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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Sci-Tech Science & Technology News


Windows update will bring 3-D, game tools and less clutter

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 13:05:58 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — A major update to Microsoft's Windows 10 system will start reaching consumers and businesses on April 11, offering 3-D drawing tools, game-broadcasting capabilities and better ways to manage your web browsing. Microsoft said Wednesday that it will roll out the Creators Update to some 400 million Windows 10 devices worldwide over time. Throughout the day, you're likely using your web browser for a variety of tasks — researching a trip, checking the news and, gasp, doing actual work. Windows 10's Edge browser now has a small icon on the upper left corner for setting aside a group of websites. 3-D images created through paint will be compatible with 3-D printers and printing services. Before, to share live streaming of game play, gamers had to install and activate Beam or a competing service separately. Users with the Home edition of Windows 10 had no options for postponing updates.

Lab opens at Egypt's pyramids to restore pharaonic boat

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 11:56:21 UT

Eissa Zeidan, head of the project's Egyptian restoration team, told The Associated Press that the lab, at the site of the Giza pyramids, was necessary for some of the boat's 1,264 pieces, which are too fragile or large to move.

China affirms climate pledge after Trump rolls back rules

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 11:23:47 UT

BEIJING (AP) — China promised Wednesday to stick to its climate commitments after President Donald Trump eased U.S. curbs on coal and oil use, opening the way for Beijing to assert itself as a leader in environmental policy. Signed by 170 countries, the agreement calls for holding global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in hopes of preventing sea level rise and environmental damage. Despite the lack of a formal commitment, China already is making faster progress than most countries due to official efforts to reduce reliance on steel production and other heavy industry and to promote technology and consumer spending. In a report last week, the environmental groups CoalSwarm, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace said an unexpectedly sharp decline in the number of new coal-fired power plants being built in China and India improved chances that climate targets could be met. Trump's order initiates a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The order covers a range of other Obama-era rules, including repeal of measures to consider the "social cost" of carbon emissions in all regulatory actions and crack down on methane emissions at oil and gas wells.

Environmental groups vowing to fight Trump climate actions

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 11:03:29 UT

CHICAGO (AP) — Environmental groups that have hired scores of new lawyers in recent months are prepared to go to court to fight a sweeping executive order from President Donald Trump that eliminates many restrictions on fossil fuel production and would roll back his predecessor's plans to curb global warming. Advocates said they plan to work together to mobilize a public backlash against an executive order signed by Trump on Tuesday that includes initiating a review of former President Barack Obama's signature plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and lifting a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. [...] this is not what most people elected Trump to do; people support climate action," said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who said Trump's actions are short-sighted and won't bring back the jobs he promised. While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties because of automation and competition from natural gas and because of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

Fears for Indonesian park's rare species as Trump town rises

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 10:34:00 UT

Endangered species include the Javan slow loris (the world's only venomous primate), the Javan leaf monkey, the Javan leopard (whose total population numbers less than 250), and the Javan hawk-eagle and Javan silvery gibbon. Tanoe's MNC Group will build a six-star Trump hotel along with a golf course, country club, luxury condominiums, mansions and villas — billed in its promotional material as a "Trump Community." Together with a theme park, hotels, shops, homes and a dining and entertainment district that MNC is developing on its own, this first stage of "Lido City" will occupy between 800 and 1,000 hectares. Park officials worry construction will cause wildlife to flee and that the mini-city MNC touts as "fulfilling the dream of the people of Indonesia for world-class entertainment" will bring an uncontrollable influx of people and rubbish. Adison said park officials believe company executives are beginning take conservation more seriously, possibly because the Trump Organization's involvement has given the project a higher profile. MNC's corporate secretary said its executives were too busy to be interviewed and did not respond to emailed questions about how the company planned to mitigate environmental damage. Though a private development, Lido City suits the Indonesian government's ambitions to create more tourist destinations it hopes will be as popular as Bali. Because the area is very close and there can be an impact for the environment.

House sends bill to Trump blocking online privacy regulation

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 10:32:55 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has sent President Donald Trump legislation that would kill an online privacy regulation, a move that could eventually allow internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers. The Federal Communications Commission rule issued in October was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information. The vote is part of an extensive effort that Republicans have undertaken to void an array of regulations issued during the final months of Democratic President Barack Obama's tenure. [...] proponents of the privacy measure argued that the company that sells you your internet connection can see even more about consumers, such as every website they visit and whom they exchange emails with. Undoing the FCC regulation leaves people's online information in a murky area. The Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a critic of the broadband privacy rules and has said he wants to roll them back.

EU regrets Trump's reversal of climate policy

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 09:59:18 UT

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has expressed regret about President Donald Trump's decision to undo U.S. policies for fighting global warming and is wondering how he will live up to Washington's international climate commitments.

Chinese demand for elephant ivory drops, new report says

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 08:16:10 UT

Chinese demand for tusks has been driving African elephants toward extinction, experts say. Other factors behind the drop in the price of ivory include an economic slowdown in China resulting in fewer people being able to afford luxury goods, and a crackdown on corruption that has dissuaded business people from buying expensive ivory items as "favors" for government officials, the new report says. The 130 licensed outlets in China gradually have been reducing the quantity of ivory items on display for sale, and recently have been cutting prices to improve sales, the report says.

