OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and its billionaire owners, the Sacklers, on Friday got a temporary reprieve from lingering court battles over their alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis. In exchange, they may have to be more forthcoming about what happened to all the OxyContin money.
US bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain temporarily halted state lawsuits against Purdue as well as the Sacklers—though only Purdue has filed for bankruptcy protections. In pausing the states' cases, Judge Drain cited Purdue's mounting legal expenses, which he noted is money that could otherwise go toward addressing the opioid crisis and its victims, according to The New York Times.
Purdue had sought a 180-day injunction on the state's cases, but Judge Drain's pause only lasts until November 6. In that shorter timeframe, he pushed the parties to try to talk out their differences. Those differences primarily hinge on whether the Sacklers are offering enough of their allegedly ill-gotten fortune to address the opioid crisis in thousands of lawsuits on the matter.
The Black Death ravaged medieval Western Europe, wiping out roughly one-third of the population. Now researchers have traced the genetic history of the bacterium believed to be behind the plague in a recent paper published in Nature Communications. They found that one strain seemed to be the ancestor of all the strains that came after it, indicating that the pandemic spread from a single entry point into Europe from the East—specifically, a Russian town called Laishevo.
Technically, we're talking about the second plague pandemic. The first, known as the Justinian Plague, broke out about 541 CE and quickly spread across Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. (The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I, for whom the pandemic is named, actually survived the disease.) There continued to be outbreaks of the plague over the next 300 years, although the disease gradually became less virulent and died out. Or so it seemed.
In the Middle Ages, the Black Death burst onto the scene, with the first historically documented outbreak occurring in 1346 in the Lower Volga and Black Sea regions. That was just the beginning of the second pandemic. During the 1630s, fresh outbreaks of plague killed half the populations of affected cities. Another bout of the plague significantly culled the population of France during an outbreak between 1647 and 1649, followed by an epidemic in London in the summer of 1665. The latter was so virulent that, by October, one in 10 Londoners had succumbed to the disease—over 60,000 people. Similar numbers perished in an outbreak in Holland in the 1660s. The pandemic had run its course by the early 19th century, but a third plague pandemic hit China and India in the 1890s; there are still occasional outbreaks today.
The Internet Archive has been updated with more than 2,500 DOS games, marking the most significant addition of games to the archive since 2015.
New additions include forgotten classics like Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant, Princess Maker 2, and Microsoft Adventure, a rebranding of Colossal Caves Adventure. They also include a whole lot of weird, early experiments and dead ends that should be fascinating to explore for historians, technologists, game designers, and players alike.
The blog post announcing the additions includes some disclaimers: not all games will run as speedily as one might like, not all games have manuals available (though some do), and frankly, not all games from these bygone areas are enjoyable by modern standards.
Uber is laying off another 350 workers, the company announced on Monday. Uber Eats and Uber's self-driving car team are among the divisions hit by job losses. TechCrunch obtained a copy of an email CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent to Uber workers. It describes the layoffs as "difficult but necessary changes."
This is Uber's third round of layoffs for 2019. The company laid off 400 workers in its marketing department in July and 435 engineering and product workers in September. Some workers have also been asked to relocate.
Uber announced in August that it racked up record losses of $5 billion in the second quarter of 2019. It's important to note that the bulk of that figure represents one-time charges connected to Uber's May stock offering. Excluding those charges, Uber's ongoing burn rate has been around $1 billion in recent quarters. Third-quarter financial results are due out next month.
On Monday during a conference held in Houston, several veteran astronauts endorsed NASA's plan to return to the Moon. However, they also characterized the goal of landing humans there by 2024 as aspirational rather than realistic.
"It's quite aggressive," said four-time astronaut Michael López-Alegría of the Artemis Program's five-year timeline. López-Alegría, who is president of the Association of Space Explorers, made his comments during the organization's annual meeting.
He added that it was not a bad thing to have an aggressive plan. Rather, it was good for NASA and its international partners to have a clear goal to work toward. "I think that in any complex program like that, somebody needs to draw a line in the sand," he said. "It may be aspirational, but without something like that, it's really difficult to get people pulling in the same direction."
Today, Microsoft announced that it's rolling out filters that will let Xbox Live players automatically limit the text-based messages they receive to four maturity tiers: "Friendly, Medium, Mature, and Unfiltered." That's a long-overdue feature for a major communication platform that's well over a decade old now, but not really anything new in terms of online content moderation writ large.
What's more interesting is a "looking ahead" promise Microsoft made at the end of the announcement (emphasis added):
Ultimately our vision is to supplement our existing efforts and leverage our company efforts in AI and machine learning technology to provide filtration across all types of content on Xbox Live, delivering control to each and every individual player. Your feedback is more important than ever as we continue to evolve this experience and make Xbox a safe, welcome and inclusive place to game.
