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Six extra hours helped Amazon to lift Prime Day's traffic, but its hourly rates fell: SimilarWeb

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Six extra hours helped Amazon to lift its Prime Day traffic by 5% overall, compared to the same time last year, but its hourly visitor numbers fell by 12.6%, according to new SimilarWeb analysis.
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superiphi
21 days ago
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the product selection was mediocre in the UK I am amazed they managed to lift it
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
fxer
20 days ago
sucked in the US too, all I bought was discount giftcards
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sirshannon
20 days ago
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The site being broken for hours probably affected this.

One of Europe's last primeval forests crumbles in the hands of the Polish government

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Online petitions demanding protection of Białowieża Forest have gathered enormous amounts of signatures: 243.523 on WeMove.eu, and 192.480 on Rainforest Rescue.

For two and a half years, environmentalists have waged a war with the Polish authorities for Białowieża Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe's last and largest remaining patches of Europe's original primeval forest.

In April 2018, the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, ruled that Poland violated EU laws by logging in the forest, imposing fines of a minimum of 4.3 million euros (five million US dollars), potentially rising to 100,000 euros a day, if the felling doesn't stop.

In March 2016, former Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyzko, a member of the Law and Justice party who's backed by forester lobbies, approved tripling the amount of wood that could be harvested from Białowieża, allegedly to combat  an infestation by the bark beetle. In July, a handful of Polish environmental organizations filed a formal complaint to the European Commission, which then sued Poland in the EU Court of Justice.

Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, Białowieża includes extensive undisturbed areas and is home to a rich wildlife of which 59 mammal species, including the European bison. But while on the Belarussian side over 80 percent of its extension is circumscribed under a national park, only 17 percent of Poland's forest enjoys a similar level of protection.

Watchdog environmental organizations say at least 160,000-180,000 trees have been felled since Szyzko's 2016 new management plan.

Neglect for the environment is an issue touching all corners of Eastern Europe. In Romania, Greenpeace estimates that three hectares of trees are lost every hour in the Carpathian mountains, also home to one of Europe's last patches of primeval forest. In Slovakia, official declarations that forests are growing undermined by aerial photography.

In Poland, Szyzko was eventually sacked in January 2017, only days after another controversial bill which he had sponsored was approved in parliament. The bill removes the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees or to inform local authorities that trees have been or will be removed.

The new environment minister, Henryk Kowalczyk, agreed to comply with the EU’s decision, but controversy still surrounds his administration. In May, he established a team to envision a long-term plan for the forest, including plans to replant the logged areas, which environmentalists claim could do more harm than good.

The protests

In May 2017, protestors established a permanent camp in the forest, often chaining themselves to harvest machines. The settlement, organized on a bottom-up basis, encouraged the development of online petitions and international awareness.

The situation detonated when some protestors were forcibly removed from the area, in handcuffs, by the Forestry Corps, and a legal ban was put in place to forbid entry to certain parts of the land. By the height of 2017 Summer, the Environment Ministry had declared any opposition to logging would be seen as political opposition.

As Poland’s state media, which had been increasingly subject of intervention by the government of the conservative Law and Justice party, began to attack these protests with vitriol, campaigners decided to season their message with patriotic sentiment, promoting a message of national heritage that is in line with the party's ideas.

A digital 3D model of the forest, produced by a collaboration between Greenpeace and Minecraft, allows players to explore Białowieża complete with biodiversity and weather patterns. Called “To the Last Tree Standing”, the game eventually removes the trees from players’ sight without warning, leaving them scrambling to find the last one.



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superiphi
22 days ago
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Sure, it's bad. But saying that they are worse on environmental neglect is a bit weird when coming from countries who have wiped out their primeval forests totally.
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
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Las Vegas shooting: Mandalay Bay hotel owner sues 1,000 victims

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The lawsuit is an attempt to avoid liability for a 2017 mass gun attack that killed 58 people.
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superiphi
22 days ago
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Victims are suing the hotel (why?) so the hotel sues back?
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
Technicalleigh
32 days ago
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DaFUQ?!?
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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MotherHydra
19 days ago
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TL;DR- this is why we can't have nice things.
Only the lawyers win this one as all the greedy asses scramble to profit from senseless tragedy.
Space City, USA
peelman
19 days ago
this can’t pass the smell test...no judge in his right mind would let this in his courtroom...

