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Industry & Technology

COVID vaccine execs hyped vague data to cash in $90M in stock, watchdog says

Ars Technica - 1 hour 27 min ago

Enlarge / Moderna Inc. headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

An anti-corruption watchdog is pressing the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate executives of the biotech company Moderna after they cashed in about $90 million in company shares days after promoting “positive" but vague data from its early COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

The watchdog group, Accountable.US, called the timing of the trades suspicious and questioned whether executives coordinated their stock sales prior to the data release.

In a letter to the SEC that was released to CBS Moneywatch, Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig wrote, "This misconduct was particularly egregious because it involved not only financial fraud and manipulation of the financial markets, but also because it exploited widespread fears surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” In all, the executives' exploitation served to "boost the company's value, as well as their own bank accounts.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook removes 'inauthentic' George Floyd groups

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 33 min ago
Some had previously focused on coronavirus, 5G conspiracies and support for US President Donald Trump.

Zoom defenders say there are legit reasons to not encrypt free calls

Ars Technica - 1 hour 36 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Zoom)

If you’ve waded into Twitter timelines for security and privacy advocates over the past five days, you’ve no doubt seen Zoom excoriated for its plans to enable end-to-end encrypted video conferencing solely for paying customers. Zoom’s millions of non-paying users won’t receive the protection so that the company can monitor meetings for child-abuse activity and other types of illegal and disturbing content, executives said.

“Oh, fuck off, @zoom_us. You don't care about anything except money,” one critic wrote on Twitter Tuesday, five days after Reuters reported the plans. “You certainly don't care about protecting people from the abusive overreach of police. After all, didn't you just say non-paying customers won't benefit from encryption b/c you want to work with law enforcement?”

The move is certainly a departure from some platforms that already offer end-to-end encryption. Signal, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp all offer the protection to all users, though few if any pay for the services. Few video conferencing services offer end-to-end encryption. Like Zoom, its competitors that do offer end-to-end crypto generally do so only for select users.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“Culture of workplace fear” leads to COVID-19 spread at Amazon, suit says

Ars Technica - 2 hours 22 min ago

Enlarge / Inc. signage is displayed in front of a warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York, US, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (credit: Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

A group of Amazon employees are suing the company, alleging it mandated unsafe working conditions in one of its fulfillment centers that led to the spread of COVID-19 and deaths resulting from the disease.

"This case is about Amazon's failures to comply with New York law and state and federal public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic at the JFK8 facility," the complaint (PDF) reads, alleging, "the company has relied on purposeful miscommunication with workers, sloppy contact tracing, and the culture of workplace fear it has instilled at JFK to ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs, even if that means workers come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy."

At least one worker at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island has died of COVID-19 so far, and several others have fallen ill. As recently as this past weekend, employees at the facility were receiving additional newly confirmed cases at the facility. One of the plaintiffs in the suit alleges that after she contracted the novel coronavirus at work in the warehouse, "she awoke to find her cousin with whom she lived dead in their bathroom" after he developed COVID-19 symptoms. She requested paid quarantine leave from the company under the terms of New York law, the suit says, but Amazon failed to pay her.

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K-pop fans drown out #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 57 min ago
Use of the tag has increased as a response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Gaming 'hero' retires at 23 due to ill-health

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 38 min ago
Jian Zihao says physical and mental health problems have caused him to quit e-sports.

Outer Worlds on Switch: A monumental, messy conversion on weak hardware

Ars Technica - 5 hours 59 min ago

Eight months after its launch on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, The Outer Worlds remains an easy recommendation for a Fallout-caliber single-player adventure (and it's still part of an Xbox Game Pass subscription). But let's say you haven't grabbed the game yet, either because you don't own those consoles or because you're waiting for its premiere on PC storefronts like Steam (coming no earlier than this October). Or maybe you just want a portable version.

In that case, is Friday's launch of a Nintendo Switch port (Amazon, Nintendo eShop) right for you? In our incomplete testing of the Switch version, the answer to that question is fuzzy—about as fuzzy as the port's resolution and presentation.