That's all a bit vague, but The Verge reports on the real thrust of that passage: an effort by the company to "tackle the challenge of voice chat toxicity on Xbox Live." That means leveraging Microsoft's existing efforts in speech-to-text machine-learning algorithms to automatically filter out swear words that might come up in an Xbox Live party chat.
AT&T charged customers in Portland, Oregon for a corporate tax that AT&T doesn't actually have to pay. AT&T has agreed to provide refunds to customers who were wrongly charged the tax over the past few months, but it's facing a lawsuit that seeks additional payments of at least $200 to each of those customers.
AT&T's mistake relates to Portland's new Clean Energy Surcharge, a 1% tax on retail sales in the city. AT&T has been passing this tax along to its mobile customers, even though the city law exempts utilities such as AT&T from the tax.
"The city only recently notified us that we are exempt from the tax," AT&T said a statement Friday, according to The Oregonian. "We will be issuing refunds to our customers."
At Qesem Cave in Israel, Neanderthals or early Homo sapiens appear to have stored marrow-rich deer bones for several weeks, relying on the bones and their outer layer of dried skin and flesh to keep the marrow relatively fresh—like storing leftovers in Pleistocene Tupperware.
Based on the cut marks on the bones, people extracted the marrow after a few weeks, when the bones and their covering of skin and tendons had had time to dry out. That suggests the people who lived at Qesem were planning ahead for their future needs—which is one more piece of evidence that Neanderthals and the earliest members of our own species were smarter than we’ve often given them credit for.Stone Age Tupperware
People of various groups have lived at Qesem Cave off and on for hundreds of thousands of years. Archaeologists haven’t found hominin fossils at the site so far, but in the oldest layers of artifacts, they’ve unearthed oval and pear-shaped handaxes in the Acheulian style—a stone calling card of Homo erectus or their descendants, Homo heidelbergensis. In layers dating from 300,000 to 200,000 years old, the stone blades and scrapers belong to a set of stone tool cultures called the Acheulo-Yabrudian, which has turned up at Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens sites.
Interactions among the small bodies of our Solar System are expected to hurl small objects out into interstellar space with some regularity, and the frequency was probably much higher early in the system's history. Given that the same thing almost certainly happens at exosolar systems—and we now know there are a lot of those—it's likely that the vast volume of interstellar space is lightly sprinkled with small objects, some of which may sporadically pass through our own Solar System. But up until very recently, we'd had no evidence of their existence.
That situation changed with the discovery of 'Oumuamua, a strange, cigar-shaped body that was the first confirmed exosolar visitor. But 'Oumuamua was so strange that it set some astronomers speculating that it could be an alien craft. Earlier this year, however, scientists spotted a second potential exosolar visitor, and this one looked a lot like a comet. Now, the first data on the object, 2I/Borisov, is in, and it's clearly exosolar in origin but looks so much like our existing comets that we might not have realized where it was from if we didn't have a good grip on its orbit.The Crusher
The results come from quick work by a team of European researchers, who got a heads-up about 2I/Borisov's existence due to a software package they put in place. The code, called "Interstellar Crusher," is a Python software package that scans the Possible Comet Confirmation Page for new objects and attempts to calculate their orbits as they come in. As we described in our earlier coverage of 2I/Borisov, orbits that have a certain set of properties, called hyperbolic orbits, indicate that a body has come from outside our Solar System. These orbits indicate a body will only pass by the Sun once and originate from a source that's far outside the plane in which our planets orbit.
Since Nintendo's Switch console launched in 2016, we've seen no shortage of holy-cow ports of games we never thought would work on what turned out to be the most underpowered console of this generation. Doom 2016, Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus—that's a list of demanding 3D games I never expected to launch on Switch, let alone games I'd actually recommend for the system.
But I do so with a pretty hefty asterisk attached. The charm of these games on Switch comes almost entirely due to them being playable on the go, at which point their severe compromises (image quality, rendering resolution) become much more acceptable. What looks iffy on a full-sized TV is easier to shrug off when seen on a six-inch 720p panel.
This week marks the arrival of arguably the most holy-cow port yet on the portable console: CD Projekt Red's 2015 action-RPG The Witcher 3. This is a game, after all, whose other console versions required quite a few patches to get their most troublesome spots up to a locked 30 frames per second. We went hands-on over the weekend with the game's final retail version (which launches for Switch on Tuesday) to answer a crucial question: could we expect playability in CDPR's acclaimed adventure game on an even weaker system?
As the Association of the US Army (AUSA) kicks off its annual Washington, DC meeting—a combination of Army conference and land-warfare trade show—Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky unit has unveiled the company's entry into the Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) design shoot-out. As predicted, the "Raider X" is based heavily on the S-97 Raider demonstrator that Sikorsky showed off at the 2015 AUSA conference.
But there are some significant differences in the proposed design, differences that echo an earlier attempt by the Army to build a light-attack helicopter. Much like Bell's Invictus design, the Raider X's stealthy design bears a passing resemblance to the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche.