Troll for the 'lulz'? A target of online abuse isn't amused

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 06:49:23 UT

Schrode, a Democrat and activist who would come in third in the June primary in her Northern California district, had become the latest target of The Daily Stormer, a popular neo-Nazi website known for orchestrating internet trolling campaigns. Over the past 10 months, her email and social media accounts have been polluted with a torrent of slurs and disturbing images. A notorious computer hacker and internet troll associated with The Daily Stormer, Auernheimer scoffs at the notion that anyone can be harmed by "mean words on the internet." Trolling is a calling card of the "alt-right" — an amorphous fringe movement that uses internet memes, message boards and social media to spread a hodgepodge of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and xenophobia. Troll tactics edged into the mainstream with the 2014 birth of GamerGate, an online campaign against feminists in the video game industry. GamerGate arguably provided a blueprint for some white nationalists and other extremists who rallied around Donald Trump's presidential campaign, flooding the internet with "Pepe The Frog" cartoons and other hate symbols. Schrode noticed other spikes in her harassment after she appeared on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show in December and after The Huffington Post published an article she wrote in November about her experience as the target of trolls. In November, Schrode posted a video on Twitter of her getting shot by a rubber bullet while she interviewed a man at the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. Other targets of The Daily Stormer's trolling campaigns have included prominent journalists, a British Parliament member and Alex Jones, a radio host and conspiracy theorist whom Anglin derided as a "Zionist Millionaire." Anglin accused the families of engaging in an "extortion racket" against Spencer's mother and has vowed to lead neo-Nazi skinheads on an armed march through the town. A federal jury convicted him of identity theft and conspiracy charges in 2013 for his role in developing a program that exploited an AT&T security flaw to collect 114,000 email addresses of iPad users. [...] he was released in 2014 after an appeals court panel overturned his convictions, ruling the government improperly charged him in New Jersey when all of his conduct occurred while he was living in Arkansas. Online harassment can be a crime, but Schrode learned how difficult it can be for victims to get help from law enforcement. An agent, she says, told her the messages didn't communicate a "true threat" to physically harm her and therefore didn't rise to the level of a hate crime. Danielle Citron, a University of Maryland law professor and author of the book "Hate Crimes in Cyberspace," said some state and federal officials are striving to educate law enforcement on the laws against cyberstalking and online harassment.

House votes to block Obama-era online privacy rule

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:28:12 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Tuesday to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration, a first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers. The Federal Communications Commission rule was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information. [...] critics said the rule would have added costs, stifled innovation and picked winners and losers among Internet companies. [...] proponents of the privacy measure argued that the company that sells you your internet connection can see even more about consumers, such as every website they visit and whom they exchange emails with. Undoing the FCC regulation leaves people's online information in a murky area.

California, NY vow to fill climate-change void left by Trump

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:22:28 UT

Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York said in a joint statement that they will help fill the void left by Trump's decision to unravel former President Barack Obama's plan to curb global warming. The Republican president has repeatedly criticized his predecessor's climate policies as an attack on American workers and the struggling coal industry. California and New York, home to nearly one in five Americans, have embarked on the nation's most ambitious efforts to reduce the amount of climate-changing gases released into the atmosphere, setting targets that are stricter than the Obama rules that Trump is reversing.

Trump, in break from other world leaders, digs in on coal

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:07:06 UT

The order makes good on Trump's campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama's efforts to curb global warming, eliminating nearly a dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production, especially oil, natural gas and coal. [...] Trump's promise runs counter to market forces, including U.S. utilities converting coal-fired power plants to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas. "There is much our nation can do to address the risks that climate change poses to human health and safety, but disregarding scientific evidence puts our communities in danger," said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation's largest general scientific society. While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from natural gas. According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs. The regulation — Obama's signature effort to curb carbon emissions — has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas. The American Petroleum Institute, the chief lobbying arm of the oil and gas industry, said Trump's new "common-sense" regulations will help continue a domestic energy boom that "benefits American consumers, workers and the environment." The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

Uber diversity: low on women, like other tech companies

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:34:32 UT

[...] Uber's report comes as pressure mounts on the company in light of sexual harassment claims by a former employee, the antics of its embattled CEO Travis Kalanick and ongoing criticisms of a boorish "brogrammer" culture. Other technology companies have not been disclosing this information, but it's possible that they will follow Uber's steps — especially as the industry continues to clash heads with President Donald Trump's administration over immigration issues. The San Francisco company has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an investigation into the sexual harassment charges leveled by the former engineer, Susan Fowler.

Got camera? Facebook adds more Snapchat-like features

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:58:03 UT

The company says it wants to let your camera "do the talking" as more people are posting photos and videos instead of blocks of text. Years ago, Facebook tried to buy the company but was rebuffed. [...] it has been trying, with varying degrees of success, to clone Snapchat's most popular features.

Ivanka Trump, Education Secretary DeVos promote STEM careers

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:29:28 UT

[...] as she spoke, the Trump administration sent Congress a series of "options" for budget cuts, including slashing $3 billion from Education Department, as well as cuts to NASA and the National Institutes of Health. [...] Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said that STEM was not limited to the Education Department and that other agencies, like the Defense Department, where Trump has proposed to increase spending, also have STEM programs. The bills, which Trump signed into law in February, call on NASA to encourage young women to study STEM and empower the National Institutes of Health to support women in turning their scientific work into business ventures.