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  • Mars May Have Active Volcanoes, Adding New Promise To Search for Extraterrestrial Life
    One of the great differences between Mars and Earth involves what's going on beneath the surface. Our planet remains a tectonically and volcanically active world -- witness the current eruptions in Hawaii -- while Mars has been a cold, geologically dead place for the past three billion years. That was the thinking at least. But a new paper in Nature Astronomy challenges that accepted wisdom. Mars, it suggests, may still be geologically active today. Time: The findings are the result of orbital photography, surface data, and computer modeling of a lowland region near the Martian equator known as Elysium Planitia -- where NASA's Mars InSight probe landed in 2018. Researchers from the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory analyzed recordings of Mars quakes taken by InSight and concluded that they all result from a series of subsurface fissures dubbed Cerberus Fossae, which stretch nearly 1,300 km (800 mi.) across the Martian surface. This gives rise to what are known as mantle plumes: blob-like masses of molten rock that rise to reach the base of the crust, causing quakes, faulting, and volcanic eruptions. Computer modeling of the region indicates that far from being geologically dead, Elysium Planitia experienced major volcanic eruptions as recently as 200 million years ago.

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  • Microsoft Acquires Startup Developing High-Speed Cables for Transmitting Data
    Microsoft today announced that it acquired Lumenisity, a U.K.-based startup developing "hollow core fiber (HCF)" technologies primarily for data centers and ISPs. From a report: Microsoft says that the purchase, the terms of which weren't disclosed, will "expand [its] ability to further optimize its global cloud infrastructure" and "serve Microsoft's cloud platform and services customers with strict latency and security requirements." HCF cables fundamentally combine optical fiber and coaxial cable. They've been around since the '90s, but what Lumenisity brings to the table is a proprietary design with an air-filled center channel surrounded by a ring of glass tubes. The idea is that light can travel faster through air than glass; in a trial with Comcast in April, a single strand of Lumenisity HCF was reportedly able to deliver traffic rates ranging from 10 Gbps to 400 Gbps. "HCF can provide benefits across a broad range of industries including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, retail and government," Girish Bablani, CVP of Microsoft's Azure Core business, wrote in a blog post. "For the public sector, HCF could provide enhanced security and intrusion detection for federal and local governments across the globe. In healthcare, because HCF can accommodate the size and volume of large data sets, it could help accelerate medical image retrieval, facilitating providers' ability to ingest, persist and share medical imaging data in the cloud. And with the rise of the digital economy, HCF could help international financial institutions seeking fast, secure transactions across a broad geographic region."

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  • Amazon Wants To Kill the Barcode
    Robots may be the future, but robotic arms are apparently no good at using an old and steadfast form of technology: the barcode. Barcodes can be hard to find and might be affixed to oddly shaped products, Amazon said in a press release Friday, something robots can't troubleshoot very well. As a result, the company says it has a plan to kill the barcode. From a report: Using pictures of items in Amazon warehouses and training a computer model, the e-commerce giant has developed a camera system that can monitor items flowing one-by-one down conveyor belts to make sure they match their images. Eventually, Amazon's AI experts and roboticists want to combine the technology with robots that identify items while picking them up and turning them around. "Solving this problem, so robots can pick up items and process them without needing to find and scan a barcode, is fundamental," said Nontas Antonakos, an applied science manager in Amazon's computer vision group in Berlin. "It will help us get packages to customers more quickly and accurately." The system, called multi-modal identification, isn't going to fully replace barcodes soon. It's currently in use in facilities in Barcelona, Spain, and Hamburg, Germany, according to Amazon. Still, the company says it's already speeding up the time it takes to process packages there. The technology will be shared across Amazon's businesses, so it's possible you could one day see a version of it at a Whole Foods or another Amazon-owned chain with in-person stores.

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  • Colgate's 9 Billion Toothpaste Tubes Defy Effort To Recycle Them
    Colgate-Palmolive spent years devising a recyclable toothpaste tube. Pulling it off was a technical masterstroke, substituting plastic for a mix of materials that was historically tough to reclaim. The result, one executive said, was "nice squeezability." One big problem remains: Many sorting centers around the US don't accept them. From a report: The gap between Colgate's engineering success and the practicalities of where-do-we-toss-our-empties underscores a persistent challenge for corporate America: Switching to packaging that can bypass landfills isn't enough if there is no easy way to recycle it. In Colgate's case, that is 9 billion tubes a year requiring extra effort to avoid the trash heap. The new tubes, which currently cover 78% of the company's US toothpaste lineup, are made with HDPE, the recyclable plastic used for products such as milk jugs. But in the fragmented US system, companies making recyclable products have to persuade a wide range of stakeholders, from local governments to private companies, to accept the items, sort them and turn them into something new. It's a process that can take years. The tubes still aren't classified as recyclable by How2Recycle, an organization that issues standardized labels with instructions on how to dispose of packaging.

