Apple Contractors Were Each Listening To 1,000 Siri Recordings a Day, Says Report

According to The Verge, citing a report from the Irish Examiner, Apple used human contractors to listen to an arduous 1,000 Siri recordings every day to help make the digital assistant better at giving you what you want. Some of those recordings included personal data and snippets of conversations, one contractor says. An anonymous reader shares the report: Apple’s Siri assistant currently records and sends snippets of your voice requests back to Apple to be studied so that Apple can try to make Siri better at giving you what you want. In July, The Guardian reported that contractors also hear some rather personal things, like “confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.” A contractor that spoke with the Irish Examiner said his job involved noting when Siri could actually help or if Siri was triggered accidentally. The Guardian said contractors “regularly” hear confidential information, but the contractor speaking with the Irish Examiner said the recordings “occasionally” had “personal data or snippets of conversations.” There’s a reason why we’re likely learning more details about the contractors’ work now: they may be out of a job. Apple has temporarily stopped using contractors to listen to Siri conversations, and the Irish Examiner reports that Apple no longer needed the services of Cork, Ireland-based contracting company GlobeTech, which employed the contractor who spoke to the Irish Examiner.

Neither Apple nor GlobeTech is denying that there may have been layoffs: GlobeTech merely referred the Irish Examiner to a statement that said it ended a “client project” early. Apple said in a statement to the paper that it is “working closely with our partners” as it reviews its processes around grading Siri conversations. Apple has not replied to a request for comment from The Verge. The work Siri contractors reportedly did sounds similar to how Microsoft contractors transcribe Cortana recordings to help train Microsoft’s voice assistant. One of the Cortana contractors told Motherboard that contractors are expected to transcribe and classify roughly three “tasks” every minute. For the Siri contractors, transcribing 1,000 voice commands means they likely had to do about two per minute, assuming they were working an eight-hour day.

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Source: Slashdot – Apple Contractors Were Each Listening To 1,000 Siri Recordings a Day, Says Report

Facebook Bans Ads From The Epoch Times

Facebook has banned advertising from The Epoch Times, the Falun Gong-related publication and conservative news outlet, as the social network struggles to implement a consistent political advertising policy. The New York Times reports: Facebook issued the ban on Friday after NBC News published a report this week that said The Epoch Times had obscured its connection to recent Facebook ads promoting President Trump and conspiracy content. The Epoch Times, started in 2000 by a group of Chinese-Americans affiliated with the religious group Falun Gong, has in recent years ridden the wave of conservative, pro-Trump social media popularity to build a large social media following. On its website, it advances conspiracy content such as anti-vaccination theories, while its YouTube channels promote the pro-Trump fringe movement QAnon and other topics.

The Epoch Times’s official Facebook accounts were banned by the social network in July. But according to the NBC report, it then ran new Facebook ads without disclosing that they were associated with the outlet. The ads ran under page names such as “Honest Paper” and “Pure American Journalism” and purchased by MarketFuel Subscription Services and Perpetual Market, which are decoy names for The Epoch Times, according to NBC News. Facebook introduced political advertising transparency rules in 2018 that require political advertisers to divulge the name of organizations responsible for the ads. But The Epoch Times was apparently able to sidestep those rules before being caught. Stephen Gregory, publisher of The Epoch Times, said in a statement that Facebook did not earlier respond to requests for clarification on why its ads were taken down, so it began “publishing its advertising on a number of other, new Facebook pages.” He added that “these ads were overtly Epoch Times advertisements for our subscription.”

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook Bans Ads From The Epoch Times

Qualcomm Wins a Pause In Enforcement of FTC Ruling

Qualcomm has won a partial stay against the enforcement of a sweeping antitrust ruling in a lawsuit brought by the FTC. “The company on May 21 lost in an antitrust lawsuit and has been fighting to have the ruling put on hold while it pursued an appeal,” reports Reuters. “The San Diego-based company argued that letting the ruling stand could upend its talks with phone makers over chips for 5G, the next generation of wireless data networks.” From the report: In the ruling issued on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold the provisions of the earlier ruling that required Qualcomm to grant patent licenses to rival chip suppliers and end its practice of requiring its chip customers to sign a patent license before purchasing chips. The earlier ruling would have required Qualcomm to renegotiate all of its existing chip and patent deals, as well as make new deals conform to the requirements. The stay granted Friday puts on hold the effect of parts of the ruling while the appeals process, which could take a year or more, plays out. The company has not formally filed its appeal in the FTC lawsuit. After Qualcomm files its arguments, the appeal will take place in January.

