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Local News Stations Run Propaganda Segment Scripted and Produced by Amazon

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 10:26
Local news stations across the U.S. aired a segment produced and scripted by Amazon which touts the company's role in delivering essential groceries and cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its ability to do so while "keeping its employees safe and healthy." From a report: The segment, which was aired by at least 11 local TV stations, and which was introduced with a script written by Amazon and recited verbatim by news anchors, presents a fawning picture of Amazon, which has struggled to deliver essential items during the pandemic, support the sellers that rely on its platform, and provide its workers with the necessary protective equipment. Each anchor introduces the script then throws to an Amazon-produced look "inside" an Amazon fulfillment center, which is narrated by Amazon spokesperson Todd Walker: "Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon to deliver essentials like groceries and cleaning products during the COVID-19 outbreak. For the first time we're getting a glimpse *inside* Amazon's fulfillment centers to see just how the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy.. While delivering packages to your doorstep. Todd Walker takes us inside." The segment features interviews with Amazon employees who profess to be dedicated to their job.

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Trump Threatens To Shut Social Media Companies After Twitter Fact Check

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 09:41
President Donald Trump threatened to regulate or shutter social media companies -- a warning apparently aimed at Twitter after it began fact-checking his tweets. From a report: In a pair of tweets issued Wednesday morning from his iPhone, Trump said that social media sites are trying to silence conservative voices, and need to change course or face action. There is no evidence that Trump has the ability to shut down social media networks, which are run by publicly traded companies and used by billions of people all over the world. Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen," he said Wednesday. In a second tweet, he added: "Just like we can't let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country." He didn't cite any platforms by name, but it was plainly a response after Twitter added a fact-check label to earlier Trump tweets that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting. It's the first time Twitter has taken action on Trump's posts for being misleading.

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HBO Max Takes on Netflix With Human Curation Instead of Solely Relying on Algorithms

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 09:06
Just like nearly everything else on the internet, streaming services are ruled by recommendation algorithms that are designed to predetermine what people want before they ask for it. WarnerMedia is trying to accomplish the opposite with HBO Max. From a report: The company's new streaming service, which will allow for three concurrent streams, is positing itself as a human-first platform -- the opposite of Netflix's strategy. As streaming becomes more of a centerpiece in people's homes and more platforms find their way to people's television sets, focusing on improving the actual curation system subscribers use is just as important as available content, Sarah Lyons, senior vice president of product experience, told The Verge. CNET adds: Like rivals Netflix and Disney Plus, HBO Max has a sprawling catalog of hit shows and movies, plus a big-budget slate of exclusive originals packed with stars. But HBO Max is the most expensive of the bunch. New subscribers can sign up and pay a simple $15 a month subscription after a week-long free trial, the same price HBO already charges for its linear channel on most pay-TV providers and for its preexisting standalone streaming service, HBO Now. But if you're already paying for HBO in some form, the amount you'll have to pay for Max now, or whether you have to pay anything extra at all... well, it's complicated. "The question is: Does your provider have to deal with us for Max and do you move over? That answer will be fairly simple, and then beyond that it gets a little more complicated," Andy Forssell, the general manager of WarnerMedia's streaming operation, said in an interview last week. "We've got really broad distribution, and ... midnight next Tuesday we'll be where we are -- not that that's an end point, if there any discussions undone." To entice you to give it a try, HBO Max has padded itself with more content than you'll find on either the regular HBO channel or HBO Now.

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The CDC Says Its New 'Best Estimate' Is That 0.4 Percent of People With Symptoms and COVID-19 Will Die

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: In new guidance for mathematical modelers and public health officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating that about a third of coronavirus infections are asymptomatic. The CDC also says its "best estimate" is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have Covid-19 will die, and the agency estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission is occurring before people feel sick. The numbers are part of five planning scenarios that "are being used by mathematical modelers throughout the federal government," according to the CDC. Four of those scenarios represent "the lower and upper bounds of disease severity and viral transmissibility." The fifth scenario is the CDC's "current best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States." In that scenario, the agency described its estimate that 0.4% of people who feel sick with Covid-19 will die. For people age 65 and older, the CDC puts that number at 1.3%. For people 49 and under, the agency estimated that 0.05% of symptomatic people will die. The CDC cautions that these numbers are based on real data collected by the agency before April 29 and are subject to change. Still, the "current best estimate" number of 0.4% is significantly lower than the 3.4% mortality rate the World Health Organization warned in early March. "As I see it, the 'best estimate' is extremely optimistic, and the 'worst case' scenario is fairly optimistic even as a best estimate. One certainly wants to consider worse scenarios," biologist Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington told CNN. "By introducing these as the official parameter sets for modeling efforts, CDC is influencing the models produced by federal agencies, but also the broader scientific discourse because there will be some pressure to use the CDC standard parameter sets in modeling papers going forward," he said. "Given that these parameter sets underestimate fatality by a substantial margin compared to current scientific consensus, this is deeply problematic."

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CDC Warns of Increasingly Aggressive Rodents Looking For New Food Sources

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 05:00
New submitter Way Smarter Than You shares a report from The Seattle Times: Humans aren't the only ones hankering for the days they could dine out at their cities' restaurants: Some rats that miss feasting on the scraps are becoming increasingly brazen to find new food sources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday. Amid stay-home restrictions set across the country to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus, many restaurants and cafes are closed or limited to takeout and delivery, and with the reduced sales, the restaurants' trash bins are no longer overflowing with scrumptious leftovers hoards of rodents subsisted on. Finding slimmer pickings than they used to, cities' critters are more aggressive, prompting CDC to issue guidance on how to deter them. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been increased reports of rat cannibalism and infanticide in New York, as well as more rat complaints in residential areas -- including in Chicago -- as humans produce more food waste at home. Roving rat armies, including one caught on camera scavenging New Orleans' empty streets, are concerning to the CDC, which says rodents can carry disease. The CDC advises home and business owners to cover garbage cans, put bird and pet food out of reach and seal small holes rodents could access in buildings. If people follow established cleaning guidelines, they can avoid exposure to rodent-borne diseases, according to the agency.

