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    - Eight Amazon Workers Have Now Died from Covid-19
    The Los Angeles Times tells the story of 63-year-old Harry Sentoso, an Amazon warehouse worker who was called back to work on March 29th -- and died two weeks later of Covid-19. Across the country, Amazon workers have documented more than 1,000 cases among warehouse workers as of May 20, and 7 deaths. Sentoso is the eighth.... The company has put new measures in place to make its warehouses safer for employees, but the number of cases at its facilities keeps rising... Amazon also fired two tech workers who had publicly criticized safety and working conditions at the company's warehouses... The week before Sentoso died, the company began requiring employees to wear masks on site, and started checking the temperature of workers before they could enter. It began requiring employees to stay six feet apart in late March, and staggered shifts and canceled in-person meetings to make that easier. The company has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in warehouses as well, and began spraying down whole facilities with disinfectant fogs in mid-April. But [the late Harry Sentoso's son] Evan, and a contingent of Amazon workers across the country, don't think that those measures are enough. Hundreds of workers at Amazon's facilities in Hawthorne and Eastvale, in Riverside County, have signed and submitted petitions asking the company to close the facilities for two weeks after infections for thorough cleaning and send workers home with quarantine pay. Following worker complaints compiled by the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, Cal OSHA has also launched investigations into both facilities... The call for a shutdown has been especially loud at warehouses in Pennsylvania and New York that have become coronavirus hotspots, with more than 60 reported cases at each before the company stopped updating the tally even to local employees.

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    - Cisco Discloses Security Breach That Impacted VIRL-PE Infrastructure
    Thursday Cisco disclosed a security breach that impacted a small part of its backend infrastructure and two of its commercial products also bundling the SaltStack software package as part of their firmware. ZDNet reports: Cisco said that hackers used a vulnerability in the SaltStack software package, which Cisco bundles with some products, to gain access to six servers... The six servers provide the backend infrastructure for VIRL-PE (Internet Routing Lab Personal Edition), a Cisco service that lets users model and create virtual network architectures to test network setups before deploying equipment in real situations. "Cisco identified that the Cisco maintained salt-master servers that are servicing Cisco VIRL-PE releases 1.2 and 1.3 were compromised," the company said Thursday. Cisco said it patched and remediated all hacked VIRL-PE servers on May 7, when it deployed updates for the SaltStack software. However, the issue isn't localized to Cisco's backend infrastructure alone. Cisco says that two of its commercial products also bundle the SaltStack software package as part of their firmware. These are the aforementioned Cisco VIRL-PE, and Cisco Modeling Labs Corporate Edition (CML), another network modeling tool. Both VIRL-PE and CML can be used in Cisco-hosted and on-premise scenarios. In case companies use the two products on location, Cisco says CML and VIRL-PE need to be patched.

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    - Tunguska Meteor That Blasted Millions of Trees in 1908 Might Have Returned To Space
    schwit1 quotes Space.com: A new explanation for a massive blast over a remote Siberian forest in 1908 is even stranger than the mysterious incident itself. Known as the Tunguska event, the blast flattened more than 80 million trees in seconds, over an area spanning nearly 800 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) — but left no crater. A meteor that exploded before hitting the ground was thought by many to be the culprit. However, a comet or asteroid would likely have left behind rocky fragments after blowing up, and no "smoking gun" remnants of a cosmic visitor have ever been found. Now, a team of researchers has proposed a solution to this long-standing puzzle: A large iron meteor hurtled toward Earth and came just close enough to generate a tremendous shock wave. But the meteor then curved away from our planet without breaking up, its mass and momentum carrying it onward in its journey through space.