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Source: Slashdot – Qualcomm Wins a Pause In Enforcement of FTC Ruling

Tesla Working To Resolve Dispute With Walmart Over Solar Panel Fires

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Walmart and Tesla are actively negotiating to resolve the lawsuit Walmart filed against Tesla earlier this week over defective solar panels, the two companies said in a joint statement sent out on Thursday evening. “Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed,” the statement said. The companies say they’re both committed to a “sustainable energy future” as well as safety and efficiency. Spokespeople for Tesla and Walmart declined to provide any further details about the state of the negotiations, but it’s not hard to guess what happened. The optics of Walmart suing Tesla over multiple fires on its store roofs were not good for Tesla. Tesla wants the public — and potential customers — to know that it’s now working to address Walmart’s concerns. Walmart filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Tesla accusing the company of supplying solar panels that were responsible for fires at about seven of its stores. “This is a breach of contract action arising from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla with respect to solar panels that Tesla designed, installed, and promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores,” Walmart said in the court filing.

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Source: Slashdot – Tesla Working To Resolve Dispute With Walmart Over Solar Panel Fires

Employees Connect Nuclear Plant To the Internet So They Can Mine Cryptocurrency

Ukrainian authorities are investigating a potential security breach at a local nuclear power plant after employees connected parts of its internal network to the internet so they could mine cryptocurrency. From a report: The investigation is being led by the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU), who is looking at the incident as a potential breach of state secrets due to the classification of nuclear power plants as critical infrastructure. Investigators are examining if attackers might have used the mining rigs as a pivot point to enter the nuclear power plant’s network and retrieve information from its systems, such as data about the plant’s physical defenses and protections. According to authorities, the incident took place in July at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, located near the city of Yuzhnoukrainsk, in southern Ukraine. It’s unknown how the scheme was discovered, but on July 10 the SBU raided the nuclear power plant, from where it seized computers and equipment specifically built for mining cryptocurrency.

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Source: Slashdot – Employees Connect Nuclear Plant To the Internet So They Can Mine Cryptocurrency

Why Are There So Many Weird Tech Patents?

Companies are constantly patenting strange things they have no intention of developing. From a report: Amazon is putting humans in cages to protect them from machines! Facebook is selling your face to advertisers so it can CGI you into ads! Sony has a system where you can skip ads if you stand up and yell the brand’s name! None of these things are technically true — they’re headlines driven by patents filed by these companies. In each case, the company has not developed these technologies. And it’s likely that they never will. And yet, head-scratching and sometimes hilarious patents continue to populate the patent office and generate headlines. So why are there so many strange, somewhat terrifying patents that companies will likely never act on?

There are lots of reasons to patent something. The most obvious one is that you’ve come up with a brilliant invention, and you want to protect your idea so that nobody can steal it from you. But that’s just the tip of the patent strategy iceberg. It turns out there is a whole host of strategies that lead to “zany” or “weird” patent filings, and understanding them offers a window not just into the labyrinthine world of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and its potential failings, but also into how companies think about the future. And while it might be fun to gawk at, say, Motorola patenting a lie-detecting throat tattoo, it’s also important to see through the eye-catching headlines and to the bigger issue here: Patents can be weapons and signals. They can spur innovation, as well as crush it.

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Source: Slashdot – Why Are There So Many Weird Tech Patents?