European court ruling raises hurdles for CRISPR crops | Science

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By Erik Stokstad

Hopes for an easier regulatory road for genetic engineering in European agriculture were dashed today by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In a closely watched decision, the court ruled that plants created with new gene-editing techniques that don’t involve transferring genes between organisms—such as CRISPR—must go through the same lengthy approval process as traditional transgenic plants.

Many researchers had argued that regulators should take a lighter touch when evaluating products created with the new technologies, but environmental groups and their allies successfully argued that they should be subject to the same EU rules that apply to other genetically modified organisms.

“We applaud the European Court of Justice for this forward-thinking decision,” said Dana Perls, senior food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Washington, D.C., in a statement. “All products made with genetic engineering, including ones made with gene-editing tools like CRISPR, should be regulated, assessed for health and environmental impacts, and labeled.” FOE’s affiliate in France was part of a coalition of groups that brought the case.

Many researchers were less pleased. “This is going to impact plant breeding in Europe hugely and negatively,” predicted Cathie Martin, a group leader at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, U.K., in a statement distributed by the Science Media Centre in London.

The ruling is “the death blow for plant biotech in Europe,” said Sarah Schmidt of the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf in Germany. It will force gene-edited plants to go through a regulatory process that typically costs about $35 million, she said, meaning only large companies will be able to foot the bill, effectively pricing out universities, nonprofits, and small companies.

The case focused on crops that have been made resistant to herbicides without transferring genes from other species. (The transgenic technique has been the typical way of creating herbicide-tolerant crops.) The French government had passed a law exempting these new gene-edited crops from regulation under the European Union’s directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which requires an assessment of risks to health and the environment, as well as labeling, tracking, and monitoring of the products. Confédération Paysanne, a French union in Bagnolet representing small farms, and eight other groups, sued and charged that the plants modified with gene-editing techniques should be regulated under the GMO directive, because they could cause significant harm.

The court decided that gene-editing techniques are covered by the GMO directive because they “alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally.” (The court exempted conventional mutagenesis—the unnatural use of chemicals or radiation to create mutations for plant breeding—because it has “a long safety record.”) It also said the new gene-editing techniques have risks that could be similar to those of transgenic engineering.

Those findings drew criticism from some researchers. “To classify gene-edited crops as GMOs and equivalent to transgenic crops is completely incorrect by any scientific definition,” said Nick Talbot, a molecular geneticist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. “Precise modern gene-editing technologies allow accurate, predictable changes to be made in a genome.”

The court also asserted that gene-editing techniques “make it possible to produce genetically modified varieties at a rate out of all proportion to those resulting from the application of conventional methods of mutagenesis.” Schmidt said she was “shocked” by this claim. Maurice Moloney, CEO of the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatoon, Canada, called it “logically absurd” that gene editing was riskier than the random mutagenesis used in conventional breeding.

In its statement, FOE said it hopes U.S. regulators would follow the lead of the European court. So far, however, U.S. officials have said they have no plans to subject most gene-edited crops to the same regulatory process used for transgenic crops.

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superiphi
22 days ago
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It'd make sense to look into the 'process that typically takes 35 millions' and see if that can perhaps be reduced drastically.
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
satadru
23 days ago
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This is a terrible decision by the European courts.
New York, NY
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Amazon wrongly IDed 28 members of Congress, and they’re not happy about it

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In the wake of the

American Civil Liberties Union’s test where 28 members of Congress were wrongly identified

as arrestees via its

Rekognition

facial recognition service, some of those lawmakers have now raised serious concerns to the tech giant.

For now, Amazon has neither answered their questions, nor Ars’.

"We request an immediate meeting with you to discuss how to address the defects of this technology in order to prevent inaccurate outcomes," wrote Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-California) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), in a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos.