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    - Watch Live: SpaceX Launches NASA Astronauts to ISS
    "Crew Dragon's hatch is closed, securing @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug in the spacecraft ahead of liftoff," SpaceX tweeted an hour ago. Livestreaming of the launch has already begun, with liftoff scheduled in about 41 minutes. GeekWire reports: If liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurs today at 3:22 p.m. ET (12:22 p.m. PT), it'll be a feat that America hasn't been able to perform since NASA retired its space shuttles, nearly nine years ago. "We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared during a launch-eve briefing at the space center's countdown clock. But even Bridenstine acknowledged that's not a sure bet for today. "Weather challenges remain with a 50% chance of cancellation," he tweeted this morning. A drenching rainstorm swept over Florida's Space Coast overnight, but the skies cleared up this morning... The launch can be scrubbed at any time, all the way down to the last second, if the weather doesn't cooperate or if a technical glitch arises. If the gumdrop-shaped Crew Dragon doesn't lift off today, Sunday is an option. The chances of acceptable weather are expected to improve to 60%. The weather outlook is even better for a June 2 backup opportunity... Hurley and Behnken, who are both experienced shuttle astronauts, are scheduled to rendezvous with the space station on Sunday and move in alongside its current occupants, NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin. NASA hasn't yet decided how long the Dragon riders will spend in orbit. Their stay could be as short as six weeks, or as long as 16 weeks, depending on how the test mission proceeds. For the return trip, Hurley and Behnken will strap themselves back inside the Dragon and descend to an Atlantic splashdown. This whole flight serves as an initial demonstration of the Crew Dragon's capabilities with an actual crew aboard. If the mission is successful, yet another Crew Dragon will carry four different astronauts to the space station weeks after Hurley and Behnken return. Reuters reporter Joey Roulette also spotted NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman by the side of the road as his fellow astronauts drove by. He was holding a sign that said "Take me with you." And GeekWire notes that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine sees this event as historic. "I really think, when we look into the future, we're going to see these models of doing business with public-private partnerships apply not just to low Earth orbit... but we're taking this model to the moon and even on to Mars." UPDATE: SpaceX just tweeted that the re-usable Falcon 9 booster rocket "has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship!"

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    - IPv6 Adoption Hits 32%. Will Stats Show How Many Returned to the Office?
    Long-time Slashdot reader Tim the Gecko writes: Google's IPv6 connectivity stats topped 32% last Saturday for the first time. But the main story has been the midweek stats. Most mobile phone networks and a good chunk of residential broadband have migrated to IPv6, but the typical corporate network where people used to spend their 9 to 5 is largely IPv4-only. There used to be a big dip in the IPv6 stats during the working week, but widespread working from home has halved that dip, with the typical midweek IPv6 connectivity for Google queries moving upwards from 26% to 29%. Looking at this graph will be a good way of checking how fast people are returning to the office.

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    - 2018 'Hacking Attempt' Claimed By Georgia Was A Security Test They'd Requested Themselves
    An anonymous reader quotes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It was a stunning accusation: Two days before the 2018 election for Georgia governor, Republican Brian Kemp used his power as secretary of state to open an investigation into what he called a "failed hacking attempt" of voter registration systems involving the Democratic Party. But newly released case files from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reveal that there was no such hacking attempt. The evidence from the closed investigation indicates that Kemp's office mistook planned security tests and a warning about potential election security holes for malicious hacking. Kemp then wrongly accused his political opponents just before Election Day — a high-profile salvo that drew national media attention in one of the most closely watched races of 2018... The internet activity that Kemp's staff described as hacking attempts were actually scans by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the secretary of state's office had agreed to, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kemp's chief information officer signed off on the DHS scans three months beforehand. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reports that the Democratic party's only role was apparently forwarding an email about vulnerabilities to two cybersecurity professors at Georgia Tech, who then alerted authorities: Richard Wright, a Georgia Tech graduate and Democratic voter who works for a software company...found that he could look up other voters' information by modifying the web address on the site, a flaw confirmed by ProPublica and Georgia Public Broadcasting before it was fixed....An election security vendor for the state, Fortalice Solutions, later concluded, however, that there was no evidence that voter information had been accessed, manipulated or changed by bad actors... While publicly denying Wright's claims about vulnerabilities, behind the scenes, Kemp's staff was working to correct them.... The secretary of state's firewall hadn't been set up to block access to the locations identified by Wright, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent's report. Election officials then "set up safeguards to restrict access to the vulnerable areas" on the last two days before the 2018 general election... This type of weakness, called broken access control, is one of the 10 most critical web application security risks, according to the Open Web Application Security Project, an organization that works to improve software security. In 2016 Kemp also accused the Department of Homeland Security of trying to breach his office's firewall. But a later investigation revealed the activity Kemp cited "was the result of normal and automatic computer message exchanges," apparently caused by someone cutting and pasting data into a Microsoft Excel document.