Uber's $1-Per-Ride 'Safe Rides Fee' Had Nothing To Do With Safety

Uber imposed a $1-per-ride surcharge it called a “Safe Rides Fee” in 2014, but it was a just a play for profit. From a report: The money collected by the company from the fee — estimated at around $500 million — was never earmarked specifically for safety and was “devised primarily to add $1 of pure margin to each trip,” according to New York Times . At the time, Uber was facing rising costs from insurance and background checks, so the company came up with the idea of imposing a safety fee to help boost its margins. Meanwhile, its actual safety program consisted of little more than a short video course for drivers. It wasn’t until years later that Uber began adding safety features to its app, such as an emergency button to call 911. Safe ride fees varied from market to market, but they generally amounted to a buck and some change. In San Francisco, riders were charged $1.35 per trip. Philadelphians paid $1.25, while riders in Los Angeles paid $1.65.

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Source: Slashdot – Uber’s -Per-Ride ‘Safe Rides Fee’ Had Nothing To Do With Safety

Top US Publishers Sue Amazon's Audible For Copyright Infringement

Amazon’s Audible was sued by some of the top U.S. publishers for copyright infringement on Friday, aiming to block a planned rollout of a feature called ‘Audible Captions’ that shows the text on screen as a book is narrated. From a report: The lawsuit was filed by seven members of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), including HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan Publishers. “Essentially Audible wants to provide the text as well as the sound of books without the authorization of copyright holders, despite only having the right to sell audiobooks,” AAP said in a statement.

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Source: Slashdot – Top US Publishers Sue Amazon’s Audible For Copyright Infringement

Trump Orders US Businesses To Find Alternative To China

President Trump said Friday U.S. companies were “hereby ordered” to start looking for alternatives to doing business in China after Beijing said it would impose tariffs on $75 billion worth of additional U.S. products. From a report: “Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years,” Mr. Trump wrote in a series of tweets [Editor’s note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. “They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far better off without them.” Mr. Trump’s comments came in response to China’s plan, laid out Friday, to impose tariffs of 5% and 10% on almost all the remaining U.S. imports on which it has yet to impose punitive taxes, including vehicles and car parts, in retaliation against U.S. moves to slap punitive tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods.

The president demanded that U.S. companies “immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.” The sharp escalation in the prolonged trade conflict between the two countries comes weeks after Mr. Trump said he would impose the fresh tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing had vowed to retaliate. China’s new levies on U.S. goods are set to go into effect on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, timed with the next two rounds of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. Chinese tariffs on U.S. automotive goods are set to begin Dec. 15.

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Source: Slashdot – Trump Orders US Businesses To Find Alternative To China

Americans Are Waiting Three Years To Replace Their Phones, Study Finds

A new study released by Strategy Analytics reflects the current state of the smartphone industry. Apparently, consumers in the US — Baby Boomers, in particular — are increasingly delaying their smartphone purchase for three or more years. From a report: In addition, the average iPhone now remains active for 18 months, while the average Samsung phone remains active for 16.5. The era of yearly phone upgrades is over. Smartphone shipments have been dropping around the world over the past year, and some analysts even believe the industry is bound to suffer its worst decline ever in the coming months. Strategy Analytics conducted an online survey with 2,500 smartphone owners aged 18 to 64 years old in the US. Company SVP David Kerr explained that there are several reasons behind consumers’ decision not upgrade as quickly as they did in the past. To start with, buyers perceive newer phones’ offerings as marginal upgrades not worth getting a new device for.

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Source: Slashdot – Americans Are Waiting Three Years To Replace Their Phones, Study Finds

Graphics That Seem Clear Can Easily Be Misread

An anonymous reader shares a report: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That saying leads us to believe that we can readily interpret a chart correctly. But charts are visual arguments, and they are easy to misunderstand if we do not pay close attention. Alberto Cairo, chair of visual journalism at the University of Miami, reveals pitfalls in an example diagrammed here. Learning how to better read graphics can help us navigate a world in which truth may be hidden or twisted. Say that you are obese, and you’ve grown tired of family, friends and your doctor telling you that obesity may increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, even cancer — all of which could shorten your life. One day you see this chart. Suddenly you feel better because it shows that, in general, the more obese people a country has (right side of chart), the higher the life expectancy (top of chart). Therefore, obese people must live longer, you think. After all, the correlation (red line) is quite strong.

