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    - World's First Opioid Vending Machine Opens In Vancouver
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A vending machine for powerful opioids has opened in Canada as part of a project to help fight the Canadian city's overdose crisis. The MySafe project, which resembles a cash machine, gives addicts access to a prescribed amount of medical quality hydromorphone, a drug about twice as powerful as heroin. Don Durban, a social worker from Vancouver, is one of 14 opioid addicts using the MySafe vending machine. After being prescribed opioid-based painkillers in the early 2000s, the father of two developed an addiction and now feels unable to cope without a daily dose of hydromorphone. Unlike most addicts, Durban, 66, does not have to break the law by sourcing his fix through drug dealers. Instead he is prescribed Dilaudid -- the brand name for hydromorphone -- and, for the past couple of weeks, has been able to collect his pills from a vending machine near his home in Eastside, a rundown neighborhood with a large homeless community. "This is a godsend," he told the Guardian during one of his visits to the machine. After verifying his identity with a biometric fingerprint scan, the machine dispensed Durban with three pills for each of his four daily visits, in line with his prescription. "It means I don't have to go and buy iffy dope," he said. "I have a clean supply. I don't have to deal with other people so much. You're treated like an adult, not some kind of demonic dope fiend. We're just people with mental health issues."

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    - Pier 1 Files For Bankruptcy, Warns of Dangers In Handful of Online Vendors Dominating Retail Sales
    Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy Monday (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), "a victim of changing consumer tastes and an unforgiving retail environment," reports The Wall Street Journal. "Unlike many other retailers that have sought bankruptcy in recent years, the publicly traded Pier 1 -- with assets of $426.6 million and listed total debt of $258.3 million -- isn't weighed down with debt from an ill-timed leveraged buyout. Rather the company's struggles can be traced to increasing competition from online players, mass merchants and off-price retailers, such as Wayfair, TJX, HomeGoods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cost Plus World Market and Amazon." From the report: Those rivals have increasingly moved into selling home furnishings and merchandise that were once virtually the exclusive domain of Pier 1, according to Hart Posen, a professor of management at the University of Wisconsin. "You'd see something in someone's house -- a wicker-rattan chair or an elephant-themed umbrella holder -- and know it came from Pier 1," Mr. Posen said. "You could buy it at Pier 1 or nowhere, but that's just not the case anymore." The emergence of online operators such as Wayfair have rendered the backdrop for traditional chains all the more difficult, according to Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Brian Nagel. But there were also missteps that led Pier 1 to bankruptcy. The company was late to embrace e-commerce and was forced to build an online business from virtually nothing, said Mr. Nagel. Along the way, it had to absorb the costs of building distribution centers and other infrastructure, while also adjusting to the tighter margins from online sales. "When the company finally made its move online, it did so in a way that cannibalized the volumes and profitability of its physical stores," said Mr. Nagel. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company tried to revitalize the business with a program dubbed "Pier 1 2021: A New Day," but that effort failed. "The bankruptcy filing comes after the chain made it through the critical holiday shopping season," adds The Wall Street Journal. "In early January, Pier 1 said it planned to close nearly half of its nearly 940 stores and a number of distribution centers. It had already hired a liquidation company to help close the locations. Pier 1 said it intends to use the bankruptcy process to complete closure of some 450 stores, including closing all of its locations in Canada."

