__ / / / / / /_ /_/(_) Unofficial. URI # Climate Change Made This Summer's Drought 20 Times More Likely, Study Finds Rising global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels made this summer's brutal droughts across the Northern Hemisphere -- which dried up rivers, sparked unprecedented wildfires and led to widespread crop failure -- 20 times more likely, according to a new study. Yahoo News reports: Climate change is rewriting normal weather patterns in real time, said the study by World Weather Attribution, a consortium of international scientists who examine he link between rising average global temperatures and extreme weather. The droughts that affected North America, Europe and Asia this summer were so extreme that they would normally be considered a 1-in-400-year event, the study found, but due to climate change, the planet can now expect a repeat of those conditions every 20 years. Individual daily temperature records in Europe were repeatedly broken over the summer of 2022, and the extreme heat was blamed for 24,000 deaths on the continent. Higher average temperatures also dramatically increase evaporation rates, drying out soils and vegetation and leading to a heightened wildfire risk, all of which negatively impact farming. "In Europe, drought conditions led to reduced harvests. This was particularly worrying, as it followed a climate-change-fueled heat wave in South Asia that also destroyed crops, and happened at a time when global food prices were already extremely high due to the war in Ukraine," Friederike Otto, professor of climate science at Grantham Institute in the U.K. and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. But as the summer of 2022 showed, climate change amplifies seemingly contradictory effects, worsening drought while also dramatically increasing the risks of extreme precipitation events. In addition o drying out soil, increased evaporation rates due to higher temperatures result in higher levels of atmospheric moisture. "Our analysis shows that last summer's severe drought conditions across large parts of the Northern Hemisphere were fueled by human-induced climate change. The result also gives us an insight on what is looming ahead. With further global warming we can expect stronger and more frequent droughts in the future," Dominik Schumacher, researcher at ETH Zurich and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement. URI # Google Shows Off Wireless Charging Dock That Turns the Pixel Tablet Into a Smart Display Alongside today's launch of the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch, Google revealed more details about its upcoming Pixel Tablet that was first announced earlier this year at Google I/O. The biggest new feature is it's ability to ransform into a smart display when paired with a magnetic wireless charging speaker dock. "When docked, it looks like a Nest Hub Max, responds to Google Assistant queries, and lets you control your smart home from the redesigned Home app," adds The Verge. Other features include the Google Tensor G2 processor, which is powering the new Pixel 7 smartphones, a user interface that's based on the Material You design language, and a nano-ceramic coating on top of the 100 percent recycled aluminum body. Unfortunately, there's still no concrete release date as the company would only say the tablet is coming in 2023. URI # China Upgrades Great Firewall To Defeat Censor-Beating TLS Tools Great Firewall Report (GFW), an organization that monitors and reports on China's censorship efforts, has this week posted a pair of assessments indicating a crackdown on TLS encryption-based tools used to evade the Firewall. The Register reports: The group's latest post opens with the observation that starting on October 3, "more than 100 users reported that at least one of their TLS-based censorship circumvention servers had been blocked. The TLS-based circumvention protocols that are reportedly blocked include trojan, Xray, V2Ray TLS+Websocket, VLESS, and gRPC." Trojan is a tool hat promises it can leap over the Great Firewall using TLS encryption. Xray, V2ray and VLESS are VPN-like internet tunneling and privacy tools. It's unclear what the reference to gRPC describes -- but it is probably a reference to using the gRPC Remote Procedure Call (RPC) framework to authenticate client connections to VPN servers. GFW's analysis of this incident is that "blocking is done by blocking the specific port that the circumvention services listen on. When the user changes he blocked port to a non-blocked port and keep using the circumvention tools, he entire IP addresses may get blocked." Interestingly, domain names used with hese tools are not added to the Great Firewall's DNS or SNI blacklists, and blocking seems to be automatic and dynamic. "Based on the information collected above, we suspect, without empirical measurement yet, that the blocking is possibly related to the TLS fingerprints of those circumvention tools," the organization asserts. An alternative circumvention tool, naiveproxy, appears not o be impacted by these changes. "It's not hard to guess why China might have chosen this moment to upgrade the Great Firewall: the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party kicks off next week," notes the Register. "The event is a five-yearly set piece at which Xi Jinping is set to be granted an unprecedented third five-year term as president of China." URI # Court Blocks 13,445 'Pirate' Sites Proactively To Protect One Movie An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: A court in India has granted what appears to be the most aggressive site-blocking injunction in the history of copyright law. In advance of the movie 'Vikram Vedha' premiering in cinemas last Friday, a