disney apparently isn’t interested in the plan at all. Given how many times we’ve heard about potential early rental schemes in the past, there’s a chance this latest one could fizzle.JN

  • 08.18.17

Congrats to Julian Assange for getting that coveted Donald Trump Jr. Twitter follow

Congrats to Julian Assange for getting that coveted Donald Trump Jr. Twitter follow
[Photo: Flickr users Gage Skidmore, Espen Moe]

This morning the very helpful Twitter bot “TrumpAlert” informed us that President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. has followed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Twitter. There’s a lot to unpack here.

Why would a member of Trump’s family follow Assange now? Well, it just so happens that Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher met with him in London earlier this week. According to the Republican lawmaker, who spoke with the Orange County Register after his meeting, Assange reasserted that Russia was not the source of the DNC leaks from last year–a claim Assange has been making ever since evidence came to light that the Kremlin may have facilitated the hack into the Democrats servers and given the info to Wikileaks, which ultimately helped Trump win the election against Hillary Clinton.

Despite alleged proof of Russian involvement with the DNC hack, Assange has remained steadfast that it’s not the case. Rohrabacher, who has been known to defend Vladimir Putin, is now on Assange’s side. He says he received information from Assange that will have “earth-shattering political impact.” Alas, first, the representative has to show this all to Trump.

Lest we forget, we recently learned that Donald Trump Jr.–along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort–had a private meeting last year with Russians about the “government’s support of Mr. Trump” while the election was still underway. Both Trump Jr. and his father have tried to downplay the meeting since it came to light.

And, what do you know, today Trump’s son began to follow Assange on social media, after news that he had information that would be helpful to both them and Russia. What a terrible political intrigue narrative non-fiction book this will all become in a decade or two.CGW

  • 08.18.17

Airbnb is offering free housing to those affected by the disaster in Barcelona

Airbnb has set up free housing for those affected by the violence that took place in Barcelona. The company launched its disaster response program last night after the incident took place, emailing hosts and asking them to volunteer up spaces for anyone who was unable to get home or to a hotel as a result of the attack.

Yesterday, a car mowed down pedestrians walking along Las Ramblas in Barcelona, killing 14 and hurting more than 100 others, according to the Guardian. A second attack took place in the ocean front city of Cambrils where police killed five attackers. Airbnb is in touch with officials there, but has not launched its disaster response tool in that region yet.

Airbnb first launched its volunteer housing program in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy hit New York. It has since expanded its temporary housing program for refugees.RR

  • 08.18.17

Travis Kalanick says Benchmark lawsuit was designed to exploit his personal tragedy

The VC firm sued the former Uber CEO for fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty last week as part of an attempt to get Kalanick removed from Uber’s board. Yesterday Kalanick filed his reply to the lawsuit, reports Axios. In it, Kalanick states that Benchmark’s fraud claims rely upon “information and belief” rather than explicitly fraudulent statements, but his reply also goes on to say the timing of Benchmark’s suit was designed to exploit him while mourning the loss of his mother, who was killed in a boating accident. Kalanick’s father was also seriously injured in the boating accident. Kalanick’s reply alleges Benchmark “executed its plan at the most shameful of times: immediately after Kalanick experienced a horrible personal tragedy.”MG

  • 08.18.17

The Tor Project won’t censor the Daily Stormer—here’s why

After Google, GoDaddy, and Cloudflare booted the neo-Nazi site from their services, the Daily Stormer fled to the dark web, where it could only be accessed by the Tor browser. Some have called on the Tor Project, which is responsible for maintaining the Tor browser (but not the sites on the dark web), to ban the Daily Stormer from being accessible from its browser. Now the Tor Project has announced it won’t do so, and gave a pretty good reasoning why in a blog post:

We’ve heard that the hate-spewing website Daily Stormer has moved to a Tor onion service.

We are disgusted, angered, and appalled by everything these racists stand for and do. We feel this way any time the Tor network and software are used for vile purposes. But we can’t build free and open source tools that protect journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary people around the world if we also control who uses those tools. Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us. 

Ironically, the Tor software has been designed and written by a diverse team including people of many religions, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and points on the (legitimate, non-Nazi) political spectrum. We are everything they claim to despise. And we work every day to defend the human rights they oppose. 

They feel powerful by spewing hate, whining, bullying, and promoting violence against others. But together, we are more powerful. 

Tor stands against racism and bigotry wherever and whenever such hatred rears its ugly head. It is our work to provide everyone with the best possible security and privacy tools so human dignity and freedom can be promoted all over the world.

MG

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  • 08.18.17

Rupert Murdoch’s son James slams Trump: “There are no good Nazis”

The Twenty-First Century Fox CEO and son of media mogul and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch sent a letter to his friends saying the president’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville “concern all of us as Americans and free people,” the New York Times reports. Could this be a sign that the Fox News empire is about to turn on Trump? That’s unclear as of now, although some of its hosts have deeply criticized the president for his comments on Charlottesville (and then received death threats for doing so).

Friends,

I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. It has not been my habit to widely offer running commentary on current affairs, nor to presume to weigh in on the events of a given day save those that might be of particular or specific concern to 21CF and my colleagues. But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.

These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation—a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.

Diverse storytellers, and stories, can make a difference, and that diversity, around the world, is a crucial strength and an animating force in my business. Often times not everyone agrees with the stories and positions that emerge from this, and that can be difficult. Certainly no company can be perfect. But I’m proud of the powerful art that can emerge, and I’m grateful to all of my colleagues who make this happen. From the potent and compelling narrative of “12 Years a Slave”, to the streets of Pakistan and the bravery of an extraordinary young woman that we saw in “He Named Me Malala”, to name just a few, we’ve never been afraid to help storytellers and artists say important things–hard things, too.

To further demonstrate our commitment, Kathryn and I are donating 1 million dollars to the Anti-Defamation League, and I encourage you to give what you think is right as well. We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too. Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already–now is a great time to give more. The ADL is an extraordinary force for vigilance and strength in the face of bigotry–you can learn more here: https://www.adl.org. My very best to you and with all my gratitude,

JRM

MG

  • 08.18.17

Google has removed far-right social network Gab app for violating hate speech policy

It’s removal was announced by Gab in a tweet in which the social network posted part of the letter it received from Google, which said the app violated its hate speech policy. Though the network bills itself as a site for free speech, it’s attracted mainly far-right users, many who have been banned for violating hate speech policies on other social networking sites. Gab’s green frog logo also bears a striking resemblance to the unofficial white supremacist mascot Pepe the Frog. Gab recently raised $1 million in a crowdfunding campaign after the events of Charlottesville.

MG

  • 08.18.17

The New Yorker’s Trump-KKK cover is brutal

  • 08.18.17

Apple Is Entering The Content Streaming War Against Netflix–And Other Stories You Might Have Missed

Apple Is Entering The Content Streaming War Against Netflix–And Other Stories You Might Have Missed

Here’s your weekly roundup of some of the stories we covered at Fast Company.FS

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