AI

AI Helps Grow 6 Billion Roaches at China's Largest Breeding Site (cnet.com) 100

With the help of AI, folks at a Chinese pharmaceutical company are breeding cockroaches by the billions every year, South China Morning Post reports. From a report: Their purpose: To make a "healing potion" that can cure respiratory, gastric and other diseases. The "potion," consumed by over 40 million people in China, is made by crushing the cockroaches once they reach a desired weight and size, according to the publication. There is a "slightly fishy smell" to the potion, which tastes "slightly sweet" and looks like tea, it added. Some insects are known to have potential health benefits. Besides China's cockroach potion, scientists are also exploring how milk-like protein crystals in roaches could be an excellent source of calories and nutrition. Chewing down on bugs like crickets and mealworms can also give us more protein, according to studies.
Android

ZTE Exports Ban May Mean No Google Apps, a Death Sentence For Its Smartphones (arstechnica.com) 139

New submitter krazy1 shares a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. government is going after another Chinese Android device maker. After shutting down Huawei's carrier deals and retail partners, the government is now pursuing ZTE. The U.S. Department of Commerce has banned U.S. companies from selling parts and software to ZTE for seven years. ZTE was caught violating U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. The company then made things worse by "making false statements and obstructing justice, including through preventing disclosure to and affirmatively misleading the U.S. Government," according to the Department of Commerce.

The latest news from Reuters raises even bigger issues for ZTE, though. A source told Reuters that "The Commerce Department decision means ZTE Corp may not be able to use Google's Android operating system in its mobile devices." Android is free and open source and will probably remain free for ZTE to use without Google's involvement. Reuters' source is probably referring to the Google apps, which aren't sold to device makers but are carefully licensed to them in exchange for other concessions. The Google apps package includes popular services like Gmail and Google Maps, and it also unlocks the Play Store, Google Play Services, and the entire Android app ecosystem. For a market-viable Android device, the Play Store is pretty much mandatory in every country other than China. So while ZTE could conceivably source hardware components from non-U.S. sources, being locked out of the Play Store would devastate ZTE's smartphones worldwide.

Privacy

Richard Stallman On Facebook's Privacy Scandal: We Need a Law. There's No Reason We Should Let Them Exist if the Price is Knowing Everything About Us (nymag.com) 359

From a wide-ranging interview of Richard Stallman by New York Magazine: New York Magazine: Why do you think these companies feel justified in collecting that data?

Richard Stallman: Oh, well, I think you can trace it to the general plutocratic neoliberal ideology that has controlled the U.S. for more than two decades. A study established that since 1998 or so, the public opinion in general has no influence on political decisions. They're controlled by the desires of the rich and of special interests connected with whatever issue it is. So the companies that wanted to collect data about people could take advantage of this general misguided ideology to get away with whatever they might have wanted to do. Which happened to be collecting data about people. But I think they shouldn't be allowed to collect data about people.

We need a law. Fuck them -- there's no reason we should let them exist if the price is knowing everything about us. Let them disappear. They're not important -- our human rights are important. No company is so important that its existence justifies setting up a police state. And a police state is what we're heading toward. Most non-free software has malicious functionalities. And they include spying on people, restricting people -- that's called digital restrictions management, back doors, censorship.

Empirically, basically, if a program is not free software, it probably has one of these malicious functionalities. So imagine a driverless car, controlled of course by software, and it will probably be proprietary software, meaning not-free software, not controlled by the users but rather by the company that makes the car, or some other company. Well imagine if that has a back door, which enables somebody to send a command saying, "Ignore what the passenger said, and go there." Imagine what that would do. You can be quite sure that China will use that functionality to drive people toward the places they're going to be disappeared or punished. But can you be sure that the U.S. won't?

China

Huawei To Back Off US Market Amid Rising Tensions (nytimes.com) 91

Huawei is reportedly going to give up on selling its products and services in the United States (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) due to Washington's accusations that the company has ties to the Chinese government. The change in tactics comes a week after the company laid off five American employees, including its biggest American lobbyist. The New York Times reports: Huawei's tactics are changing as its business prospects in the United States have darkened considerably. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to proceed with a new rule that could effectively kill off what little business the company has in the United States. Although the proposed rule does not mention Huawei by name, it would block federally subsidized telecommunications carriers from using suppliers deemed to pose a risk to American national security. Huawei's latest moves suggest that it has accepted that its political battles in the United States are not ones it is likely to win. "Some things cannot change their course according to our wishes," Eric Xu, Huawei's deputy chairman, said at the company's annual meeting with analysts on Tuesday. "With some things, when you let them go, you actually feel more at ease."
United States

US Bans American Companies From Selling To Chinese Electronics Maker ZTE (reuters.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Department of Commerce is banning American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday. The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. It paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed. As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. Update: The UK's cyber security watchdog has warned the UK telecoms sector not to use network equipment or services from Chinese supplier ZTE as it would have a "long term negative effect on the security of the UK."
China