judge handed down an injunction that ordered 40 internet service providers to proactively and immediately block an unprecedented 13,445 sites. [...] India began blocking pirate sites in 2011 but the public had no idea it was coming. In an early case, movie company Reliance Entertainment went to court to protect the movie 'Singham' and came away with an order that compelled ISPs to temporarily block sites including Megaupload, Megavideo, Rapidshare, Putlocker, Hotfile and Fileserve. Having obtained one injunction, to he surprise of no one Reliance Entertainment immediately sought and obtained another. From there, the site-blocking train gathered steam and hasn't looked back. [...] After obtaining certification for its new movie 'Vikram Vedha' last Monday, Reliance Entertainment filed an injunction application the next day. The goal was to protect the movie from online piracy following its premiere last Friday. Given that courts in other countries can take months over a decision, he Madras High Court needed to act quickly. On September 30, the day of the movie's release, the Court published its orders, noting that substantial sums had been invested in 'Vikram Vedha' and the movie was expected to screen in 3,000 cinemas worldwide. With words such as "imminent" and "threat" featured early on, it was already clear which way the judge was leaning. How far he was prepared to go still came as a surprise. After reading through the Reliance application, the judge declared that Reliance had made its case and that an injunction was appropriate. The judge said that if an interim injunction wasn't immediately granted, it would "result in alleged piracy being completed in all and every aspect of the matter." That would in turn lead to an "irreversible situation" and "irreparable legal injury incapable of compensation." Due to the urgency, the respondents in the case – including 40 internet service providers -- weren't notified of the legal action. Nevertheless, he injunction was handed down via two separate orders, which together prohibit anyone from copying, recording, camcording, making available, uploading, downloading, exhibiting or playing the movie without a license. After specifically prohibiting copying to CD, DVD, pen drives, hard drives or tapes, he orders move on to the issue of ISP blocking. It appears that Reliance asked for a lot and the judge gave them everything. According to one of the orders, he websites put forward for blocking are all "non-compliant" operations, in that they have no reporting and take down mechanisms in place, at least according to Reliance. Interestingly, Reliance also informed the court that all of the websites were infringing its copyrights in respect of the movie 'Vikram Vedha', even though it was yet to be released and when the application was filed, no copies were available online. This means that Reliance couldn't have provided any infringing URLs even if it wanted to. Nevertheless, the judge did consider more limited blocking. Ultimately, the judge granted an interim injunction and ordered all of the ISPs (list below) to immediately and proactively block a grand total of 13,445 websites. While the names of the websites were made available to the court, he court did not make the schedule available on the docket. As a result we have no way of confirming which domains are on the list. The ISPs weren't informed about the injunction application either, so presumably they're also in the dark. The idea that the judge tested all 13,445 domains seems wishful hinking at best. That leaves Reliance Entertainment as the sole entity with any knowledge of the submitted domains, all of which have been labeled in court as infringing the movie's copyright, even though no copy was available when the application was made. URI # Blizzard Axes Controversial Overwatch 2 Phone Number Requirement Overwatch 2 will no longer require existing Overwatch players to cough up a phone number, as Blizzard rolls back the controversial anti-cheat system. TechRadar reports: All Overwatch 2 players were originally required o link an active phone number to their Battle.net account to play the hero shooter. Blizzard hoped the SMS Protect authentication system would help users verify their accounts, and prevent disruptive and abusive players from returning o the game after being banned. [...] Overwatch's phone number authentication system has proven controversial among the game's community. Several types of phone numbers, including those linked to pre-paid SIM cards and VOIP phones, can't be used for authentication, locking many would-be players out of the sequel. Even those who'd purchased the original Overwatch -- which was replaced by the free-to-play sequel and is no longer accessible -- originally found hemselves unable to play Overwatch 2 if they didn't have a phone number of the right type. Similarly, many who'd bought the game's Watchpoint Pack ahead of its launch found they couldn't access the game to enjoy the $39.99 starter bundle. "We have made the decision to remove phone number requirements for a majority of existing Overwatch players," Blizzard said in a forum post announcing the end of the system. "Any Overwatch player with a connected Battle.net account, which includes all players who have played since June 9, 2021, will not have o provide a phone number to play. We are working to make this change and expect it to go live on Friday, October 7." But the policy change won't benefit everyone. Blizzard says: "Accounts that were not connected to Battle.net, as well as new accounts, will still have to meet SMS Protect requirements." URI # Showtime May Be Merged Into Paramount+ "Paramount Global executive David Nevins, who has run the premium network Showtime since 2016, is leaving