The chart itself is not incorrect. But it doesn’t really show that the more obese people are, the longer they live. A more thorough description would be: “At the national level — country by country — there is a positive association between obesity rates and life expectancy at birth, and vice versa.” Still, this does not mean that a positive association will hold at the local or individual level or that there is a causal link. Two fallacies are involved. First, a pattern in aggregated data can disappear or even reverse once you explore the numbers at different levels of detail. If the countries are split by income levels, the strong positive correlation becomes much weaker as income rises. In the highest-income nations (chart on bottom right), the association is negative (higher obesity rates mean lower life expectancy). The pattern remains negative when you look at the U.S., state by state: life expectancy at birth drops as obesity rises. Yet this hides the second fallacy: the negative association can be affected by many other factors. Exercise and access to health care, for example, are associated with life expectancy. So is income.

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Source: Slashdot – Graphics That Seem Clear Can Easily Be Misread

Facebook Said It Would Give Detailed Data To Academics. They're Still Waiting.

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2018, Facebook announced a partnership to provide data to academics to “help people better understand the broader impact of social media on democracy — as well as improve our work to protect the integrity of elections.” In April of this year, the first batch of winning proposals was announced. “The urgency of this research cannot be overstated,” wrote the founders of Social Science One, the entity that operates the program. It describes itself as “an LLC operating on a not-for-profit basis.” But as of today, many of the academic teams remain on hold because Facebook has yet to provide key data required to conduct research into sharing patterns of fake and polarized news, Facebook interactions related to the 2018 Italian election, and disinformation campaigns in the recent German election, among other projects. Facebook has also declined to provide some of the data it originally said it would offer, citing privacy concerns.

As frustrations mount, researchers and the major foundations that fund their work fear that the ambitious project may not survive, multiple people told BuzzFeed News. A source with knowledge of discussions between the key parties involved in the project said the funders — which include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation — are now discussing ways to increase the pressure on the social media giant.

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook Said It Would Give Detailed Data To Academics. They’re Still Waiting.

Google Doesn't Want Staff Debating Politics at Work Anymore

Google posted new internal rules that discourage employees from debating politics, a shift away from the internet giant’s famously open culture. From a report: The new “community guidelines” tell employees not to have “disruptive” conversations and warn workers that they’ll be held responsible for whatever they say at the office. The company is also building a tool to let employees flag problematic posts and creating a team of moderators to monitor conversations, a Google spokeswoman said. “While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not,” the new policy states. “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do.” Google has long encouraged employees to question each other and push back against managers when they think they’re making the wrong decision. Google’s founders point to the open culture as instrumental to the success they’ve had revolutionizing the tech landscape over the last two decades.

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Source: Slashdot – Google Doesn’t Want Staff Debating Politics at Work Anymore

Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products

Just like tech companies that have struggled to tackle misinformation on their platforms, Amazon has proven unable or unwilling to effectively police third-party sellers on its site. The Wall Street Journal: Many of the millions of people who shop on Amazon.com see it as if it were an American big-box store, a retailer with goods deemed safe enough for customers. In practice, Amazon has increasingly evolved like a flea market. It exercises limited oversight over items listed by millions of third-party sellers, many of them anonymous, many in China, some offering scant information. A Wall Street Journal investigation found 4,152 items for sale on Amazon.com’s site that have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, are deceptively labeled or are banned by federal regulators — items that big-box retailers’ policies would bar from their shelves. Among those items, at least 2,000 listings for toys and medications lacked warnings about health risks to children.

The Journal identified at least 157 items for sale that Amazon had said it banned, including sleeping mats the Food and Drug Administration warns can suffocate infants. The Journal commissioned tests of 10 children’s products it bought on Amazon, many promoted as “Amazon’s Choice.” Four failed tests based on federal safety standards, according to the testing company, including one with lead levels that exceeded federal limits. Of the 4,152 products the Journal identified, 46% were listed as shipping from Amazon warehouses. After the Journal brought the listings to Amazon’s attention, 57% of the 4,152 listings had their wording altered or were taken down. Amazon said that it reviewed and addressed the listings the Journal provided and that company policies require all products to comply with laws and regulations.