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  • Spyware Hacks of Federal Workers Could Run Into Hundreds, Lawmaker Says
    A US government probe into how many mobile phones belonging to diplomats and government workers have been infected with spyware could "easily run to the hundreds," according to a member of the House Intelligence Committee. From a report: Jim Himes, a Democrat representative from Connecticut, told Bloomberg News that the Biden administration is "just beginning to get an inkling of the magnitude of the problem." He predicted that the probe could find that spyware was used against "hundreds" of federal personnel in "multiple countries." Himes was a lead author of a September letter calling on the federal government to better protect US diplomats overseas from spyware and publicly detail instances of such abuse. He received a letter last month written jointly by the Departments of Commerce and State that confirmed commercial spyware has targeted US government personnel serving overseas. "Spyware technology has sort of moved beyond our ability to ensure that the communications of our diplomats are protected, or even the locations and contacts and photographs of our diplomats are protected. And that's obviously a huge vulnerability," he said. The official confirmation follows a Reuters report from last year that the iPhones of at least nine State Department employees were hacked with spyware developed by Israel's NSO Group. The employees were either based in Uganda or focused on issues related to the country, according to the report.

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  • China's Disappearing Data Stokes Fears of Hidden Covid Wave
    Edward White in Seoul and Qianer Liu in Hong Kong, reporting for Financial Times: China is under-reporting coronavirus cases and fatalities, obscuring the scale and severity of the health crisis just as the world's most populous country enters its deadliest phase of the pandemic, analysts warn. Official statistics on Friday revealed no new deaths and only 16,363 locally transmitted coronavirus cases in China, less than half the peak caseload reported last month. That is despite a stunning U-turn over the past week to relax President Xi Jinping's heavy-handed pandemic controls, which means the virus is certain to spread. The sweeping changes to Xi's zero-Covid policy allow asymptomatic or mild cases to isolate at home rather than in centralised quarantine, and slashed China's mass testing and contact tracing requirements. The sudden reversal came weeks after Covid-19 cases hit a record high of more than 40,000 a day, with every region of the country reporting an Omicron outbreak. Despite the official numbers suggesting the caseload had halved, Raymond Yeung, China economist at ANZ bank, said that on-the-ground observations indicated some cities, including Baoding, in the northern province of Hebei, already had "high infection numbers." More big cities, he said, would soon endure similar levels of infections. "Like Hong Kong, the actual infection data will no longer be informative. As the 'official' infection figures decline, the government can eventually claim their successÂagainst the virus," Yeung said.

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  • Google Must Delete Search Results About You If They're Fake, EU Court Rules
    People in Europe can get Google to delete search results about them if they prove the information is "manifestly inaccurate," the EU's top court has ruled. From a report: The case kicked off when two investment managers requested Google to dereference results of a search made on the basis of their names, which provided links to certain articles criticising that group's investment model. They say those articles contain inaccurate claims. Google refused to comply, arguing that it was unaware whether the information contained in the articles was accurate or not. But in a ruling Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union opened the door to the investment managers being able to successfully trigger the so-called "right to be forgotten" under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. "The right to freedom of expression and information cannot be taken into account where, at the very least, a part -- which is not of minor importance -- of the information found in the referenced content proves to be inaccurate," the court said in a press release accompanying the ruling.

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  • SEC Issues New Guidance Requiring Companies To Disclose Cryptocurrency Risks
    The Securities and Exchange Commission has released new guidance, requiring companies that issue securities to disclose to investors their exposure and risk to the cryptocurrency market. From a report: The guidance comes about a month after FTX, one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, filed for bankruptcy after loan customer funds to a risky trading company that was founded by FTX's former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Over 100,000 customers were affected by the exchange's failure. On Wednesday, SEC Chair Gary Gensler fended off accusations that the agency has failed to prevent crypto firms from misusing customer funds. Gensler also said the SEC would take more enforcement actions if the firms fail to comply with existing rules. Under the new guidance, companies will have to include crypto asset holdings as well as their risk exposure to the FTX bankruptcy and other market developments in their public filings. The company's bankruptcy filings indicate the company has over 1 million creditors.

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  • Ericsson and Apple End Patent-Related Legal Row With Licence Deal
    Ericsson said on Friday it had struck a global patent licence agreement with Apple, ending a row over royalty payments for the use of 5G wireless patents in iPhones. From a report: The Swedish telecoms equipment maker said the multi-year deal included global cross-licences for patented cellular standard-essential technologies, and granted certain other patent rights. The deal comes after Ericsson in January filed a second set of patent infringement lawsuits against the U.S. maker of iPhones. Both companies had already sued each other in the United States as negotiations failed over the renewal of a seven-year licensing contract for telecoms patents first struck in 2015. Ericsson sued first in October 2021, claiming that Apple was trying to improperly cut down the royalty rates. The iPhone maker then filed a lawsuit in December 2021, accusing the Swedish company of using "strong-arm tactics" to renew patents.

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  • Stolen Data of Over 5 Million People Sold On Bot Markets
    Around five million people globally have had their data stolen and sold on the bot market till date, of which 600,000 are from India, making it the worst affected country, according to one of the world's largest VPN serice providers NordVPN. From the report: Bot markets are used by hackers to sell stolen data from victims' devices with bot malware. The study by NordVPN, of Lithuania's Nord Security, said the stolen data included user logins, cookies, digital fingerprints, screenshots and other information, with the average price for the digital identity of a person pegged at 490 Indian rupees($5.95). NordVPN tracked data for the past four years, ever since bot markets were launched in 2018.

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