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Last updated 02 Feb, 07:04 AM

BBC News - Home

Russian army officer admits: 'Our troops tortured Ukrainians' - The former senior lieutenant tells the BBC he witnessed the mistreatment of prisoners.

UK interest rates: How high could they go and how a rise would affect you - The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates later, pushing some mortgages up further.

Avian flu spills over from birds to mammals in UK - Scientists will monitor the virus, but UK health chiefs say the risk to the public is very low.

Raab bullying probe another ticking time bomb under PM - Ministers say they expect Rishi Sunak's deputy to be the next senior figure to be shown the door.

Water bills to increase by most in almost 20 years from April - The annual bill for the average household in England and Wales will go up by £31, Water UK says.

The Register

Wind, solar power outstrip fossil fuel generation for EU - Coal is cooked and gas is dissipating, as renewables delivered a fifth of all EU juice in 2022 Take that, energy crisis: Wind and solar power generation rose to record levels in the EU last year, overtaking natural gas as an energy source for the first time and preventing a wider return to coal.…

Microsoft warns some Azure usage notifications – including abnormalities – are broken - There's a lot of manual work to do from now to March to make sure you don't break the cloud bank Microsoft has warned its partner community that real-time tracking and notifications of customers' Azure spend is broken until mid-March, creating the possibility that spending overruns will go undetected.…

India sidelines Big Tech in push for farming cloud, goes open source instead - Also cuts import duties to attract EV-battery makers and keep smartphone factories humming India has sidelined Big Tech in its pursuit of a cloud for its agricultural industry.…

China reportedly producing quantum computers – good luck observing one - More supposition than superposition as local media goes on Sci-Fi journey Quantum computers have started rolling off the production line in China, according to local media reports.…

Datadog allegedly asked developer to kill open source data export tool - But the code creator has revived the abandoned code for OpenTelemetry After a delay of over a year, an open source code contribution to enable the export of data from Datadog's Application Performance Monitoring (APM) platform finally got merged on Tuesday into a collection of OpenTelemetry components.…

New Scientist - News

Antidepressants mostly can't treat chronic pain, despite wide use - Ongoing pain, such as chronic back or neck pain, is difficult to treat, so some doctors prescribe antidepressants. Now, a review of evidence says these drugs mostly don't work as a treatment

Vikings brought horses and dogs to England, cremated bones confirm - The first physical proof that Vikings brought horses and dogs to England has been unearthed

Neanderthals hunted enormous elephants that fed 100 people for a month - Analysis of cut marks on elephant bones suggests every scrap of meat and fat was removed from the big beasts

Tweets reveal hardware stores cause disgust but motels bring joy - A study of more than 1.5 million tweets over one year suggests that people in San Francisco feel disgusted when at hardware stores and Londoners are most joyful at motels

Ancient Egyptians used exotic oils from distant lands to make mummies - A workshop used for mummification at Saqqara in Egypt contains remnants of the substances used to make mummies, revealing many came from southern Africa or South-East Asia