The Raider X has the same side-by-side crew configuration as the Raider demonstrator. But instead of additional crew and passenger seating, it has modular internal weapons and sensor mounts, reducing its potential radar cross-section. As with Bell's Invictus, the design included a "Modern Open Systems Architecture"-based avionics suite, theoretically allowing for rapid and low-cost upgrades over the life of the aircraft. And as with the S-97 before it, the Raider X is designed to be "optionally manned"—meaning that it can be flown remotely or operate autonomously for missions that either don't require an aircrew or would put aircrew at an unacceptable risk.
In 2014, China introduced an ambitious policy to rapidly reduce air pollution from coal-fired power stations. How well did that work?
A paper published in Nature Energy last week analyzed data from pollution monitoring systems and found dramatic changes. According to the monitoring data, China's emissions of some common air pollutants dropped by 65% to 72% in just three years.China shoots for clean skies
Two weeks ago, Ars visited Blizzard Entertainment's headquarters in Irvine, California, to get hands-on time with popular hero-based, multiplayer shooter Overwatch on Nintendo's portable Switch game console.
We also talked with game director Jeff Kaplan and Overwatch Switch producer Wes Yanagi about why Blizzard decided to do this now, what the challenges were, and what players should expect to be different about the Switch version from launch into the future.
For the interview, check out the video above. For impressions, keep on reading.
Gigabit broadband is promised but the government neither says it must be full-fibre nor sets a deadline.
Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with a special batch of deals to share for Columbus Day. Amazon is currently having a sale on a number of Xbox One and PS4 games, many of which normally go for $50 to $60 but are now priced much lower.
Notable titles such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2, and Mortal Kombat 11 are all at the lowest prices we've seen, or close to it, but the sale also includes brand-new titles as well. Gears 5, Control, and Borderlands 3, all of which came out within the past two months, are the newest and arguably biggest titles on sale right, and now you can get Gears 5 and Control for around $37.50 and Borderlands 3 for $44.99.
Almost all of the games in Amazon's sale have extra discounts tacked on at checkout, so don't be alarmed if you don't see the sale price immediately when you add them to your cart. The additional savings will be accounted for when you see the final price right before you place your order.
Pharmaceutical companies continue to raise prices on hundreds of drugs at rates well over that of inflation, according to a newly released report on drug-pricing data.
The data was made public thanks to a mandate from a California transparency law passed in 2017. Under the law, drug makers are required to report their price increases quarterly. This is the first report from the law and includes data on drugs that had price increases of 16% or more over their January 2017 prices.
The hikes in these cases are to the wholesale acquisition cost, which is the list price for wholesalers—they may not reflect how much patients will pay out of pocket. Still, they can add to overall healthcare spending and drive up the costs of insurance.
Jack Monroe's bank and PayPal accounts were used after her mobile phone number was hijacked.
It's that time of year again! Google's big hardware event kicks off Tuesday, October 15 at 10am Eastern, and we'll be there with full live coverage of the event. That starts with a liveblog, where we'll be covering everything announced at the show as it happens.
This year, we're expecting to see a whole suite of Google products launch. Headlining the event will be Google's next smartphone, the Pixel 4, with a 90Hz display, an air-gesture system powered by Google's radar "Soli" technology, and a next-gen version of the Google Assistant. There should also be a new Pixelbook, the Pixelbook Go, which sees a return to a more traditional form factor after the collapse of the Pixel Slate.
With Nest's recent demotion from a standalone company to a Google smart home sub-brand, we should see two new products with the weird branding of "Google Nest." We're expecting to see a sequel to the Google Wifi called the "Google Nest Wifi." This new rev of Google's mesh Wi-Fi system will reportedly have a primary router that hooks up to your modem and then several satellite devices that are both Wi-Fi mesh nodes and Google Home speakers that accept Google Assistant voice command and can play music. A second-gen Google Home Mini should also launch at the show with an aux jack and better sound, and this one will be rebranded "Google Nest Mini."
Nearly a month ago, NASA announced that Boeing had assembled the core stage structure that forms the backbone of its Space Launch System rocket. This meant that all technicians needed to do to complete the full core stage was bolt on four space shuttle main engines and connect their plumbing.
Completing the core stage at NASA's rocket factory, the Michoud Assembly Facility in Southern Louisiana, would represent a significant milestone for the program. However, after assembling the core stage structure in September, two sources familiar with Boeing's work at the factory said the company had to "stand down" operations due to some issues.“Corrective action”
Now, NASA officials have provided a little information about the causes of the delay. In a statement, the space agency's headquarters told Ars that "NASA initiated a forward looking corrective action request focused on improving the production system in preparation for Core Stage 2 and beyond." As a result of this corrective action, which was not specified, "Boeing chose to stand down in some areas and ensure the whole production team was aware of the intent behind the corrective action request."
Study the Great Nation could be used to monitor phone-users' activity, a security firm warns.