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    - New Email-Based Extortion Scheme Targets Website Owners Serving Ads Via Google AdSense
    Brian Krebs sheds light upon a new email-based extortion scheme targeting website owners serving banner ads through Google's AdSense program. "In this scam, the fraudsters demand bitcoin in exchange for a promise not to flood the publisher's ads with so much bot and junk traffic that Google's automated anti-fraud systems suspend the user's AdSense account for suspicious traffic," writes Krebs. From his report: Earlier this month, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a reader who maintains several sites that receive a fair amount of traffic. The message this reader shared began by quoting from an automated email Google's systems might send if they detect your site is seeking to benefit from automated clicks. The message goes on to warn that while the targeted site's ad revenue will be briefly increased, "AdSense traffic assessment algorithms will detect very fast such a web traffic pattern as fraudulent." The message demands $5,000 worth of bitcoin to forestall the attack. In this scam, the extortionists are likely betting that some publishers may see paying up as a cheaper alternative to having their main source of advertising revenue evaporate. The reader who shared this email said while he considered the message likely to be a baseless threat, a review of his recent AdSense traffic statistics showed that detections in his "AdSense invalid traffic report" from the past month had increased substantially. "We hear a lot about the potential for sabotage, it's extremely rare in practice, and we have built some safeguards in place to prevent sabotage from succeeding," Google said in a statement. "For example, we have detection mechanisms in place to proactively detect potential sabotage and take it into account in our enforcement systems." "We have a help center on our website with tips for AdSense publishers on sabotage," the statement continues. "There's also a form we provide for publishers to contact us if they believe they are the victims of sabotage. We encourage publishers to disengage from any communication or further action with parties that signal that they will drive invalid traffic to their web properties. If there are concerns about invalid traffic, they should communicate that to us, and our Ad Traffic Quality team will monitor and evaluate their accounts as needed."

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    - The Countdown To Bitcoin Halving 2020 Begins
    Ali Raza from InsideBitcoins discusses the expected Bitcoin Halving in May 2020, and the impact it will have on the market valuation. From the report: The next Bitcoin Halving will take place on May 20th 2020. It will be the third time, that the block reward of the most known blockchain will be halved. As a consequence, miners will earn 50 percent less BTC for every generated block. Experts are expecting, that this development could change the value of bitcoin. In the past, each of these events boosted the bitcoins market valuation by more than a thousand percent. Because of this development, the awareness of cryptocurrencies has grown. Still, not a lot of people are talking about BTC and the upcoming halving. The last halving took place in July 2016, where BTC was worth USD 600. Looking back, we can say that this last halving was the start of the great bull run of 2017. In that bull run BTCs price exploded and marked a new all-time high at USD 19,783,06. So, should investors buy bitcoin in 2020? According to us, the most interesting development regarding the upcoming halving will be the development of the bitcoin price. If the halving will have the same impact as in the past, we may see a new all-time high in 2021. It's even possible that bitcoin could hit a new all-time high at 10 times its current valuation.

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    - Samsung's 'Ultra Thin Glass' On Galaxy Z Flip Is Basically Just Plastic
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: YouTuber JerryRigEverything regularly does destructive durability tests on phones, partly by attacking a device with a set of Mohs picks. These pointy metal tools that are calibrated to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness allow a user to determine the hardness of a surface by doing a scratch test. You start with the softest pick and work your way up the set until you find something that can scratch the surface you're testing. A modern smartphone with Corning's Gorilla Glass scratches at level 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. The Galaxy Z Flip features a first-of-its-kind flexible glass cover that Samsung calls "Ultra-Thin Glass." Until now, foldables have had to suffer through life with plastic display covers, which scratch easily, don't provide much protection, and just like a resistive touchscreen, feel bad to swipe around on, thanks to the squishy pliability of the display. With this new invention of flexible glass, the Z Flip promised a return to a hard, smooth, scratch-resistant display surface. So how did the Z Flip fare against JerryRigEverything's Mohs picks? It scratches at level 2, the same level as the plastic-covered Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr. You can actually leave marks on the surface with a fingernail! This is not what Samsung was promising. Samsung sent The Verge a response to the video, reiterating that the display is actually "glass." "Galaxy Z Flip features an Infinity Flex Display with Samsung's Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) to deliver a sleek, premium look and offer an immersive viewing experience," Samsung told the site. "Samsung's first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices. While the display does bend, it should be handled with care. Also, Galaxy Z Flip has a protective layer on top of the UTG similar to Galaxy Fold." In Samsung's official Z Flip videos, the company shows a plastic "protective layer" going on top of the glass display. But as Ars Technica notes, this layer is not removable and JerryRigEverything's video shows that the underlying "glass" layer doesn't provide protection from punctures, either. With that said, "One Twitter user cracked their Galaxy Z Flip on the first fold, possibly due to cold weather," reports Ars. "So we know it can shatter, at least."