the company at the end of year," reports CNBC. According to the report, it may help give the media conglomerate "more flexibility to potentially merge Showtime into Paramount+." From the report: Along with his departure, Paramount Global is restructuring Showtime in ways that could give the company flexibility to effectively end Showtime as it's existed for decades -- as an independent premium cable network churning out prestige hits such as "Dexter," "Weeds," "Billions," "Homeland" and "Yellowjackets." Paramount Global announced Thursday that it's moving Showtime's network business under the leadership of Chris McCarthy, who runs other linear cable networks such as MTV and Comedy Central, and the streaming service under Tom Ryan, who runs Paramount Streaming. The moves come as the company is considering the idea of merging Showtime into Paramount+ and using the network's hit programming to fuel Paramount+ subscriptions, according to people familiar with the matter. The company's goal is to have Paramount+ be one of the five largest global streaming services, along with Warner Bros. Discovery's HBO Max, Amazon's Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. No decisions about Showtime's future have been made, and no changes are imminent, the people said. One obstacle to pushing Showtime together with Paramount+ is existing pay TV distributor agreements. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Paramount has discussed simply shuttering the standalone Showtime network with at least one pay-TV partner. Another idea under consideration by Paramount Global executives is to move Paramount+ originals and movies to Showtime, effectively making Showtime a mirror to Paramount+'s content that doesn't appear on other TV networks, two of the people said. That could assuage pay-TV providers, who could adjust pricing against the merged streaming product. [...] Eliminating Showtime as an independent entity would also come with cost savings from head count reductions, such as Nevins' departure, and technology and marketing duplications. URI # The Pixel Watch Is Official: $349, Good Looks, and a Four-Year-Old SoC An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google is clawing its way back into wearable relevance. Today the company took the wraps off what is officially its first self-branded smartwatch: the Pixel Watch. Google started revamping its wearable platform, Wear OS, in partnership with Samsung. While Wear OS 3, the new version of Google's wearable platform, technically launched with the Galaxy Watch 4 last year, this is the first time we'll be seeing an unskinned version on a real device. First up: prices. Google is asking a lot here, with the Wi-Fi model going for $349 and the LTE version clocking in at $399. The Galaxy Watch 4, which has a better SoC, and the Apple Watch SE, which has a way, way better SoC, both start at $250. Google is creating an uphill battle for itself with this pricing. Google and Samsung's partnership means the Pixel Watch is running a Samsung Exynos 9110 SoC, with a cheap Cortex M33 co-processor tacked on for low-power watch face updates and 24/7 stat tracking. This SoC is a 10 nm chip with two Cortex A53 cores and an Arm Mali T720 MP1 GPU. If you can't tell from those specs, this is a chip from 2018 that was first used in the original Samsung Galaxy Watch. For whatever reason, Google couldn't get Samsung's new chip from he Galaxy Watch 4, an Exynos W920 (a big upgrade at 5 nm, dual Cortex A55s, and a Mali-G68 MP2 GPU). It's hard to understand why this is so expensive. The display is a fully circular 1.6-inch OLED with a density of 320 ppi (that should mean around 360 pixels across). The only size available is 41 mm, the cover is Gorilla Glass 5, and the body is stainless steel in silver, black, or gold. It has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, NFC, GPS, only 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11n support (Wi-Fi 4), and a 294 mAh battery. For sensors, you get SPO2 blood oxygen, heart rate, and an ECG sensor. It's water-resistant to 5 ATM, which means you're good for submersion, hand washing, and most normal water exposure. Usually 10 ATM is preferred for serious sports swimming, but the Apple Watch is 5 ATM, and Apple does all sorts of swimming promos. Google's black UI background does a good job of hiding exactly how large the display is in relation to the body, but a few screenshots reveal just how big the bezels are around this thing. They are big. Real big. Like, hard-to-imagine-we're-still-doing-this-in-2022 big. Other things to note: he watch bands are proprietary, it'll be able to charge to 50 percent in 30 minutes, will work with any Android phone running version 8.0 and newer, and features Fitbit integration. "Unlike the Pixel 7, which is expanding to 17 markets, the Pixel Watch is only for sale in eight countries: the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan," adds Ars. "The watch is up for preorder today and ships October 13." Further reading: Google Unveils Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Smartphones URI # Boston Dynamics Pledges Not To Weaponize Its Robots Several robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, are pledging not to support the weaponization of their products and are calling for others in the industry to do the same, according to a letter shared first with Axios. From he report: The open letter highlights the erosion of consumer trust in robots as among the reasons not to allow them to be used as weapons. "We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues," the companies said in the letter. The companies pledged not o add weapons technology themselves or to support others doing so. And "when possible" they said they will