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    - Dell's All-AMD Gaming Laptop Hailed as a 'Budget Blockbuster'
    AMD "has a potent combination of both CPU and GPU technologies," writes Slashdot reader MojoKid, that "can play well in the laptop market especially, where a tight coupling of the two processing engines can mean both performance and cost efficiencies." One of the first all-AMD laptops to hit the market powered by the company's new Ryzen 4000 mobile processors is the Dell G5 15 SE, it's a 5.5 pound, 14.4-inch machine [with a 15.6-inch display] that sports an understated design for a gaming notebook but with an interesting glittery finish that resists fingerprints well. With a retail price of $1199 (starting at $879), the model tested at HotHardware is powered by an AMD Ryzen 4800H 8-core processor that boosts to 4.2GHz and an AMD Radeon RX 5600M mobile GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 memory... In the benchmarks, AMD's SmartShift technology load-balances CPU and GPU power supply for optimal performance and very respectable numbers that are competitive with any similar Intel/NVIDIA powered machine. The Dell G5 15 SE put up north of 60 FPS frame rates at maximum image quality in current-gen game titles, but with a significantly better price point, relatively speaking. The GPU also has 2,304 stream processors across 36 compute units, and "Overall, we think Dell hit it out of the park with the new G5 15 SE," the review concludes. "This all-AMD budget blockbuster has all of the gaming essentials: a fast processor, a powerful GPU, and a 144 Hz display."

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    - As Coronavirus Hospitalizations Rise in the US, Many States Hide Their Data
    In America, "Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus' spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly," reports Politico: In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from POLITICO, other news outlets and the states' own admissions... About a third of the states aren't even reporting hospital admission data — a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus... Nearly half the U.S., meanwhile, has registered rising caseloads as states press ahead with reopening the economy. While some of that reflects increased testing, an accompanying uptick in hospitalizations is worrying experts, including former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb... [He tweeted Sunday that "Daily covid hospitalizations showed sustained decline for two weeks but then over preceding week started to rise nationally."] In addition to pulling back from its historic role as the central health authority during public health crises, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established few firm standards for how states should monitor Covid-19 and made little overt effort to coordinate its messaging with state and local health departments. That's created a patchwork system where key health information is collected and communicated with little uniformity, and amid rising concern over whether Americans are receiving reliable reports about the pandemic fight. At least a half-dozen states have admitted to inflating their testing figures by mixing two different types of tests into its totals, a practice widely derided as scientifically unsound. In Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp has been among the strongest proponents of reopening, the inclusion of antibody tests inflated the state's overall testing count by nearly 78,000 — a disclosure that came a few weeks after officials posted a chart of new confirmed cases in Georgia with the dates jumbled out of order, showing a downward trajectory.... Florida has weathered a string of controversies over its evidence to support GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis' boasts that the state is faring better than most, including an attempt to block access to information on nursing home deaths and the firing of a health department official who now alleges she was pushed out for refusing to manipulate the state's data.