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    - Google Confirms It Again Removed Alleged Spying Tool ToTok From Google Play
    Google has confirmed that the popular messaging app ToTok, which is actually a spying tool used by the United Arab Emirates to track the activities of those who download it, has again been removed from the Play Store. But this time they declined to comment as to why. TechCrunch reports: Reached for comment, Google confirmed to TechCrunch that it removed the app from Google Play. In addition, Google noted the enforcement was not done in response to any external direction or request. That means the U.S. government did not get involved here, rather that Google chose to remove the app itself -- likely for a policy violation. According to The NYT's original report, ToTok had been downloaded millions of times from both Apple and Google's app stores by customers across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America in the few months since its launch. Citing unnamed U.S. intelligence sources, the report claimed the app had been used to track its users' "every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound, and image." At the time of the app's removal, Google said the app had violated unspecified Google Play policies. The app had over 10 million installs by then, app intelligence firm Sensor Tower says. In January, ToTok's website announced the app was again available for download. The updated version submitted to Google Play included a new dialog that requested authorization to access and sync users' contact list, Vice reported. Oddly, this updated version of ToTok never ranked on Google Play's charts again.

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    - FDA Clears 'World's First' Portable, Low-Cost MRI Following Positive Clinical Research
    Magnetic resonance imaging is no longer confined to radiology departments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this month that it has provided clearance to the "world's first" bedside MRI system, according to an announcement. From a report: Hyperfine said it will begin shipping its portable, low-field modalities this summer. It's 510(k) clearance falls on the same day that Yale researchers reported the device can accurately and safely image patient's brains for stroke. Those preliminary results are set to be presented next week at the American Stroke Association's International conference in Los Angeles, the group announced. "We've flipped the concept from having to get patients to the MRI to bringing the MRI to the patients," said Kevin Sheth, MD, senior author and a chief physician at Yale School of Medicine. "This early work suggests our approach is safe and viable in a complex clinical care environment." The study included 85 stroke patients who underwent bedside MRI within seven days of experiencing symptoms. A majority of individuals completed the exam, which took an average of 30 minutes. Six experienced claustrophobia and a few couldn't fit into the machine, but there were no adverse events. According to Connecticut-based Hyperfine, their machine will cost $50,000, which is 20-times cheaper than traditional systems, runs on 35-times less power and weights 10 times less than normal 1.5T MRI machines.

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    - Bug In WordPress Plugin Can Let Hackers Wipe Up To 200,000 Sites
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: WordPress site owners who use commercial themes provided by ThemeGrill are advised to update one of the plugins that come installed with these themes in order to patch a critical bug that can let attackers wipe their sites. The vulnerability resides in ThemeGrill Demo Importer, a plugin that ships with themes sold by ThemeGrill, a web development company that sells commercial WordPress themes. The plugin, which is installed on more than 200,000 sites, allows site owners to import demo content inside their ThemeGrill themes so they'll have examples and a starting point on which they can build their own sites. However, in a report published yesterday, WordPress security firm WebARX says that older versions of the ThemeGrill Demo Importer are vulnerable to remote attacks from unauthenticated attackers. Remote hackers can send a specially crafted payload to vulnerable sites and trigger a function inside the plugin. The vulnerable function resets the site's content to zero, effectively wiping the content of all WordPress sites where a ThemeGrill theme is active, and the vulnerable plugin is installed. Furthermore, if the site's database contains a user named "admin," then the attacker is granted access to that user with full administrator rights over the site.