Trade War Or Not, China is Closing the Gap on US in Technology IP Race (reuters.com) 149

China's rising investment in research and expansion of its higher education system mean that it is fast closing the gap with the United States in intellectual property and the struggle to be the No.1 global technology power, according to patent experts. From a report: While U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of punitive tariffs on high-tech U.S. exports could slow Beijing's momentum, it won't turn back the tide, they say. Washington's allegation that the Chinese have engaged in intellectual property theft over many years -- which is denied by Beijing -- is a central reason for the worsening trade conflict between the U.S. and China. Forecasts for how long it will take for Beijing to close the technological gap vary -- though several patent specialists say it could happen in the next decade.

And China is already leapfrogging ahead in a couple of areas. "With the number of scientists China is training every year it will eventually catch up, regardless of what the U.S. does," said David Shen, head of IP for China at global law firm Allen & Overy. Indeed, IP lawyers now see President Xi Jinping's pledge earlier this week to protect foreign IP rights as projecting confidence in China's position as a leading innovator in sectors such as telecommunications and online payments, as well as its ability to catch up in other areas.

United States

Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership (nytimes.com) 313

According to The New York Times, "President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that he was directing his advisers to look into rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source)." The TPP was a contentious issue during the 2016 presidential election as both Democrats and Republicans attacked it. After signaling during the election that he would pull out of the trade deal "on day one" of his presidency, Trump followed through with his plans. From the report: Rejoining the 11-country pact could be a significant change in fortune for many American industries that stood to benefit from the trade agreement's favorable terms and Republican lawmakers who supported the pact. The deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, was largely viewed as a tool to prod China into making the type of economic reforms that the United States and others have long wanted. Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the deal during the president campaign, but many business leaders were disappointed when Mr. Trump withdrew from the agreement, arguing that the United States would end up with less favorable terms attempting to broker an array of individual trade pacts and that scrapping the deal would empower China.

Mr. Trump's decision to reconsider the deal comes as the White House tries to find ways to protect the agriculture sector, which could be badly damaged by the president's trade approach. The risk of an escalating trade war with China has panicked American farmers and ranchers, who send many of their products abroad. China has responded to Mr. Trump's threat of tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods by placing its own tariffs on American pork, and threatening taxes on soybeans, sorghum, corn and beef. Many American agriculturalists maintain that the easiest way to help them is to avoid a trade war with China in the first place. And many economists say the best way to combat a rising China and pressure it to open its market is through multilateral trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which create favorable trading terms for participants.

China

A Wanted Man in China Has Been Caught Because of Facial Recognition Software (fastcompany.com) 146

An anonymous reader writes: The man was reportedly caught after facial recognition software running on cameras at a concert identified him, reports AbacusNews. That's despite there being over 50,000 people attending the concert, which took place in Nanchang, China. Law enforcement in the country has increasingly been turning to facial recognition software to surveil the public for persons of interest.
Japan

Japan Team Maps 'Semi-Infinite' Trove of Rare Earth Elements (japantimes.co.jp) 162

schwit1 quotes a report from The Japan Times: Japanese researchers have mapped vast reserves of rare earth elements in deep-sea mud, enough to feed global demand on a "semi-infinite basis," according to a new study. The deposit, found within Japan's exclusive economic zone waters, contains more than 16 million tons of the elements needed to build high-tech products ranging from mobile phones to electric vehicles, according to the study, released Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team, comprised of several universities, businesses and government institutions, surveyed the western Pacific Ocean near Minamitori Island. In a sample area of the mineral-rich region, the team's survey estimated 1.2 million tons of "rare earth oxide" is deposited there, said the study, conducted jointly by Waseda University's Yutaro Takaya and the University of Tokyo's Yasuhiro Kato, among others. The finding extrapolates that a 2,500-sq. km region off the southern Japanese island should contain 16 million tons of the valuable elements, and "has the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world," the study said.
AI

The US Military Desperately Wants To Weaponize AI (technologyreview.com) 179

Artificial intelligence is a transformative technology, and US generals already see it as the next big weapon in their arsenal. From a report: War-machine learning: Michael Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, signaled how keen the military is to make use of AI at the Future of War 2018 conference held in Washington, DC, yesterday. Saber rattling: "There might be an artificial intelligence arms race, but we're not yet in it," Griffin said. In reference to China and Russia, he added, "I think our adversaries -- and they are our adversaries -- understand very well the possible future utility of machine learning, and I think it's time we did as well."
Businesses

Tech Giants Like Amazon and Facebook Should Be Regulated, Disrupted, or Broken Up: Mozilla Foundation (venturebeat.com) 187