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Insignia Project Aims To Resurrect Xbox Live For the Original Xbox

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 02:00
Last week, Kotaku reported on a new project, called Insignia, "that aims to recreate the original Xbox Live service, potentially restoring online play to many dozens of classic Xbox games that fell offline when the original Xbox Live service closed on April 15, 2010." From the report: The project's announcement on the r/originalxbox subreddit came from SoullessSentinel, a screen name of one Luke Usher. Usher is well known in the vintage Xbox community as the lead developer of Cxbx-Reloaded, arguably the most advanced PC-based emulator of the 2001 Xbox hardware. (Microsoft's classic console has proven notoriously tricky to emulate over the years.) As a demonstration of Insignia's progress, Usher shared a video depicting the creation of a new Xbox Live account via the Xbox's system UI. It's a cool trick, as this process has not been technically possible since the online service's April 2010 closure. (In a cheeky touch, the video names the newly created account HiroProtagonist, the Gamertag of Xbox co-creator J Allard.) Insignia will work with normal, unmodded consoles, provided the user can perform a one-time process to retrieve their unit's internal encryption keys. Long-existing Xbox soft-mod techniques, which require physical copies of exploitable games like Splinter Cell or MechAssault but do not necessarily alter the console's hardware or operating system, should suffice for accomplishing this key retrieval. Once that initial setup's completed, Usher envisions a more or less vanilla Xbox Live experience, complete with matchmaking, voice chat, messaging, and almost everything else you might remember. (One exception would come in a lack of proprietary game DLC, which Insignia and its developers lack rights to distribute.) Anti-cheating measures are also in the works, as well as reporting and banning mechanisms for truly bad actors. The project works by using a DNS man-in-the-middle maneuver to redirect all of Xbox Live's original server calls to new addresses that point to Insignia's work-in-progress infrastructure. "The current plan is for Insignia to be a centralized service run by Usher and associates," reports Kotaku. "He believes keeping it centralized will prevent player populations from diluting across multiple third-party servers, and that it will not be much of a resource burden." "The server," he noted, "is used for authentication, matchmaking, storing friends lists, etc. but actual game traffic is usually P2P between Xboxes, so the requirements for our server are pretty low."

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Supercomputer Simulates the Impact of the Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Some 66 million years ago, an asteroid hit the Earth on the eastern coast of modern Mexico, resulting in up to three quarters of plant and animal species living on the planet going extinct -- including the dinosaurs. Now, a team of researchers equipped with a supercomputer have managed to simulate the entire event, shedding light on the reasons that the impact led to a mass extinction of life. The simulations were carried out by scientists at Imperial College in London, using high performance computing (HPC) facilities provided by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The research focused on establishing as precise an impact angle and trajectory as possible, which in turn can help determine precisely how the asteroid's hit affected the surrounding environment. Various impact angles and speeds were considered, and 3D simulations for each were fed into the supercomputer. These simulations were then compared with the geophysical features that have been observed in the 110-mile wide Chicxulub crater, located in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where the impact happened. The simulations that turned out to be the most consistent with the structure of the Chicxulub crater showed an impact angle of about 60 degrees. Such a strike had the strength of about ten billion Hiroshima bombs, and this particular angle meant that rocks and sediments were ejected almost symmetrically. This, in turn, caused a greater amount of climate-changing gases to be released, including billions of tonnes of sulphur that blocked the sun. The rest is history: firestorms, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes rocked the planet, and most species disappeared from the surface of the Earth. The 60-degree angle constituted "the worse-case scenario for the lethality of the impact" because it maximized the ejection of rock and therefore, the production of gases, the scientists wrote. "The researchers carried out almost 300 3D simulations before they were able to reach their conclusions, which was processed by the HPE Apollo 6000 Gen10 supercomputer located at the University of Leicester," adds ZDNet. "The 14,000-cores system, powered by Intel's Skylake chips, is supported by a 6TB server to accommodate large, in-memory calculations."

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Why Glass Frogs Have See-Through Skin Becomes Clear In Study

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 21:02
The mystery of why glass frogs have see-through skin has been solved, scientists say: the unusual feature is a type of camouflage. The Guardian reports: Glass frogs are found in tropical Central and South America, and get their name from their skin. However, the frogs are not truly transparent but translucent, with the skin on their backs typically a vivid green and their intestines and heart visible through their underbelly. This has led to a question that has kept scientists on the hop. "If predators cannot see straight though the frogs, why do glass frogs have transparent skin at all, and not the opaque camouflaged patterns of other tree frog species?" said Dr James Barnett, a postdoctoral researcher at McMaster University, Canada, who co-authored the study. Barnett and colleagues say they have cracked the conundrum. "The frog is always green to generally match leaves, but leaves will differ in their brightness," said Barnett. The team say that while the color of the frog's body changes little against dark or light foliage, the legs are more translucent and hence shift in brightness, helping the amphibians to blend in. "By having translucent legs and resting with the legs surrounding the body, the frog's edge is transformed into a softer, less contrasting gradient from the leaf to the legs, and again from the legs to the body," said Barnett, noting that this makes the frog's outline less recognizable to predators. Writing in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Barnett and colleagues report how they carried out three experiments.

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