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    - Apple Says It Does Not Expect To Meet the Revenue Guidance For the March Quarter Because of the Coronavirus Outbreak
    Apple said on Monday that it does not expect to meet the revenue guidance for the March quarter. In a press release, the company added: As the public health response to COVID-19 continues, our thoughts remain with the communities and individuals most deeply affected by the disease, and with those working around the clock to contain its spread and to treat the ill. Apple is more than doubling our previously announced donation to support this historic public health effort. Our quarterly guidance issued on January 28, 2020 reflected the best information available at the time as well as our best estimates about the pace of return to work following the end of the extended Chinese New Year holiday on February 10. Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated. As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors. The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province -- and while all of these facilities have reopened -- they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated. The health and well-being of every person who helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public health experts as this ramp continues. These iPhone supply shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide. The second is that demand for our products within China has been affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic. We are gradually reopening our retail stores and will continue to do so as steadily and safely as we can.

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    - Twitter Locks WikiLeaks Official Account With 5.4 Million Followers, Days Before Julian Assange's Extradition Hearing
    Days before Julian Assange's extradition hearings are set to continue, WikiLeaks' journalist Kristin Hrafnsson reports that the official WikiLeaks twitter account has been locked. "All attempts to get it reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful," writes Hrafnsson in a tweet. "It has been impossible to reach a human at twitter to resolve the issue. Can someone fix this?" RT reports: The @wikileaks account's most recent posts date back to February 9 and concern the dire precedent set by extraditing a publisher to stand trial on espionage charges. Assange's extradition hearing in the UK, which a court ordered to be split into two parts, is set to begin next week, while the second half is scheduled for May. The publisher's lawyers have complained that access to their client is being restricted, and Assange was only recently moved from solitary confinement at Belmarsh prison after his fellow inmates staged a protest. The UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has accused the UK government of contributing to Assange's "psychological torture" after examining the activist last year. ZeroHedge also points out that this isn't the first time WikiLeaks' account was locked. In 2016, "Twitter lit up in late July with allegations that it tried to suppress news that secret-leaking website Wikileaks exposed thousands of emails obtained from the servers of the Democratic National Committee," reports ZeroHeads, citing The Washington Examiner. "Friday afternoon, users noted, '#DNCLeaks' was trending, with more than 250,000 tweets about it on the platform. By Friday evening, it vanished completely from the site's 'trending' bar for at least 20 minutes. It returned as '#DNCLeak' after users erupted, though it was too late to quell their rage." For what it's worth, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at the time denied any attempt to intentionally silence the account.

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    - Did the Early Internet Activists Blow It?
    Mike Godwin, the first staff counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writes in a column: Another thing we clearly got wrong is how large platforms would rise to dominate their markets -- even though they never received the kind of bespoke regulated-monopoly partnership with governments that, generations before, the telephone companies had received. In most of today's democracies, Google dominates search and Facebook dominates social media. In less-democratic nations, counterpart platforms -- like Baidu and Weibo in China or VK in Russia -- dominate their respective markets, but their relationships with the relevant governments are cozier, so their market-dominant status isn't surprising. We didn't see these monopolies and market-dominant players coming, although we should have. Back in the 1990s, we thought that a thousand website flowers would bloom and no single company would be dominant. We know better now, particularly because of the way social media and search engines can built large ecosystems that contain smaller communities -- Facebook's Groups is only the most prominent example. Market-dominant players face temptations that a gaggle of hungry, competitive startups and "long tail" services don't, and we'd have done better in the 1990s if we'd anticipated this kind of consolidation and thought about how we might respond to it as a matter of public policy. We should have -- the concern about monopolies, unfair competition, and market concentration is an old one in most developed countries -- but I have no reflexive reaction either for or against antitrust or other market-regulatory approaches to address this concern, so long as the remedies don't create more problems than they solve. What's new and more troubling is the revival of the idea, after more than half a century of growing freedom-of-expression protections, that maybe there's just too much free speech. There's a lot to unpack here. In the 1990s, social conservatives wanted more censorship, particularly of sexual content. Progressive activists back then generally wanted less. Today, progressives frequently argue that social media platforms are too tolerant of vile, offensive, hurtful speech, while conservatives commonly insist that the platforms censor too much (or at least censor them too much). Both sides miss obvious points. Those who think there needs to be more top-down censorship from the tech companies imagine that when censorship efforts fail, it means the companies aren't trying hard enough to enforce their content policies. But the reality is that no matter how much money and manpower (plus less-than-perfect "artificial intelligence") Facebook throws at curating hateful or illegal content on its services, and no matter how well-meaning Facebook's intentions are, a user base edging toward 3 billion people is always going to generate hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of false positives every year. On the flip side, those who want to restrict companies' ability to censor content haven't given adequate thought to the consequences of their demands. If Facebook or Twitter became what Sen. Ted Cruz calls a "neutral public forum," for example, they might become 8chan writ large. That's not very likely to make anyone happier with social media.