Hacker News

For police PR flacks, quack lives matter - Comments

Easter egg in flight path of last 747 delivery flight - Comments

Some insects I found inside dried Turkish figs from Trader Joe’s - Comments

Anki and GPT-3 - Comments

ChatGPT Plus - Comments


Study Reveals Links Between UK Air Pollution and Mental Ill-Health - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Long-term exposure to even comparatively low levels of air pollution could cause depression and anxiety, according to a study exploring the links between air quality and mental ill-health. Tracking the incidence of depression and anxiety in almost 500,000 UK adults over 11 years, researchers found that those living in areas with higher pollution were more likely to suffer episodes, even when air quality was within official limits. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, the researchers, from the universities of Oxford and Beijing and Imperial College London, said their findings suggested a need for stricter standards or regulations for air pollution control. The researchers drew on the data of 389,185 participants from the UK Biobank, modeling and giving a score to the air pollution, including PM2.5 and PM10, nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide for the areas in which they lived. They found 13,131 cases of depression and 15,835 of anxiety were identified among their sample within a follow-up period of about 11 years. As air pollution increased, the researchers found, so did cases of depression and anxiety. Exposure-response curves were non-linear, however, with steeper slopes at lower levels and plateauing trends at higher exposure, suggesting that long-term exposure to low levels of pollution were just just as likely to lead to diagnoses as exposure to higher levels. "Considering that many countries' air quality standards are still well above the latest World Health Organization global air quality guidelines 2021, stricter standards or regulations for air pollution control should be implemented in the future policy making," the researchers wrote. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How a Tiny Radioactive Capsule Was Found In Western Australia - A radioactive capsule that was reported lost in Western Australia on January 25 has been found. The BBC reports: On 25 January, when mining company Rio Tinto reported that one of their Caesium-137 radioactive capsules had gone missing, Western Australian authorities faced a seemingly impossible task. They had to locate a pea-sized capsule anywhere along a 1,400km (870 mile) route stretching from the Gudai-Darri mine in the north of the state to a depot just north of Perth's city centre. Authorities sprung into action, mobilizing specialist search crews to look for the capsule, with firefighters among those asked to foray from their usual summer tasks. [...] Before notifying the public to the threat, on 26 January, authorities began searching in Perth and around the mine site in Newman. On January 27, an urgent health warning was issued to notify the public about the risk posed by the radioactive capsule. Health authorities had a simple message to anyone who may come across it: Stay away. "It emits both beta rays and gamma rays so if you have it close to you, you could either end up with skin damage including skin burns," the state's Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson warned. By January 27, search parties were in full force looking for the tiny capsule. But they were not scouting for it using their eyes - they were using portable radiation survey meters. The survey meters are designed to detect radioactivity within a 20m radius. Police focused their efforts on the GPS route the truck had taken, and on sites close to Perth's metropolitan and high-density areas. One site along the Great Northern Highway was prioritized by police on 28 January after unusual activity on a Geiger counter - a device used for measuring radioactivity - was reported by a member of public. But that search did not uncover the capsule. The next day, additional resources requested from Australia's federal government had been approved and those overseeing the search began planning its next phase. With the new equipment in Western Australia and ready for use by 30 January, the search ramped up. An incident controller at the state's emergency services department, Darryl Ray, described the new tools provided by the government only as "specialized radiation detection equipment." Local media reported that radiation portal monitors and a gamma-ray spectrometer were among the new items being used by search crews. But by the end of 31 January, the capsule continued to evade search crews. So the next morning, when the government revealed the capsule had been found just two meters off the side of the highway at 11:13 local time Wednesday, it seemed the all-but-impossible had been achieved. "You can only imagine it's a pretty lonely stretch of road from Newman down to Perth," Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said at a press conference on Wednesday. "You can't help but imagine there was an element of surprise from the people in the car when the equipment did spike up." While hesitant to give the exact location the radioactive capsule was found, Mr Klemm described it as "the best possible outcome." Local media reports suggest it was found some 74km from Newman - so around 200km from the mine site. No one appeared to have been injured by the capsule, according to authorities, and it did not seem to have moved from where it fell. Mr Klemm said the additional resources from the federal government proved key to finding the capsule. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Snap Hints At Future AR Glasses Powered By Generative AI - On Tuesday's fourth-quarter earnings call, Snapchat maker Snap revealed that its future AR glasses will be powered by generative AI technology. TechCrunch reports: Social media company and Snapchat maker Snap has for years defined itself as a "camera company," despite its failures to turn its photo-and-video recording glasses known as Spectacles into a mass-market product and, more recently, its decision to kill off its camera-equipped drone. [...] Snap CEO Evan Spiegel agreed that, in the near term, there were a lot of opportunities to use generative AI to make Snap's camera more powerful. However, he noted that further down the road, AI would be critical to the growth of augmented reality, including AR glasses. The exec said that, initially, generative AI could be used to do things like improve the resolution and clarity of a Snap after the user captures it, or could even be used for "more extreme transformations," editing images or creating Snaps based on text input. (We should note that generative AI, at least in the way the term is being thrown around today, is not necessarily required to improve photo resolution.) Spiegel didn't pin any time frames to these types of developments or announce specific products Snap had in the works, but said the company was thinking about how to integrate AI tools into its existing Lens Studio technology for AR developers. "We saw a lot of success integrating Snap ML tools into Lens Studio, and it's really enabled creators to build some incredible things. We now have 300,000 creators who built more than 3 million lenses in Lens Studio," Spiegel told investors. "So, the democratization of these tools, I think, will also be very powerful," he added, in reference to the future integrations of AI tech. What's most interesting, perhaps, was the brief insight Spiegel offered about how Snap foresees the potential for AI when used in AR glasses. Though Snap's Spectacles have not broken any sales records, the company continues to develop the product. The most recent version, the Spectacles 3, expands beyond recording standard photos and video with the addition of new tools like 3D filters and AR graphics. Spiegel suggested that AI could have an impact on this product as well, thanks to its ability to improve the process of building for AR. "We can use generative AI to help build more of these 3D models very quickly, which can really unlock the full potential of AR and help people make their imagination real in the world," Spiegel added. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Galaxy Book3 Ultra Is Samsung's Shot At the MacBook Pro - At the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2023 event today, Samsung announced the Galaxy Book3 Ultra, a 16-inch workstation laptop with a 120Hz OLED screen, an H-Series Core i7 or Core i9, and an RTX 4050 or 4070 GPU. "Samsung makes a number of Galaxy Book models, but this is the first one of the past few years that has really targeted the deep-pocketed professional user -- that is, the core audience for Apple's high-powered and wildly expensive MacBook Pro 16," reports The Verge. "It'll start at $2,399.99 ($100 cheaper than the base MacBook Pro 16), with a release date still to be announced." From the report: Like its siblings in the Galaxy Book3 line, a big draw of this workstation will be its screen. It's got a 2880 x 1800 120Hz 16:10 OLED display (a welcome change from the 16:9 panels that adorned last year's Galaxy Book2) rated for 400 nits of brightness [...]. Elsewhere, using the device felt pretty similar to using any number of other Samsung Galaxy Books, with a satisfyingly clicky keyboard, a smooth finish, a high-quality build, and a compact chassis. The Ultra is 0.65 inches thick and 3.9 pounds, which is slightly thinner and close to a pound lighter than the 16-inch MacBook Pro that Apple just released [...]. I was able to use a number of Samsung's continuity features, including Second Screen (which allows you to easily use a Galaxy Tab as a second monitor) and Quick Share (which allows you to quickly transfer images and other files between Samsung devices). For Samsung enthusiasts, those seem like handy features that aren't too much of a hassle to set up. The one feature I had issues with was the touchpad -- it registered some of my two-finger clicks as one-finger clicks and wasn't quite picking up all of my scrolls. The units in Samsung's demo area were preproduction devices, so I hope this is a kink Samsung can iron out before the final release. Unfortunately, we don't yet know how it will stack up when it comes to battery life. The M2 generation of MacBooks is very strong on that front -- and given that the Galaxy Book3 Ultra is running a high-resolution screen, a power-hungry H-series processor, and a very power-hungry RTX GPU, I'm a little bit nervous about that. If Samsung can pull off a device that lasts nearly as long as Apple's do, given those factors, hats off to them. Further reading: The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Is a Minor Update To a Spec Monster Samsung, Google and Qualcomm Team Up To Build a New Mixed-Reality Platform Read more of this story at Slashdot.