Those two members of the House of Representatives were among the 28 that were falsely identified as being amidst a group of 25,000 mugshots.

The 28 also included Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Illinois), and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-California), who separately wrote to the company on Thursday, asked the company to answer specific questions and requests, with a deadline of August 20.

Please describe in detail how Amazon tests for facial recognition accuracy, how often Amazon tests, and whether these results have been independently verified.

Please also describe in detail show Amazon tests for bias in its facial recognition results, especially racial bias.

Please provide a list of all law enforcement or intelligence agencies that (1) Amazon has contacted or otherwise communicated with regarding acquisition of Rekognition and (2) currently use the Rekognition service. In addition to your response to this letter, we encourage Amazon to include a list of government Rekognition customers in its next transparency report.

Amazon did not respond to Ars’ question as to whether Bezos or any other company executive would be meeting with these concerned members of Congress.

Another legislator, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), who was not among the 28 identified, also brought up other issues:

In a statement sent to Ars late Wednesday and other media outlets on Thursday, Amazon said that its 80 percent confidence threshold was not precise enough for human faces, a point that the ACLU pushed back on.

Amazon

Jacob Snow, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said in his own statement on Thursday:

In addition to remaining silent on these very real concerns that members of Congress, community groups, and Amazon’s own employees, shareholders, and consumers have raised repeatedly, Amazon is acknowledging that Rekognition – a product that it aggressively markets to law enforcement – can and will misidentify people by default. That’s downright dangerous, and there’s more:

We know from our test that Amazon makes no effort to ask users what they are using Rekognition for. Instead, Rekognition sets one default: the same 80 percent we used in running our test.

We also know that Amazon’s website, right now, shows the use of an 80 percent confidence for recognizing human faces. It shows that Amazon is recommending an 80 percent confidence score in ‘Face-Based User Verification.’ If an 80 percent threshold is not ‘appropriate for identifying individuals with a reasonable level of certainty,’ why is Amazon highlighting that confidence level for recognizing human faces?

On Thursday afternoon, Jesse Freund, an Amazon spokesman, contacted Ars to say that our earlier reporting on the ACLU report was "inaccurate." However, he declined to explain further without going "on background," which we declined. He also did not explain why he would not speak on the record.

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superiphi
22 days ago
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80% is not good enough in a country where jumpy cops kill people for nothing
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
satadru
23 days ago
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I have well over 80% confidence that the Minority Report jokes will literally write themselves.
New York, NY
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Major Bluetooth Vulnerability

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Bluetooth has a serious security vulnerability:

In some implementations, the elliptic curve parameters are not all validated by the cryptographic algorithm implementation, which may allow a remote attacker within wireless range to inject an invalid public key to determine the session key with high probability. Such an attacker can then passively intercept and decrypt all device messages, and/or forge and inject malicious messages.

Paper. Website. Three news articles.

This is serious. Update your software now, and try not to think about all of the Bluetooth applications that can't be updated.

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superiphi
22 days ago
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Glad I have few Bluetooth devices, and nearly all are speakers
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
kazriko
24 days ago
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Ohh, yeah, that's problematic. I'm pretty sure my headphones and bluetooth audio transmitter can't be updated.
Colorado Plateau
VenTatsu
23 days ago
I'm more woried about my bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. Or the fact that about half the developers in my office use Macs with bluetooth keyboards.
superiphi
22 days ago
it's probably wise not to make hands free calls on those you have a doubt about.
kazriko
22 days ago
There's doubts about basically all of them unless they get a firmware update, and I think the only headphones I have that have ever gotten a firmware update were the Wearhaus Arc... And those have a broken headband.
superiphi
21 days ago
yes but if all your device can do is receive music, there's not much that can be done by it being compromised. Whereas a device that can send commands back, like a smartwatch, keyboard, mouse, smart speaker etc is a bigger problem
kazriko
21 days ago
Ah, that reminds me. I need to make sure to update to the Rebble firmware once they get that stable...
denubis
24 days ago
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Sydney, Australia
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skorgu
23 days ago
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LOL
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