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    - Microsoft Shares Roadmap For New Microsoft Edge
    Microsoft has published a roadmap for the new Microsoft Edge. The roadmap includes features that are currently planned, in discussion, under review, and not planned. It gives an insight into the new Microsoft Edge's development because you can see where Microsoft is trying to take the browser. From a report: Here are a few notable features Microsoft plans to roll out to the new Microsoft Edge: 1. Enable sync of installed browser extensions between devices 2. Enable sync of browsing history between devices 3. Make Edge available on Linux 4. Support read aloud of PDF files 5. Add the ability to ink on web pages

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    - Jeff Bezos Commits $10 Billion To Fight Climate Change
    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he's launching a $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund that will issue grants aimed at addressing climate change -- a move that comes less than a month after hundreds of Amazon employees criticized what they saw as the company's weak commitment to tackling the issue. From a report: Bezos, who's the world's richest individual with a net worth estimated at nearly $130 billion, unveiled his philanthropic initiative in an Instagram post. "Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet," he wrote. "I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share."

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    - SpaceX Successfully Launches a New Batch of Its Starlink Satellites
    SpaceX on Monday successfully sent another batch of Starlink satellites into orbit but didn't quite stick the landing of its Falcon 9 rocket. From a report: Elon Musk's space company did achieve its primary objective of sending 60 more flying nodes for its nascent global broadband service into space, bringing the total number of Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit to nearly 300. A secondary goal for the fifth Starlink mission, as with most SpaceX launches, was to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 by landing it on a droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. But this time the rocket missed the mark by a smidge. At the time it was expected to land, the live webcast from the droneship showed smoke or steam just off camera as the Falcon 9 made a "soft water landing." SpaceX reported during the webcast that the rocket appears to be intact and floating on the ocean, but it remains unclear whether it can be recovered. The booster had a useful life, having already launched three earlier SpaceX missions in 2019 before Monday's Starlink mission. Had it landed successfully, it would have been the 50th successful booster landing for the company. Now we may have to wait until the next planned Falcon 9 launch on March 2 to see that milestone.

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    - Samsung's Changes To Android Are Making Its Phones Less Secure, Says Google
    Google scolded Samsung this week for an issue discovered on the Korean phone maker's Galaxy A50. From a report: Google says Samsung made "unnecessary changes to Android's core kernel," adding the changes Samsung made threaten rather than strengthen the phone's security. The tech giant has a vested interest in making sure Android is secure for OEMs and end users alike. Earlier this week Google announced it has made measurable efforts to limit malicious apps on its Google Play Store and it's clamping down on the permissions apps can request, resulting in a 98% reduction in requests for access to user's call history and text messages. It's also been tackling more worrying bugs, like self-reinstalling ones. But in this instance, it's a hardware partner that's causing the problems. In a detailed blog post from Google's Project Zero Team, researcher Jann Honn outlines the exact issue with Samsung's changes to the Android kernel on the A50. Samsung's changes included a security feature to restrict an attacker from reading or modifying user data, but Honn says the move is "futile" and rather than bolstering security, it introduces vulnerabilities that could increase an attacker's ability to arbitrarily execute code.

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