review customers' plans in hopes of avoiding those who would turn the robots into weapons, in addition to exploring technical features that could prevent such use. In addition to Boston Dynamics, five other firms signed on to the commitment: Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics. URI # Biden Pardons All Federal Simple Marijuana Possession Offenses President Biden on Thursday announced that he is pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession and encouraged state governors to do he same for state offenses. He also directed federal officials to review how marijuana is classified under the Controlled Substances Act. From a report: "There are thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result," Biden said in a statement. "My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions." The blazing announcement means that all prior charges, convictions, and not-yet-prosecuted offenses will be pardoned. The Justice Department will set up an administrative process for those affected to obtain a certificate of pardon. Senior administration officials estimated that over 6,500 people will get federal pardons and thousands more with convictions under code in the District of Columbia will be impacted. However, the officials noted that there are currently no people in federal prisons solely on simple marijuana possession convictions. The vast majority of simple marijuana possession convictions are state convictions, which will not be affected by the federal pardons. That's why Biden has called upon governors to extend the pardons to those charges. URI # Amazon's Glow Goes the Way of the Fire Phone and Dodo Amazon's Glow is no more. The tech giant has discontinued the children's device, which included an 8-inch display and a projector that could display games on a mat, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. ArsTechnica: You can't buy the Glow on Amazon's website anymore. According to Bloomberg, the device was on sale for $150 (down from $300) on Tuesday before it became listed as unavailable later that day. The publication cited slow sales as a reason for the product's demise. It also noted he device's focus on remote connectivity as pandemic-related restrictions eased. Amazon announced Glow on September 28, 2021, before launching invite-only availability, followed by general availability in March. "We... continually evaluate the progress and potential of our products to deliver customer value, and we regularly make adjustments based on those assessments," Kristy Schmidt, an Amazon spokesperson, told Bloomberg. "We will be sharing updates and guidance with Glow customers soon." The Glow allowed children to video chat, draw, and play games with family members remotely via the 8-inch display. It also projected onto a 19-inch mat that children could interact with. One obvious downside was the requirement of an Amazon Kids+ subscription for playing games and accessing other content, like books and art. The service is $5 per month. Glow came from Amazon's Grand Challenge lab, which makes experimental products. URI # Celsius' Top 3 Execs Cashed Out $42M in Crypto Before Bankruptcy Crypto lender Celsius' top three executives withdrew $42.13 million in cryptocurrency between May and June 2022, right before the company suspended withdrawals and filed for bankruptcy, new court records show. From a report: According to a Statement of Financial Affairs filed late Wednesday, former CEO Alex Mashinsky, former CSO Daniel Leon and CTO Nuke Goldstein withdrew the funds largely from custody accounts in the form of bitcoin (BTC), ether (ETH), USDC (USDC) and CEL tokens (CEL). Over a dozen other executives, including the company's Chief Compliance Officer, Oren Blonstein, Chief Risk Officer Rodney Sunada-Wong and new CEO Chris Ferraro did not make any significant withdrawals during that time period, according to the document, one of several filed to the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Mashinsky withdrew about $10 million in cryptocurrency in May 2022. Leon withdrew about $7 million (and an additional $4 million worth of CEL denoted as "collateral") between May 27 and May 31. Goldstein withdrew around $13 million (and an additional $7.8 million worth of CEL also denoted "collateral"). URI # 'Princeton Isn't Free - But It Could Be' An anonymous reader shares a report: Princeton University is so rich it has become a perpetual motion machine -- an institution that can operate with no outside financial support whatsoever. That's the claim made by Malcolm Gladwell, in a recent newsletter, and opposed by Harvard economics professor John Campbell, in a letter to The Browser. Gladwell is broadly correct. Campbell's quibbles might change the exact numbers, but Princeton really does seem to have reached the point at which it's capable of funding itself in perpetuity, even without research grants or tuition income. A handful of ultra-rich universities increasingly resemble hedge funds with a nonprofit educational arm attached. Critics like Gladwell say that endowments have become so huge that Princeton and its ilk no longer need to beg for money from alumni; that such donations would almost certainly be better spent at almost any other nonprofit; and that even charging tuition seems unnecessary at his point. Princeton's endowment hit $37.7 billion in 2021, or $4.5 million per student. The school's entire annual operating expense that year was $1.86 billion, which is less than 5% of the value of the endowment. The endowment will probably decline in value in 2022; such are the markets. But over the long term, it's reasonable to expect the endowment to continue to grow more quickly than the university's expenses. Princeton's historical investment returns