Content, frames, and motion controls

In good news, the entire game appears to have been ported with zero cuts to content or apparent changes to level layouts. The opening planet is a good test of the larger game's sales pitch. You'll eventually hop from one planet to the next, each with giant fields to traverse, monsters to fight, and citizen-filled towns to contend with. And right from the jump, the game remains the same mechanically. You'll see a ship's wreckage in the distance, run a ways to reach it, and find it littered with loot, dead bodies, and dangerous monsters. Then you'll reach a town full of chatty NPCs, and if you decide to take Obsidian Entertainment up on the devs' promise of playing however you like and attack the townspeople, the locals will react by running around and fighting back.

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Apple tracks looters who steal iPhones

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 48 sec ago
Messages that appear on stolen phones suggest the authorities are also being alerted.

How Sega hopes to use Japanese arcades as streaming data centers

Ars Technica - 7 hours 29 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Sega)

If you thought the 3-inch-wide Game Gear Micro was going to be the weirdest announcement out of Sega this week, think again. Instead, we give that honor to the company's announcement of a strange and somewhat amorphous concept known as "fog gaming," which seems set to utilize idle arcade machines to distribute a new type of cloud-gaming service in Japan.

Details on the initiative are pretty scarce at the moment—the main source of English-language information is a tweet from a Japanese analyst working from a summary by a Japanese blogger (Google translate) of a story appearing in the new print issue of Japan's Weekly Famitsu magazine. Journalist Zenji Nishikawa was teasing the story last week as a "major scoop" on the level of Wired's revelation of the first PlayStation 5 details last year, which seems a bit grandiose for now.

In any case, the "fog gaming" concept seems to be centered around converting Sega's massive infrastructure of Japanese arcades and arcade machines into a kind of widely distributed streaming-gaming data center. Those cabinets—and the decently specc'ed CPUs and GPUs inside them—are only in active use by players for perhaps eight hours a day at a busy location, according to Adam Pratt, an arcade operator who runs industry website Arcade Heroes. The rest of the time, those machines could serve streaming gaming content to homebound players, without the need for an immense, Google Stadia-sized data center investment.

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Slay the Spire, the decade’s best deckbuilding game, coming to iOS in June

Ars Technica - 15 hours 4 min ago

Slay the Spire's success story is a remarkable one. As one of thousands of games to land on Steam in 2017, this fusion of roguelite progression and "deckbuilding" mechanics, made by a heretofore unknown development team out of Seattle, managed to become a phenomenon due entirely to word of mouth. The game has since surpassed its "2.0" milestone and climbed the download charts on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Yet the game has stayed an arm's length away from smartphone platforms this whole time, in spite of being built primarily using libGDX, a flexible, open source development framework with smartphone-specific hooks. That changes this month, as the development team at MegaCrit ironically used its Steam community page on Wednesday to announce Slay the Spire's next platform: iOS.

The game's first smartphone port will launch at $9.99 "this month," according to the developers at MegaCrit, with an exact date likely coming during the upcoming Guerrilla Collective game reveal stream, currently scheduled for June 6-8. ("You should try to tune in" on the event's first day, June 6, according to MegaCrit's latest update.)

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HBO’s latest terrifying trailer for Lovecraft Country couldn’t be more timely

Ars Technica - 18 hours 10 sec ago

HBO's new horror series Lovecraft Country is adapted from the novel by Matt Ruff.

With impeccable timing, HBO has dropped a new trailer for its upcoming horror series, Lovecraft Country. The series is based on the 2016 dark fantasy/horror novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, which deals explicitly with the horrors of racism in the 1950s, along with other, more supernatural issues.