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    - Many Scientists Warn CDC's New Death Rate Estimates Far Too Low
    Slashdot reader DevNull127 quotes Buzzfeed News: Public health experts are accusing the CDC of bending under political pressure to say the coronavirus is less deadly. New CDC estimates of coronavirus death rates look suspiciously low and present almost no data to back them up, say public health experts who are concerned that the agency is buckling under political pressure to restart the economy... While no one yet knows the coronavirus's actual death rate, the agency's range of possible rates seemed alarmingly low to many epidemiologists, compared to existing data in places both inside and outside the US. For instance, estimates of New York City's total death rate, 0.86% to 0.93%, are even higher than the CDC's worst-case scenario. Estimates from countries like Spain and Italy are also higher, ranging from 1.1% to 1.3%. Researchers also lambasted the CDC's lack of transparency about its data sources. The eight-page document disclosed almost nothing about its numbers, citing only internal data and a preprint — a study that has not been peer-reviewed — led by scientists in Iran. "This is terrible. This is way too optimistic," Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of population health at the University of California at Irvine, told BuzzFeed News, adding, "With this document, the CDC is determined to smash its credibility with the public health community of which it is supposedly a leader." The CDC did not return multiple requests for comment... A preliminary analysis of more than two dozen studies from Europe, China, the US, and elsewhere, conducted by Meyerowitz-Katz and colleague Lea Merone, suggests that the overall infection fatality rate is between 0.5% and 0.78%. Even the lower end of that range is higher than what the CDC says is its "best estimate" for the rate, which is about 0.26%. The CDC's proposed fatality rates "are more in line with a relatively mild seasonal flu season than with COVID-19," said Gerardo Chowell, a public health expert at Georgia State University. Those estimates are at least an order of magnitude lower than ones elsewhere in the world, he added, including South Korea, which has a case fatality rate around 0.7% and one of the highest testing rates for the coronavirus in the world.... The CDC document provided almost no sources for its projections, making it impossible for scientists to understand how it came up with them.

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    - Western Digital Gets Sued For Sneaking SMR Disks Into Its NAS Channel
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: All three of the surviving conventional hard drive vendors -- Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate -- have gotten caught sneaking disks featuring Shingled Magnetic Recording technology into unexpected places recently. But Western Digital has been the most brazen of the three, and it's been singled out for a class action lawsuit in response. Although all three major manufacturers quietly added SMR disks to their desktop hard drive line-up, Western Digital is the only one so far to slip them into its NAS (Network Attached Storage) stack. NAS drives are expected to perform well in RAID and other multiple disk arrays, whether ZFS pools or consumer devices like Synology or Netgear NAS appliances. Hattis Law has initiated a class action lawsuit against Western Digital, accordingly. The lawsuit alleges both that the SMR technology in the newer Western Digital Red drives is inappropriate for the marketed purpose of the drives and that Western Digital deliberately "deceived and harm[ed] consumers" in the course of doing so. Hattis' position is strengthened by a series of tests that website ServeTheHome released yesterday. The results demonstrate that although Western Digital's new 4TB Red "NAS" disk performed adequately as a desktop drive, it was unfit for purpose in a ZFS storage array (zpool).

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    - Comcast, Charter and ViacomCBS Join Forces to Make TV Commercials More Targeted
    wyattstorch516 writes: Comcast has spun off its blockchain division and is now partnering with Spectrum Reach (the advertising sales division of Charter Communications) and Viacom. Customized ad delivery in the TV space has significantly lagged the technology for online video providers such as Youtube. Blockgraph holds out the promise that will allow advertisers to target key demographics while safeguarding subscriber information. Can this help prop up the declining broadcast video market? One-third of Blockgraph will now be owned by each company. Blockgraph Chief Executive Jason Manningham says the platform will help brands and ad-inventory sellers match data sets without sharing too much personal data on the viewers. "For instance, if a car maker buys a data set of people in the market for a car, it could use Blockgraph's technology to match that list up with cable subscribers based on their home address," reports The Wall Street Journal, citing Manningham. "The car company could use this data either to learn which programs and time of day draw more viewers from their desired audience, or to buy ads targeted only at households on the in-market list."