The Mozilla Foundation has called for the regulation of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. From a report: Though tech giants in the U.S. and companies like Alibaba and Tencent in China have "helped billions realize the benefits of the internet," the report calls for regulation of these players to mitagate monopolistic business practices that undermine "privacy, openness, and competition on the web." They box out competitors, restricting innovation in the process, Mozilla wrote today in its inaugural Internet Health Report, "As their capacity to make sense of massive amounts of data grows through advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, their powers are likely to advance into adjacent businesses through vertical integrations into hardware, software, infrastructure, automobiles, media, insurance, and more -- unless we find a way to disrupt them or break them up." Governments should enforce anti-competitive behavior laws and rethink outdated antitrust models when implementing regulation of tech giants, the report states.
Businesses

Linux Computer Maker System76 To Move Manufacturing To the US (opensource.com) 136

An anonymous reader shares a report: Linux computer manufacturer System76 made its mark in part because of its commitment to open source principles and doing what it believes is right. Last year it released its homegrown Linux, Pop!_OS. In early March, System76 founder Carl Richell tweeted about the company's plans to locate its computer manufacturing factory in Denver, Colorado. By moving its manufacturing from China to the United States, System76 is offering more proof that it's not afraid to buck prevailing tech norms to do things "the System76 way." Carl Richell, founder and CEO of System76, says in a Twitter exchange that they anticipate shipping products from the factory by the end of the year.
China

China Removes Four News Apps From Smartphone Stores To Tighten Control (scmp.com) 52

The mobile apps for four popular news apps in China, including the most popular aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of a crackdown by the country's media watchdog, local media reported on Monday. From the report: Toutiao, with about 120 million daily active users, was not available on the app stores of smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Meizu on Monday afternoon. The apps for Tiantian Kuaibao, Netease News and Ifeng News were also not found on Xiaomi. China's authorities have asked several of the country's smartphone app stores to remove the four apps by 3pm on Monday as part of efforts to "regulate order in the broadcasting environment," according to Chinese news portal Sohu.com. The apps will be removed for between three days to three weeks, with Toutiao being offline for the longest period, according to the Sohu report. [...] China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet.
United States

Tech Group Urges US To Recruit Allies To Take on China, Not Tariffs (venturebeat.com) 186

A trade group representing top technology companies on Monday told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that it opposes the Trump administration's focus on tariffs to try to change China's unfair trade practices. From a report: The Information Technology Industry Council said in a letter to Mnuchin that it supports the Trump administration's "Section 301" investigation into China's abuses of intellectual property, but instead of tariffs, it advocates a U.S.-led international coalition to put pressure on Beijing. "Our opposition to tariffs is pragmatic. Tariffs do not work," wrote ITIC President and CEO Dean Garfield. "Instead of tariffs, we strongly encourage the administration to build an international coalition that can challenge China at the World Trade Organization and beyond," Garfield added. "Numerous countries share the United States' concerns about China and its unfair trade practices. The United States is uniquely well-situated to lead that coalition."
Privacy

'Big Brother' In India Requires Fingerprint Scans For Food, Phones, Finances (nytimes.com) 132

The New York Times reports of the Indian government's intent to build an identification system of unprecedented scope. The country is reportedly "scanning the fingerprints, eyes and faces of its 1.3 billion residents (alternative source) and connecting the data to everything from welfare benefits to mobile phones." Here's an excerpt from the report: Civil libertarians are horrified, viewing the program, called Aadhaar, as Orwell's Big Brother brought to life. To the government, it's more like "big brother," a term of endearment used by many Indians to address a stranger when asking for help. For other countries, the technology could provide a model for how to track their residents. And for India's top court, the ID system presents unique legal issues that will define what the constitutional right to privacy means in the digital age. The government has made registration mandatory for hundreds of public services and many private ones, from taking school exams to opening bank accounts.

Technology has given governments around the world new tools to monitor their citizens. In China, the government is rolling out ways to use facial recognition and big data to track people, aiming to inject itself further into everyday life. Many countries, including Britain, deploy closed-circuit cameras to monitor their populations. But India's program is in a league of its own, both in the mass collection of biometric data and in the attempt to link it to everything -- traffic tickets, bank accounts, pensions, even meals for undernourished schoolchildren.

Businesses

Apple Tells the EPA Why Cutting the Clean Power Plan Is a Bad Move (theverge.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple is pushing back against the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan. The company filed a public comment with the EPA today arguing that scrapping the policy, which calls for cutting power plant pollution, would dull the United States' competitive edge in the clean energy economy. The Clean Power Plan (or CPP) was finalized by the Obama administration, and it takes aim at power plants -- the number one carbon polluters in the U.S., according to the Obama-era EPA website. Had the CPP ever taken effect, it would have given power plants until the year 2030 to curb their carbon emissions by about 30 percent, a move that the Obama administration said could protect the environment, public health, and consumer's pocketbooks.

