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Last updated 21 Apr, 04:16 AM

BBC News

US House approves crucial $61bn aid package for Ukraine war effort - The long-stalled package could be vital for Ukraine, which is struggling to contain Russia's invasion.

Vape firm believes 'pivot' on its products will help it survive disposables ban - Elfbar-maker will "pivot" to reusable vapes, says distributor, but critics say it is exploiting a loophole.

Minister 'deeply concerned' by Met protest row - Policing minister Chris Philp is set to meet the commissioner after an officer described a campaigner as "openly Jewish".

Damage seen at Iran air base after Israeli attack - Satellite imagery analysis by BBC Verify reveals damage from Friday's Israeli strike on Iran

Why are we so ill? The working-age health crisis - The number of under 65s struggling with poor health is rising - and it's a threat to the economy.

The Register

Microsoft teases deepfake AI that's too good to release - VASA-1 framework can turn a still image and a cloned voice file into a plausible video of a person talking Microsoft this week demoed VASA–1, a framework for creating videos of people talking from a still image, audio sample, and text script, and claims – rightly – it's too dangerous to be released to the public.…

Lightweight LXQt 2.0.0 updates to same toolkit as KDE Plasma 6 - 4-letter survivor's move to Qt 6 means that, love it or hate it, Wayland is looming Version 2.0 of the LXQt desktop updates its foundations to Qt 6, as also used in KDE Plasma 6 – but still has one foot in the Qt 5 past, to ease the transition.…

Tesla Cybertruck turns into world's most expensive brick after car wash - Bulletproof? Is it waterproof? Ts&Cs say: 'Failure to put Cybertruck in Car Wash Mode may result in damage' The perils of turning cars into computers were laid bare by a hapless Cybertruck owner who claimed his ride was rendered an $80,000 "paperweight" by something as benign as a wash.…

A knotty problem: Boffins working on fuel-efficient trajectories for space travel - Not yet the London Underground style efficient schematic we want, but it's a start Boffins at the UK's Surrey Space Centre have devised a way of determining the optimal route for spacecraft that doesn't require the engines to burn precious fuel.…

Google squashes AI teams together in push for fresh models - You can leave your personal vendettas at home – we have work to do, Pichai warns Google is consolidating the various teams working on generative AI under the DeepMind team in a bid to accelerate development of more capable systems.…

New Scientist - News

Ancient humans lived inside a lava tube in the Arabian desert - Underground tunnels created by lava flows provided humans with shelter for thousands of years beneath the hot desert landscape of Saudi Arabia

How cannabis gets you high and alters your perception - 20 April is weed's unofficial holiday. In honour of the special day, we collected our answers to all your cannabis questions. This is the science of 420

Early humans spread as far north as Siberia 400,000 years ago - A site in Siberia has evidence of human presence 417,000 years ago, raising the possibility that hominins could have reached North America much earlier than we thought

Knot theory could help spacecraft navigate crowded solar systems - It can be difficult to figure out how to move a spacecraft from one orbit to another, but a trick from knot theory can help find spots where shifting orbits becomes easy

Animals may help ecosystems store 3 times more carbon than we thought - Carbon storage calculations don’t always take into account the effects of animals – when they eat, defecate and die, they help store lots of carbon

Hacker News

Racket Language - Comments

I bought 300 emoji domain names from Kazakhstan and built an email service (2021) - Comments