GoodRx Leaked User Health Data To Facebook and Google, FTC Says - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Millions of Americans have used GoodRx, a drug discount app, to search for lower prices on prescriptions like antidepressants, H.I.V. medications and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases at their local drugstores. But U.S. regulators say the app's coupons and convenience came at a high cost for users: wrongful disclosure of their intimate health information. On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission accused the app's developer, GoodRx Holdings, of sharing sensitive personal data on millions of users' prescription medications and illnesses with companies like Facebook and Google without authorization. [...] From 2017 to 2020, GoodRx uploaded the contact information of users who had bought certain medications, like birth control or erectile dysfunction pills, to Facebook so that the drug discount app could identify its users' social media profiles, the F.T.C. said in a legal complaint. GoodRx then used the personal information to target users with ads for medications on Facebook and Instagram, the complaint said, "all of which was visible to Facebook." GoodRx also targeted users who had looked up information on sexually transmitted diseases on HeyDoctor, the company's telemedicine service, with ads for HeyDoctor's S.T.D. testing services, the complaint said. Those data disclosures, regulators said, flouted public promises the company had made to "never provide advertisers any information that reveals a personal health condition." The company's information-sharing practices, the agency said, violated a federal rule requiring health apps and fitness trackers that collect personal health details to notify consumers of data breaches. While GoodRx agreed to settle the case, it said it disagreed with the agency's allegations and admitted no wrongdoing. The F.T.C.'s case against GoodRx could upend widespread user-profiling and ad-targeting practices in the multibillion-dollar digital health industry, and it puts companies on notice that regulators intend to curb the nearly unfettered trade in consumers' health details. [...] If a judge approves the proposed federal settlement order, GoodRx will be permanently barred from sharing users' health information for advertising purposes. To settle the case, the company also agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty for violating the health breach notification rule. Read more of this story at Slashdot.