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Source: Slashdot – Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe or Mislabeled Products

Members of Facebook's 'Crypto Mafia' Reportedly Getting Cold Feet About Libra Currency

At least three of the 28 entities that have signed on for Facebook’s planned Libra currency are now getting nervous about the project, according to a new report from the Financial Times. And Facebook is just as worried about being the only company currently with its “neck out,” as regulators push back against the plan to create a new digital currency from thin air. From a report: The companies, which some have dubbed the “crypto mafia,” include heavy hitters from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, like Uber, Spotify, Visa, and Mastercard. They’re all partners in the Libra Association, a new organization based in Switzerland that is coming under scrutiny from governments around the world. The Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, EU antitrust regulators, the French Finance Minister, the Senate Banking Committee, the House Committee on Financial Services, and the Secretary of the U.S Treasury have all expressed doubts about Libra, so it’s easy to see why some companies might be getting cold feet. But these companies aren’t just worried about Libra’s future as a digital currency. Their main concern seems to be that government regulators may want to look deeper into each company’s primary business after they’re done tearing Libra to shreds.

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Source: Slashdot – Members of Facebook’s ‘Crypto Mafia’ Reportedly Getting Cold Feet About Libra Currency

Oracle Directors Give Blessing To Shareholder Lawsuit Against Larry Ellison, Safra Catz

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Three years after closing a $9.3 billion deal to acquire NetSuite, several Oracle board members have written an extraordinary letter to the Delaware Court, approving a shareholder lawsuit against company executives Larry Ellison and Safra Catz over the 2016 deal. Reuters broke this story. According to Reuters’ Alison Frankel, three board members, including former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sent a letter on August 15th to Sam Glasscock III, vice chancellor for the Court of the Chancery in Georgetown, Delaware, approving the suit as members of a special board of directors entity known as the Special Litigation Committee.

The lawsuit is what is called in legal parlance a derivative suit. According to the site Justia, this type of suit is filed in cases like this. “Since shareholders are generally allowed to file a lawsuit in the event that a corporation has refused to file one on its own behalf, many derivative suits are brought against a particular officer or director of the corporation for breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty,” the Justia site explained. The letter went on to say there was an attempt to settle this suit, which was originally launched in 2017, through negotiation outside of court, but when that attempt failed, the directors wrote this letter to the court stating that the suit should be allowed to proceed. As Frankel wrote in her article, the lawsuit, which was originally filed by the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis, could be worth billions. The report notes that Oracle was struggling to find its cloud footing in 2016, so it’s “believed that by buying an established SaaS player like NetSuite, it could begin to build out its cloud business much faster than trying to develop something like it internally.”

The Oracle letter can be found here.

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Source: Slashdot – Oracle Directors Give Blessing To Shareholder Lawsuit Against Larry Ellison, Safra Catz

Amazon Will No Longer Use Tips To Pay Delivery Drivers' Base Salaries

Amazon is ending its practice of using customer tips to pay its Flex drivers’ wages, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by The Verge. From the report: The practice came under fire when it was revealed back in February that Amazon (along with other delivery services like Instacart and DoorDash) were using customer tips to pay delivery drivers their base pay, letting the corporations in question save money at the expense of compensating their workers. Now, Amazon confirms that the initial minimum payment for each delivery will come entirely from Amazon, with driver’s tips going directly to the driver on top of that — i.e., the almost universally understood intent of how tips should work in the first place, where they’re a bonus for a specific person on top of their base pay from the company for which they work.

“Amazon will always contribute at least $15 per scheduled hour to driver pay, and often more, based on location and demand,” says Amazon spokesperson Rena Lunak. “As always, for deliveries with tipping opportunities, drivers will receive 100% of the tips.” The difference now is that the tips will be in addition to that base pay, instead of being part of it. The new payment policy is set to start today, the company confirmed. In an email to The Verge, Amazon clarified that it would be contributing a minimum of “at least $15-$19 per scheduled hour, depending on location,” — seemingly down from the original promise of $18 to $25 that Amazon Flex’s site used to offer, although it’s unclear how much of that old number came from Amazon and how much was from worker’s tips. For its part, Amazon does say that it’s “raising” its minimum contribution to those new numbers, which would imply that it previously contributed less than $15 an hour before — again, depending on the location. Amazon declined to say what its minimum contribution was previously. The news comes after DoorDash is still pocketing workers’ tips almost a month after it promised to stop.