Scientists discover first nitrogen fixing organelle - Comments - Comments

Financial market applications of LLMs - Comments


Insufficient Redundancy? Light-Pole Installation Cut Fiber Line, Triggered Three-State 911 Outage - "Workers installing a light pole in Missouri cut into a fiber line," reports the Associated Press, knocking out 911 phone service "for emergency agencies in Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota, an official with the company that operates the line said Thursday." In Kansas City, Missouri, workers installing a light pole for another company Wednesday cut into a Lumen Technologies fiber line, Lumen global issues director Mark Molzen said in an email to The Associated Press. Service was restored within 2 1/2 hours, he said. There were no reports of 911 outages in Kansas City... The Dundy County Sheriff's Office in Nebraska warned in a social media post Wednesday night that 911 callers would receive a busy signal and urged people to instead call the administrative phone line. About three hours later, officials said mobile and landline 911 services had been restored. In Douglas County, home to Omaha and more than a quarter of Nebraska's residents, officials first learned there was a problem when calls from certain cellphone companies showed up in a system that maps calls but didn't go through over the phone. Operators started calling back anyone whose call didn't go through, and officials reached out to Lumen, which confirmed the outage. Service was restored by 4 a.m. Kyle Kramer, the technical manager for Douglas County's 911 Center, said the outage highlights the potential problems of having so many calls go over the same network. "As things become more interconnected in our modern world, whether you're on a wireless device or a landline now, those are no longer going over the traditional old copper phone wires that may have different paths in different areas," Kramer said. "Large networks usually have some aggregation point, and those aggregation points can be a high risk." Kramer said this incident and the two previous 911 outages he has seen in the past year in Omaha make him concerned that communications companies aren't building enough redundancy into their networks. South Dakota officials called the state-wide outage "unprecedented," with their Department of Public Safety reporting the outage lasted two hours (though texting to 911 still worked in most locations — and of course, people could still call local emergency services using their non-emergency lines.) America's FCC has already begun an investigation. The article notes that "The outages, ironically, occurred in the midst of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader davidwr for sharing the article. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Volla Successfully Crowdfunds a Privacy-Focused Tablet on Kickstarter - It's "the new generation of Tablet for simplicity and privacy..." according to its Kickstarter page. "Top-tier performance, lightweight design and completely Google-free." And it's already reached its funding goal of $53,312 — climbing to over $75,000 from 115 backers with another 26 days still to go. 9to5Linux reports: Volla, the maker of the Volla Phone smartphones, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for their first tablet device, the Volla Tablet, which will also support the Ubuntu Touch mobile OS. Featuring a 12.3-inch Quad HD display with 2650Ã--1600 pixel resolution, the Volla Tablet uses a powerful MediaTek Gaming G99 8-core processor, 12 GB RAM, and 256 GB internal storage. It also comes with a long-lasting 10,000 mAh battery, 2G/3G/4G cellular network support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 13+5 MP main camera. By default, Volla Tablet ships with Volla OS 13, Volla's in-house operating system based on the free Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but users will be able to buy the tablet with Ubuntu Touch featuring built-in convergence and support for Android apps with WayDroid container. "Users will also be able to use desktop apps like Firefox or LibreOffice thanks to the help of the Libertine container," according to the article. ("Volla says that Volla Tablet with Ubuntu Touch is ideal for Linux enthusiasts and minimalists seeking a simplified, efficient, and familiar operating system experience.") Its Kickstarter page points out the tablet even offers options like " VPN" and private speech recognition that's "cloud-independent for secure, confidential interactions." ("For U.S. users, please note that only roaming SIM cards from abroad can be used.") Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Could the Earth's Record Hot Streak Signal a New Climate Era? - South America's Amazon River has reached its lowest level since measurements began, according to the Washington Post, while temperatures "hovered above 110 degrees Fahrenheit" for nearly a week as April began in the capital of Mali. "Nights offered little relief, with temperatures often staying above 90 degrees..." "An overtaxed electrical grid sputtered and shut down," they add, and "dehydration and heat stroke became epidemic... At the city's main hospital, doctors recorded a month's worth of deaths in just four days. Local cemeteries were overwhelmed." The historic heat wave that besieged Mali and other parts of West Africa this month — which scientists say would have been "virtually impossible" in a world without human-caused climate change — is just the latest manifestation of a sudden and worrying surge in global temperatures. Fueled by decades of uncontrolled fossil fuel burning and an El Niño climate pattern that emerged last June, the planet this year breached a feared warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Nearly 19,000 weather stations have notched record high temperatures since January 1. Each of the last ten months has been the hottest of its kind. The scale and intensity of this hot streak is extraordinary even considering the unprecedented amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, researchers say. Scientists are still struggling to explain how the planet could have exceeded previous temperature records by as much as half a degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) last fall. What happens in the next few months, said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, could indicate whether Earth's climate has undergone a fundamental shift — a quantum leap in warming that is confounding climate models and stoking ever more dangerous weather extremes. But even if the world returns to a more predictable warming trajectory, it will only be a temporary reprieve from the conditions that humanity must soon confront, Schmidt said. "Global warming continues apace." Will this summer's La Niña cool things off? More atmospheric research is underway, and "Schmidt says it's too soon to know how worried the world should be," according to the article. But he does raise this possibility. "What if the statistical connections that we are basing our predictions on are no longer valid?" "It's niggling at the back of my brain that it could be that the past is no longer a guide to the future." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Passes Bill Reauthorizing 'FISA' Surveillance for Two More Years - Late Friday night the U.S. Senate "reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a key. U.S. surveillance authority," reports Axios, "shortly after it expired in the early hours Saturday morning." The reauthorization came despite bipartisan concerns about Section 702, which allows the government to collect communications from non-U.S. citizens overseas without a warrant. The legislation passed the Senate 60 to 34, with 17 Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 16 Republicans voting "nay." It extends the controversial Section 702 for two more years. The bill had already passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, explains CNN: Under FISA's Section 702, the government hoovers up massive amounts of internet and cell phone data on foreign targets. Hundreds of thousands of Americans' information is incidentally collected during that process and then accessed each year without a warrant — down from millions of such queries the US government ran in past years. Critics refer to these queries as "backdoor" searches... According to one assessment, it forms the basis of most of the intelligence the president views each morning and it has helped the U.S. keep tabs on Russia's intentions in Ukraine, identify foreign efforts to access US infrastructure, uncover foreign terror networks and thwart terror attacks in the U.S. An interesting detail from The Verge: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced an amendment that would have struck language in the House bill that expanded the definition of "electronic communications service provider." Under the House's new provision, anyone "who has access to equipment that is being or may be used to transmit or store wire or electronic communications." The expansion, Wyden has claimed, would force "ordinary Americans and small businesses to conduct secret, warrantless spying." The Wyden-Hawley amendment failed 34-58, meaning that the next iteration of the FISA surveillance program will be more expansive than before. Saturday morning the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill banning TikTok if its Chinese owner doesn't sell the app. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