As we previously reported, Ruff also found inspiration in a 2006 essay by Pam Noles describing what it was like growing up being both black and, well, a hardcore nerd. Lovecraft Country is a gripping, extremely powerful read, which is why it was one of my choices for the Ars summer reading guide. The book's protagonist is a black veteran of the Korean War and science fiction fan named Atticus, who embarks on a perilous road trip from his home on Chicago's South Side to a small town in rural Massachusetts. He's looking for his estranged father, who purportedly vanished after encountering a well-dressed man driving a silver Cadillac.

Atticus' Uncle George and childhood friend/fellow sci-fi buff, Letitia (aka Leti), comes along for the ride. Because their journey is inspired by Lovecraft, they naturally encounter all kinds of arcane rituals, magic, shape-shifters, monsters, and an alternate reality or two along the way. HBO seems to be sticking pretty closely to the novel, if the official synopsis is any indication:

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SpaceX lands the same rocket for the fifth time [Updated]

Ars Technica - 18 hours 19 min ago

Enlarge / With an updated camera and Internet connection, Just Read the Instructions showed better video of the landing. (credit: SpaceX)

9:50pm ET Update: Right on schedule, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on Wednesday evening from Florida. Several minutes later, the first stage came roaring back to Earth, and for the first time, the same rocket landed for the fifth time. The view from the Just Read the Instructions drone ship, with a better camera and Internet connection, was quite good. The rocket descending at night lit the ocean a bright blue before touching down.

Meanwhile, the second stage pushed onward into orbit, deploying its payload of 60 Starlink satellites. SpaceX has now launched nine rockets this year.

Original post: A mere four days after its historic launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, SpaceX is preparing for another launch of its Falcon 9 rocket.

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Social media firms fail to act on Covid-19 fake news

BBC Technology News - 18 hours 43 min ago
A study indicates that 90% of misinformation reported to Facebook and Twitter remains online.

The Pentagon’s hand-me-downs helped militarize police. Here’s how

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 10:54pm

Enlarge / A Miami Police officer watches protesters from an armored vehicle on May 31, 2020. (credit: Richard Arduengo | Getty Images)

The images of this past week are both inescapable and indelible: protesters flooding the streets of cities across the United States, met by police forces equipped with full body armor and tactical vehicles that vaguely resemble tanks. The local law enforcement responding to even nonviolent protests has often looked more like the US Armed Forces—and that was before President Donald Trump deployed an actual military police battalion against peaceably assembled US citizens in the nation's capitol Monday. That’s no accident.

It’s easy enough to buy tactical gear in the US, and the Homeland Security Grant Program has funneled billions of dollars to law enforcement agencies to acquire military-grade equipment. But for decades, a primary driver for why it can be so hard to tell a National Guard troop from a local cop has been the Department of Defense itself, through a program that has parceled out everything from bayonets to grenade launchers to precincts across the country.

Created as part of 1997’s National Defense Authorization Act, the 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to get rid of excess equipment by passing it off to local authorities, who only have to pay for the cost of shipping. (A precursor, the slightly more restrictive 1208 program, began in 1990.) According to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), which oversees the process, over $7.4 billion of property has been transferred since the program’s inception; more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies have enrolled. Much of that inventory is perfectly ordinary: office equipment, clothing, tools, radios, and so on. But the haul also includes some of the so-called controlled equipment—rifles, armored vehicles, and so on—that have helped create such a spectacle of disproportion.

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Employees, civil rights groups blast Facebook inaction on Trump statements

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 10:26pm

Enlarge / Thousands of peaceful demonstrators holding banners gather in front of the White House for the fifth consecutive day to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC, United States. (credit: Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images)

As enormous protests in support of black communities and against police brutality continue to sweep across the United States, Facebook is facing a protest of its own. The company and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are facing criticism from users, competitors, civil rights organizations, and even employees for allowing racist content and hate speech to proliferate on the platform, amplified by President Donald Trump.

Facebook on Tuesday removed some accounts affiliated with white supremacist groups after some members advocated bringing weapons to current protests, Reuters reports. It also removed accounts falsely claiming to be affiliated with antifascist groups that advocated stirring up trouble. Over the weekend, Twitter similarly removed accounts that were purporting to represent antifascist organizations but were in fact linked to a white nationalist group.