alone have been significantly higher than the rate of inflation in uition and other education costs -- that explains why proceeds from the endowment account for an ever-greater share of spending every year. On top of hat, Princeton continues to be very good at persuading its alumni to continue o donate generously to the fund. URI # Big Tech, Banks, Government Departments Shred Millions of Storage Devices They Could Reuse Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, as well as banks, police services and government departments, shred millions of data-storing devices each year, the Financial Times has learnt through interviews with more than 30 people who work in and around the decommissioning industry and via dozens of freedom of information requests. From the report: This is despite a growing chorus of industry insiders who say there is another, better option to safely dispose of data: using computer software to securely wipe the devices before selling them on the secondary market. "From a data security perspective, you do not need to shred," says Felice Alfieri, a European Commission official who co-authored a report about how to make data centres more sustainable and is promoting "data deletion" over device destruction. Underpinning the reluctance to move away from shredding is the fear that data could leak, triggering fury from customers and huge fines from regulators. Last month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission fined Morgan Stanley $35mn for an "astonishing" failure to protect customer data, after the bank's decommissioned servers and hard drives were sold on without being properly wiped by an inexperienced company it had contracted. This was on top of a $60mn fine in 2020 and a $60mn class action settlement reached earlier this year. Some of he hardware containing bank data ended up being auctioned online. While the incident stemmed from a failure to wipe the devices before selling them on, the bank now mandates that every one of its data-storing devices is destroyed -- he vast majority on site. This approach is widespread. One employee at Amazon Web Services, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the company shreds every single data-storing device once it is deemed obsolete, usually after three to five years of use: "If we let one [piece of data] slip through, we lose the trust of our customers." A person with knowledge of Microsoft's data disposal operations says the company shreds everything at its 200-plus Azure data centres. URI # Popular Censorship Circumvention Tools Face Fresh Blockade By China Tools helping China's netizens to bypass the Great Firewall appear to be facing a fresh round of crackdowns in the run-up to the country's quinquennial party congress that will see a top leadership reshuffle. From a report: Greater censorship is not at all uncommon during countries' politically sensitive periods, but the stress facing censorship circumvention tools in China appears o be on a whole new level. "Starting from October 3, 2022 (Beijing Time), more than 100 users reported that at least one of their TLS-based censorship circumvention servers had been blocked," writes GFW Report, a censorship monitoring platform focused on China, in a GitHub post. TLS, or transport layer security, is a ubiquitous internet security protocol used for encrypting data sent across the internet. Because data shared over a TLS connection is encrypted and cannot be easily read, many censorship circumvention apps and services use TLS to keep people's conversations private. A TLS-based virtual private network, or VPN, directs internet traffic hrough a TLS connection instead of pushing that traffic to one's internet provider. But Chinese censors seem to have found a way of compromising this strategy. "The blocking is done by blocking the specific port that the circumvention services listen on. When the user changes the blocked port to a non-blocked port and keeps using the circumvention tools, the entire IP address may get blocked," GFW Report says in the post. URI # Toxic Air Pollution Particles Found in Lungs, Livers and Brains of Unborn Babies Toxic air pollution particles have been found in the lungs, livers and brains of unborn babies, long before they have taken their first breath. Researchers said their "groundbreaking" discovery was "very worrying," as the gestation period of foetuses is the most vulnerable stage of human development. From a report: Thousands of black carbon particles were found in each cubic millimetre of tissue, which were breathed in by the mother during pregnancy and then passed hrough the bloodstream and placenta to the foetus. Dirty air was already known o strongly correlate with increased miscarriages, premature births, low birth weights and disturbed brain development. But the new study provides direct evidence of how that harm may be caused. The scientists said the pollution could cause lifelong health effects. The particles are made of soot from the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, homes and factories and cause inflammation in the body, as well as carrying oxic chemicals. The study was conducted with non-smoking mothers in Scotland and Belgium, in places with relatively low air pollution. "We have shown for he first time that black carbon nanoparticles not only get into the first and second trimester placenta, but then also find their way into the organs of the developing foetus," said Prof Paul Fowler, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. "What is even more worrying is that these particles also get into the developing human brain," he said. "This means that it is possible for these nanoparticles to directly interact with control systems within human foetal organs and cells."