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    - Amazon Will No Longer Support the Echo Look, Encourages Owners To Recycle Theirs
    "Amazon is discontinuing its Echo Look camera, a standalone device that gave owners fashion advice using artificial intelligence and machine learning," reports The Verge. The gadget raised eyebrows when it was first announced as it included a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera specifically designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever the hell you get dressed. From the report: The Look's companion app and the device itself will stop functioning on July 24th. Between now and July 24th, 2021, Look users can back up their images and videos by making a free Amazon Photos account. (People with existing Photos accounts will have their media backed up automatically.) Anyone who wants to delete all their existing photos and videos will have to do so before the July 2020 deadline; otherwise, they'll have to call Amazon's customer service to have them deleted. They can currently delete them through the Look app. Amazon points out that much of the Echo Look's functionality is now included in the Amazon Shopping app, including Style by Alexa, which involves the AI offering fashion pointers. The company says people should download the app to keep consulting with Amazon, and they should also recycle their Look through Amazon's program.

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    - Eye-Catching Advances in Some AI Fields Are Not Real
    silverjacket writes: A story in this week's issue of Science. Artificial intelligence (AI) just seems to get smarter and smarter. Each iPhone learns your face, voice, and habits better than the last, and the threats AI poses to privacy and jobs continue to grow. The surge reflects faster chips, more data, and better algorithms. But some of the improvement comes from tweaks rather than the core innovations their inventors claim -- and some of the gains may not exist at all, says Davis Blalock, a computer science graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Blalock and his colleagues compared dozens of approaches to improving neural networks -- software architectures that loosely mimic the brain. "Fifty papers in," he says, "it became clear that it wasn't obvious what the state of the art even was." The researchers evaluated 81 pruning algorithms, programs that make neural networks more efficient by trimming unneeded connections. All claimed superiority in slightly different ways. But they were rarely compared properly -- and when the researchers tried to evaluate them side by side, there was no clear evidence of performance improvements over a 10-year period. The result [PDF], presented in March at the Machine Learning and Systems conference, surprised Blalock's Ph.D. adviser, MIT computer scientist John Guttag, who says the uneven comparisons themselves may explain the stagnation. "It's the old saw, right?" Guttag said. "If you can't measure something, it's hard to make it better." Researchers are waking up to the signs of shaky progress across many subfields of AI. A 2019 meta-analysis of information retrieval algorithms used in search engines concluded the "high-water mark ... was actually set in 2009." Another study in 2019 reproduced seven neural network recommendation systems, of the kind used by media streaming services. It found that six failed to outperform much simpler, nonneural algorithms developed years before, when the earlier techniques were fine-tuned, revealing "phantom progress" in the field. In another paper posted on arXiv in March, Kevin Musgrave, a computer scientist at Cornell University, took a look at loss functions, the part of an algorithm that mathematically specifies its objective. Musgrave compared a dozen of them on equal footing, in a task involving image retrieval, and found that, contrary to their developers' claims, accuracy had not improved since 2006. "There's always been these waves of hype," Musgrave says.

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    - EU's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue To Fall As Coal Ditched
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe's environment watchdog. Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc's emission cuts under the UN's climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%. The continuing fall, revealed in a report by the European Environment Agency, came as the result of EU-wide and country-specific policies, with energy generation showing the biggest decline in emissions as coal was phased out further and renewable power increased. Carbon dioxide emissions from transport flattened off in 2018, after rising for the previous four years, giving hope that this major source of emissions may be brought under control. However, emissions must be brought down much further and faster to satisfy the EU's obligations under the Paris agreement, campaigners said. Annual falls of about 7% are estimated to be needed to keep global heating within the Paris upper limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

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    - Biotech Startup Aims to Make Use of Humanity's Genetic Outliers
    pacopico writes: A startup called Variant Bio has quietly been going around the world for the past couple of years, looking for genetic outliers. We're talking about people with super high metabolisms, amazing eyesight, the ability to hold their breaths for really long times. Variant wants to sequence their DNA and come up with a new class of drugs based off these traits found among isolated, indigenous people. The whole business is sort of the opposite of 23andMe or Ancestry where you sequence a ton of people and hope something interesting pops out. Instead, you're going to the obviously interesting spots and then trying to strike deals to get the DNA and turn the interesting genes into the basis of drugs. Tons of ethical and moral questions but very sci-fi and at the frontier of bio-tech.

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