JWST Gets an IMAX Documentary: 'Deep Sky' - A large-screen IMAX documentary about the James Webb Space Telescope "has just opened in 300 theaters across North America," write an anonymous Slashdot reader, noting that it's playing for one week only. "And it gets a rave review in Forbes." Imagine venturing to the beginning of time and space, exploring cosmic landscapes so vast and beautiful that they've remained unseen by human eyes until now. This is the promise of "Deep Sky," an extraordinary IMAX presentation that brings the universe's awe-inspiring mysteries closer than ever before. Directed by the Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn and narrated by the equally acclaimed actress Michelle Williams, "Deep Sky" is a monumental journey through the cosmos, powered by the groundbreaking images captured by NASA's Webb Telescope... "Deep Sky" is more than a documentary about a space telescope; it's an immersive experience that invites audiences to see the universe as never before. Through the power of IMAX, viewers are transported across 13 billion years of cosmic history, to the very edges of the observable universe. Here, in stunning clarity, we witness the birth of stars, the formation of galaxies, and the eerie beauty of exoplanets — planets that orbit stars beyond our own Sun. These images, beamed back to Earth by JWST, reveal the universe's vast beauty on a scale that seems only the giant IMAX screen can begin to convey... What makes "Deep Sky" particularly captivating is its ability to render the incomprehensible beauty and scale of the universe accessible. The IMAX® experience, known for its breathtaking visuals and sound, serves as the perfect medium to convey the majesty of the cosmos. The review says the film celebrates the achieve of thousands of people working across decades, "aiming to answer some of humanity's oldest questions: Where did we come from? How did the universe begin? Are we alone in the vastness of space?" The reviewer also spoke to JWST telescope scientist Matt Mountain — in another article applauding the film for "encapsulating the grandeur of space exploration on the IMAX canvas." In "Deep Sky," viewers are taken on a journey from the telescope's construction to its deployment and early operational phases. The documentary highlights the international collaboration and engineering marvels behind the JWST, featuring insights from key scientists and engineers who brought the telescope to life. The film aims to rekindle a sense of wonder about the universe and our place within it, emphasizing the human desire to explore and understand the cosmos. Read more of this story at Slashdot.