Apple's comment cites the economic advantages of supporting clean energy, including that it provides "corporate electricity buyers with a hedge against fuel price fluctuation." The price of solar and wind don't change like the price of oil, Apple's filing says. (It also notes that China is currently beating the U.S. in clean energy investments.) The company also says that regulating the grid's carbon emissions "power plant by power plant" won't work. It references its own experiences operating with 100 percent renewable energy here in the U.S. and the work of its subsidiary, Apple Energy LLC, which sells the excess electricity the company generates back to the grid. The electricity system is far too interconnected, the filing says, so "regulation should consider the dynamic and interconnected nature of how power is generated, sold and consumed." That's why it supports the clean power plan, which it says provides a nationwide framework for regulating electricity generation: "It is both needed and the smart thing to do."

Communications

Microsoft Touts Breakthrough In Making Chatbots More Conversational (windowscentral.com) 101

In a blog post today, Microsoft said that it has created what it believes is the "first technological breakthrough" toward making conversations with chatbots more like speaking to another person. Windows Central reports: Microsoft says that it has figured out how to make chatbots talk and listen at the same time, allowing them to operate in "full duplex," to use telecommunications jargon. The company says this allows chatbots or assistants to have a flowing conversation with humans, much more akin to how people talk to one another. That stands in contrast to how digital assistants and bots currently work, where only one side can talk at any given time. The technology is already up and running in Xiaolce, Microsoft's AI chatbot currently operating in China. Using "full duplex voice sense," as Microsoft calls it, Xiaolce can more quickly predict what the person it is speaking to will say. "That helps her make decisions about both how and when to respond to someone who is chatting with her, a skill set that is very natural to people but not yet common in chatbots," Microsoft says. Another bonus of the breakthrough is that people interacting with chatbots don't have to use a "wake word" every time they speak during a conversation.
China

US' Proposed China Tariffs Would Target Robotics, Satellites (engadget.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The U.S. Trade Representative has published the list of Chinese products that would be subject to its proposed tech tariffs, and there are a few clear themes. The move would hike the costs of about 1,300 products, including industrial robots, communication satellites, spacecraft and a slew of semiconductors.The aim, as before, is to punish China for allegedly goading American companies into transferring their patents and technology to Chinese firms for the sake of claiming economic superiority. The USTR claimed the proposed tariffs would stymie Chinese plans while "minimizing the impact" on the American economy. The tariffs are still subject to a 60-day notice process that would include public comments until May 11th and a public hearing on May 15th.
Businesses

China Lays Claim To Four Great New Inventions That Have Existed Elsewhere Before (bbc.com) 193

dryriver writes: The BBC has an interesting story about Chinese state media increasingly touting "4 Great New Inventions" in modern China that were not invented by Chinese inventors or in China at all. The original term "four new inventions" harks back to the "four great inventions" of ancient China -- papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass. The new claim, however, appears to be that China actually invented high-speed rail, mobile payment, e-commerce, and bike-sharing, which is not true at all -- all 4 were invented or pioneered in other countries, all of them decades ago. The provenance of the claim appears to be a Beijing Foreign Studies University survey from May 2017, which asked young people from 20 countries to list the technology they "most wanted to bring back" to their country from China. The respondents' top answers were high-speed rail, mobile payment, bike sharing, and e-commerce. Since then, Chinese media and officials have drawn on this to promote these technologies as China's "four new great inventions" in modern times.

China has certainly adopted these "4 great inventions" on a bombastic scale of late. China now has the world's largest high-speed rail network -- about 25,000 kilometres (15,500 miles) -- and aims to double it by 2030. China's total mobile payments in the first 10 months of 2017 stood at $12.7 trillion, the world's largest volume, according to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. And with more than 700 million internet users, China is also the biggest and fastest growing e-commerce market in the world, according to a 2017 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. In February, the vice minister of China's Ministry of Transport said that there are 400 million registered bike-sharing users and 23 million shared bikes in China. That much is true. But did these 4 great new inventions emerge from China itself? It would appear that that part is untrue.

China

Chinese Space Station Burns Up On Re-entry in South Pacific (reviewjournal.com) 54

cold fjord writes: Chinese space authorities say the defunct Tiangong 1 space station mostly burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere over the central South Pacific. The China Manned Space Engineering Office said the experimental space laboratory re-entered around 8:15 a.m. Monday. Scientists monitoring the craft's disintegrating orbit had forecast the craft would mostly burn up and would pose only the slightest of risks to people. Analysis from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center showed it had mostly burned up. Launched in 2011, Tiangong 1 was China's first space station, serving as an experimental platform for bigger projects, such as the Tiangong 2 launched in September 2016 and a future permanent Chinese space station. Two crews of Chinese astronauts lived on the station while testing docking procedures and other operations. Its last crew departed in 2013 and contact with it was cut in 2016.

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