Month: February 2020

Zuckerberg meets EU officials as bloc’s new tech rules loom

LONDON – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met top European Union officials on a visit to Brussels on Monday, days before the bloc is expected to release new proposals on regulating artificial intelligence.

The billionaire social network founder is the latest U.S. tech executive to make the trip to the headquarters of the EU, which is becoming an increasingly important player in technology regulation. Zuckerberg’s visit came as the company warned that potential regulation risked stifling innovation.

Zuckerberg met Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s powerful executive vice-president in charge of making Europe “fit for the digital age.” He also had audiences with Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market, and Vera Jourova, vice-president for values and transparency.

Vestager is set on Wednesday to release the first draft of the EU’s proposed regulations on artificial intelligence, including facial recognition, and a digital strategy, which could have major implications for tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple.

The EU has already pioneered strict data privacy rules and issued multibillion-dollar antitrust fines against the likes of Google.

In an op-ed published in the Financial Times, Zuckerberg said big tech companies such as Facebook need closer government supervision.

“I believe good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term,” he wrote. He said new rules should be clear and balanced and it shouldn’t be left up to individual companies to set their own standards.

Also Monday, Facebook released a “white paper” on content regulation outlining challenges and principles for authorities to consider when drawing up new rules on how to deal with harmful material such as child sexual exploitation or terrorist recruitment.

Well-designed frameworks for regulating harmful content can outline clear ways for governments, companies, and civil society to share responsibilities and work together, the company said. “Designed poorly, these efforts risk unintended consequences that might make people less safe online, stifle expression and slow innovation.”

Facebook said tech companies shouldn’t be punished for publishing illegal speech, because it would be impractical to require internet platforms to approve each post. “Retrofitting the rules that regulate online speech for the online world may be insufficient. New frameworks are needed,” the paper said.

The company’s recommendations include requiring companies to set up “user-friendly” channels to report harmful content and regularly release enforcement data. It suggested that governments should define what illegal content is.

Speaking after their meeting, Jourova said Zuckerberg was coming around to the European approach on regulations. But it’s unfair for the company to shift all the burden to authorities, she added.

“Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility,” because regulations will never solve every problem, she said. “It will not be up to governments or regulators to ensure that Facebook wants to be a force of good or bad.”

Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press

China is now deep-cleaning and even destroying cash in fight against coronavirus

China’s central bank is now sterilizing — and even destroying — cash as a way to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

According to a press release by the Chinese government, banks are deep-cleaning all the cash that comes in by using “ultraviolet disinfection or high temperatures,” and “stored for more than 14 days” before being recirculated.

And if the money is coming from a highly infected area, they’re destroying it.

From CNN:

And in the central bank’s Guangzhou branch, these high-risk banknotes may be destroyed instead of merely disinfected, according to state-run tabloid Global Times.

To make up for the supply, the bank will issue large amounts of new, uninfected cash; in January, the bank allocated 4 billion yuan (about $573.5 million) in new banknotes to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began, said the government press release.

But can you even catch a virus from cash? Probably not, but germs can last for hours on surfaces, so…maybe?

According to CNN:

The list of things found on US dollar bills includes DNA from our pets, traces of drugs, and bacteria and viruses, according to a 2017 study in New York.

That doesn’t mean cash is actually dangerous for our health; disease transmission linked to money is rare, and no major disease outbreaks have started from our ATMs. But with new cases being reported every day in China, the country’s officials are taking no chances.

Image: / Flickr

This 1849 guidebook was a Yelp for whorehouses

Philadelphia had many “gay houses” and “ladies of pleasure” in the 1840s, so it’s not surprising that an enterprising publisher created a guidebook for travelers to the city “of brotherly love and sisterly affection,” which was estimated to employ 10,000 sex workers at the time.

Flashbak has some highlights from the “pocket companion.”

At this house you will hear no disgusting language to annoy your ear; everything connected with this establishment is calculated to make a man happy. The young ladies are beautiful and accomplished; they will at any time amuse you with a fine tune on the piano, or use their melodious voices to drive dull care away. Stranger, do not neglect to pay a visit to this house before you leave our quiet city of sisterly affection.

This lady is the Queen of Trumps, tall and majestic, and noble in appearance. She is a lady in manners and conversation. She lives well and her house is comfortable and safe. One glance will satisfy a person of that fact.

…be cautious when you visit this place, or you may rue it all your lifetime.

Beware this house, stranger, as you would the sting of a viper.

This is one of the worst conducted houses in the city. The girls, though few in number, are ugly, vulgar and drunken. We would not advise any body of common sense to stay there.

Image: Flashbak

Study finds ‘stunning’ lack of research into women’s heart health

OTTAWA – A new review of the existing research into women’s cardiovascular disease has uncovered what the authors call a “stunning” lack of information about how women are affected.

The review was released by Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance, who call it a first-of-its-kind scientific look at gender gaps in cardiovascular research.

The more than 30 authors of the paper found cardiovascular disease in women is under-researched, leaving women under-diagnosed, under-treated and less aware of the risks they face.

The review concludes that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death among women in Canada, in part because women are not well represented in the research.  

The authors say potential sex-specific risk factors, such as early-onset menstruation, are increasingly noted during diagnosis but are so far unexplained.

They hope the review will mean changes to the way women’s cardiovascular health is studied and consequently treated in Canada.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2020. 

The Canadian Press

Mysterious “demonic sounds” heard inside McDonald’s

In Pueblo, Colorado at 3:330am Friday morning, terrified McDonald’s employees called police after hearing “‘demonic sounds’ from a screaming woman” inside the restaurant.

According to Pueblo Police captain Tom Rummel, the employees also reported sounds of a “strange language and barking.”

“They were so unnerved by the sounds that they said they wouldn’t be going back outside their building until after the sun came up,” Rummel tweeted. “Three officers searched the area, but didn’t come up with the source of the disturbance.”

(Pueblo Chieftain)

image: transformation of photo by Towinn (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Woman stabbed, another assaulted on San Francisco’s Embarcadero; man arrested

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A man is in custody after a woman was stabbed and another assaulted along the Embarcadero.

The first attack happened just before 7 a.m. Saturday along Pier 19.

Police said the woman was stabbed by a man who got away on a bike.

Then just 10 minutes later, there was another attack near Pier 39.

In that incident, police say a man attacked a woman with a tool.

The man was arrested but what led to the violence is unclear.

The man’s name is not being released.

Detectives are still looking for more witnesses.

Anyone with information is asked to call the San Francisco Police Department.

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Cool retro console lets you play Conway’s Game of Life

Love Hultén, who makes retrofuturistic game consoles, built this thing called an EvoBoxx, which lets you play mathematician John Horton Conway’s Game of Life, a cellular automaton he devised in 1970. “The game is a zero-player game,” writes Hultén, “meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. One interacts with the Game of Life by creating an initial configuration and observing how it evolves, or, for advanced players, by creating patterns with particular properties.”

If you don’t have an EvoBoxx, you can play The Game of Life here.

Image: Love Hultén