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Source: Slashdot – Amazon Will No Longer Use Tips To Pay Delivery Drivers’ Base Salaries

Vaping Is Suspected In Severe Lung Illnesses

U.S. health authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the cases of 153 people, mostly teenagers and young adults, who developed several lung illnesses after using electronic cigarettes (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source). The Wall Street Journal reports: The cases have occurred in 16 states over the past two months, with many of the injured rushing to emergency rooms with difficulty breathing and other symptoms. No deaths have been reported, but some patients were so ill they spent days in intensive-care units on mechanical ventilators, the health authorities said. What exactly is causing the acute illnesses is unknown, though health experts suspect vaping plays a role. Vaping refers to the use of an electronic cigarette to inhale.

Many of the injured have told doctors or health authorities they were vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is working with state health departments to identify the cause. At least some of the products were purchased from unlicensed sellers. “Investigators have not identified any specific product or compound that is linked to all cases,” the CDC said in a statement. The Food and Drug Administration said it is testing e-cigarette products that the patients used. The health effects of vaping any product, even a well-known brand name, are under research and not yet fully known, tobacco researchers said.

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Source: Slashdot – Vaping Is Suspected In Severe Lung Illnesses

Streaming Video Will Soon Look Like the Bad Old Days of TV

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an opinion piece from The New York Times, written by Matthew Ball, former head of strategic planning for Amazon Studios. Here’s an excerpt: The next 12 months will see several video services come to market, including Disney+, AT&T/WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Comcast/NBCUniversal’s unnamed service, Apple TV+ and Quibi from the Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. This increased competition will offer audiences even more high-quality series, the sorts of films that can no longer be found in theaters, interactive storytelling they’ve never seen before, and further improvements in navigation and advertising. Yet in this new multiplatform world, viewers will find they have to pay for a fistful of streaming subscriptions to watch all of their favorite programs — and in the process, they’ll again end up paying for lots of shows and movies they’ll never care to watch. AT&T’s WarnerMedia, for example, is bundling its TV channels, like TBS, HBO and TruTV, and film studios, including Warner Bros., DC Films and New Line, into its HBO Max service. Disney+ will have Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, but also National Geographic, “The Simpsons” and Disney’s offerings for children. And to navigate these many subscriptions, most households will want companies like Amazon or Apple to further bundle these services together into a single app — just as they do with Dish or Xfinity. All of this bundling will eventually mean the return of a high monthly bill. Behind this bill is the cost of making high-quality programming. Although much has been said about how Netflix and Amazon have disrupted the video business, no media company has figured out how to make premium movies or TV shows significantly more cheaply. In fact, competition has driven production budgets even higher. Ultimately, these costs are paid by viewers (especially if they choose to watch without ads).

But the rise of digital video is bringing back more than just bloated bundles and bills. Many companies are returning to TV’s original business model: selling you anything and everything but the television show in front of you. For decades, all TV content was “free.” Networks like ABC and CBS distributed their shows free of charge because they weren’t really in the business of selling audiences 30 minutes of entertainment. Instead, they were selling advertisers eight or so minutes of the audience’s attention. While most digital video services do charge their viewers, their real objective is to lock audiences into their ever-expanding ecosystem. Their TV network is the ad. Amazon, Apple and Roku, for example, use their networks to drive sales of their devices, software, services and other products. For YouTube and Facebook, original movies and shows are about increasing the number of ads they serve and the prices they charge for these ads. “Even as the video industry reconstitutes with new players — under old business models and familiar problems — most people agree that TV has never been better,” Ball writes in closing. “Consumers have more options, better shows and more diversity than ever before.”
“But at the same time, weâ(TM)re entering a world in which our culture is programmed by vertically integrated trillion-dollar corporations,” he adds. “This may help us escape high prices and ads in the short term, but eventually the bill will come due.”

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Source: Slashdot – Streaming Video Will Soon Look Like the Bad Old Days of TV