What Facebook has not taken action against, however, are statements by Trump or other public officials that also call for violence or stoke racism. Specifically, Facebook has declined to act against a post from May 29 in which Trump called protesters demonstrating following Minneapolis's police killing resident George Floyd "thugs." In the same post, the president added, "Any difficulty and we will assume control, but when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

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Google’s leaked TV dongle looks like a merger of Android TV and Chromecast

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 9:43pm

It looks like Google will finally sell an Android TV dongle to the masses. XDA Developers has leaked promo images of a device codenamed "Sabrina." The device looks like a slightly bigger Chromecast with a remote control, and it runs Android TV.

The device is very much in the mold of an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku Stick—it's a tiny HDMI stick that gives you all the benefits of a set-top box in a wall-mount-friendly form factor. The remote offers basic navigation, volume control, and voice commands through the Google Assistant.

9to5Google first reported on the existence of "Sabrina," saying it would be "a second-generation Chromecast Ultra" that comes with a remote and runs Android TV. The Chromecast "Ultra" is the version of a Chromecast with 4K compatibility and currently costs $69. A report from Protocol says Sabrina will cost "around or below $80."

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Frontier users must pay “rental” fee for equipment they own until December

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 8:05pm

Enlarge / Don't worry, the fire isn't real. (credit: Getty Images | RapidEye)

Broadband and TV providers can keep charging "rental" fees for equipment that customers own themselves until December 2020, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that delays implementation of a new law.

A law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2019 prohibits providers from charging device-rental fees when customers use their own equipment, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on June 20. As we've written, this law will help Frontier customers who have been forced to pay $10 monthly fees for equipment they don't use and, in some cases, have never even received. But the law gave the FCC discretion to extend the deadline by six months if the commission "finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension," and the FCC has done just that.

The FCC ruling on April 3, which we didn't notice at the time, extends the deadline to December 20 and says that providers need more time to comply because of the coronavirus pandemic:

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iPhone looters find devices disabled, with a warning they’re being tracked

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 7:43pm

Enlarge / The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Along with other retailers big and small, Apple Stores have been subject to looting by opportunists amid the ongoing protests around the United States. In response, Apple has again closed all of its stores in the US. Stores had only recently reopened after closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But looters who brought stolen iPhones home, or people who end up buying those phones in person-to-person transactions, are in for what may be a surprise: it appears that the stolen iPhones don't work and may even be tracked by Apple or authorities. This could pose a challenge for regular consumers who buy second-hand iPhones—as well as repair shops—in the coming weeks and months.

Individuals with iPhones allegedly looted from Apple stores found that the phones were automatically disabled and had messages like the following (via Twitter) displayed on-screen:

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TrueNAS isn’t abandoning BSD—but it is adopting Linux

Ars Technica - June 3, 2020 - 7:15pm

Enlarge / Penguins and sharks, living together in perfect harmony—what a wonderful world it will be! (credit: FreeNAS / Ars Technica)

To the surprise—and likely consternation—of BSD fans everywhere, FreeNAS vendor iXsystems is building a new version of its core product, TrueNAS, on top of Debian Linux.

This week's TrueNAS Scale announcement builds on the company's March announcement that its commercial project TrueNAS and its community project FreeNAS would be merging into a common base. Effectively, all the NAS projects from iXsystems will be TrueNAS variants moving forward, with the free-to-use version being TrueNAS Core, the new Debian-based project becoming TrueNAS Scale, and the commercial project remaining simply TrueNAS.

The company is still being coy about the overall goals of the new project, with the major clue being that "SCALE" is used as an acronym. Morgan Littlewood, iXsystems' senior vice president of project management and business development, expanded on this to Ars a little further in an email exchange today:

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Snapchat stops promoting Donald Trump's account due to 'racial violence'

BBC Technology News - June 3, 2020 - 7:13pm
The social network says it will drop Trump from Discover over 'racial violence and injustice'.

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