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Wildfire Smoke and Haze in the Eastern United States Should Peak This Week

An anonymous reader shares a report: There is nothing new about Canadian wildfires in the spring and summer, but what is extraordinary about this year's fires is that so many are active in Quebec, the country's largest province. Typically wildfire season in Canada affects mostly western provinces, such as Alberta. However, this year nearly half of the 423 active wildfires in Canada are in the eastern part of the country, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. Many of these fires are located within a few hundred kilometers of the border with the United States, and with a northerly flow in place, the smoke and haze has swirled down into the Eastern United States. The effects have been profound. On Tuesday, for a time, IQ Air ranked New York City as having the worst air quality in the world, above cities like Delhi, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. As of Wednesday morning, New York only had the second worst air quality in the world. On a normal day, it would not rank among the top thousand cities. Such air, with small particles, is unhealthy. Officials and physicians in New York City have urged residents to remain indoors or wear a mask if they venture outside. For people who are outdoors for an extended period of time, there are serious respiratory issues and other health concerns, physicians said. Air quality problems on Wednesday are likely to be worse farther south in the United States, in areas such as New Jersey and the District of Columbia, due to prevailing wind patterns. A low-pressure system over the northern Atlantic Ocean is driving a northerly flow of winds over Canada and down into the United States. Models of smoke patterns, vertically integrated through the atmosphere, suggest that this flow will reach its greatest extent on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Mid-Atlantic states seeing the worst effects then. Major cities at risk include Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, DC. Overall the effects could be widespread, with smoke and haze trailing as far south as into the Carolinas.

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Apple's New Proton-like Tool Can Run Windows Games on a Mac

If you're hoping to see more Windows games on Mac then those dreams might finally come true soon. From a report: Apple has dropped some big news for game developers at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week, making it far easier and quicker to port Windows games to Mac thanks to a Proton-like environment that can translate and run the latest DirectX 12 Windows games on macOS. Apple has created a new Game Porting Toolkit that's similar to the work Valve has done with Proton and the Steam Deck. It's powered by source code from CrossOver, a Wine-based solution for running Windows games on macOS. Apple's tool will instantly translate Windows games to run on macOS, allowing developers to launch an unmodified version of a Windows game on a Mac and see how well it runs before fully porting a game. Mac gaming has been a long running meme among the PC gaming community, despite Resident Evil Village and No Man's Sky ports being some rare recent exceptions to macOS gaming being largely ignored. "The new Game Porting Toolkit provides an emulation environment to run your existing unmodified Windows game and you can use it to quickly understand the graphics feature usage and performance potential of your game when running on a Mac," explains Aiswariya Sreenivassan, an engineering project manager for GPUs and graphics at Apple, in a WWDC session earlier this week.

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OpenAI Still Not Training GPT-5, Says Sam Altman

OpenAI is still not training GPT-5, months after the Microsoft-backed startup pledged to not work on the successor to GPT-4"for some time" after many industry executives and academics expressed concerns about the fast-rate of advancements by Sam Altman's large language models. From a report: "We have a lot of work to do before we start that model," Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, said at a conference hosted by Indian newspaper Economic Times. "We're working on the new ideas that we think we need for it, but we are certainly not close to it to start."

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Dell In Hot Water For Making Shoppers Think Overpriced Monitors Were Discounted

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Dell Technologies' Australia subsidiary misled online shoppers into thinking that adding a monitor to their purchase would get them a discount on the display, even though doing so sometimes resulted in customers paying a higher price for the monitor than if they had bought it on its own. That's according to a declaration by the Australian Federal Court on Monday. The deceptive practices happened on Dell's Australian website, but they serve as a reminder to shoppers everywhere that a strikethrough line or sale stamp on an online retailer doesn't always mean you're getting a bargain. On June 5, the Federal Court said Dell Australia was guilty of making "false or misleading representations with respect to the price" of monitors that its website encouraged shoppers to add to their purchase. The purchases were made from August 2019 to the middle of December 2021. The website would display the add-on price alongside a higher price that had a strikethrough line, suggesting that the monitor was typically sold at the price with the line going through it but that customers would get a discount if they added it to their cart at purchase. (The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, or ACCC, posted a screenshot example here.) However, the strikethrough prices weren't actually representative of what Dell was charging for the monitors for most of the time before the purported discount. In fact, the allegedly discounted price occasionally turned out to be a rip-off, as ACCC commission Liza Carver said in a statement today: "In some cases, consumers paid more for the add-on monitor advertised as 'discounted' than they would have paid if they had bought it as a stand-alone product, which is shocking." The Australian Federal Court also found that Dell's Australian website used deceptive language, like "Includes x% off," "Total Savings" plus a dollar amount, "Discounted Price" and a dollar amount, and "Get the best price for popular accessories when purchased with this product." According to the ACCC, shoppers spent over $2 million Australian dollars ($1.33 million USD) on 5,300 add-on monitors during this time period. The Australian Federal Court ordered Dell Australia to give full or partial refunds to affected customers. The company must also hire an "independent compliance professional" and contact affected customers. The Australian Federal Court will take comment on further penalties Dell Australia should incur, which could include fines, at a future date. Dell told The Register: "As we acknowledged in November 2022 when the ACCC commenced these proceedings, due to an unrectified error on our part, our web page misrepresented the level of savings consumers could achieve by purchasing a monitor in conjunction with a desktop, laptop, or notebook." Dell is looking into refunding customers, "plus interest," Dell's statement to The Register added, and the company is "taking steps to improve our pricing processes to ensure this sort of error does not happen again."

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TSA Expands Controversial Facial Recognition Program

SonicSpike shares a report from CBS News: As possible record-setting crowds fill airports nationwide, passengers may encounter new technology at the security line. At 25 airports in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the TSA is expanding a controversial digital identification program that uses facial recognition. This comes as the TSA and other divisions of Homeland Security are under pressure from lawmakers to update technology and cybersecurity. "We view this as better for security, much more efficient, because the image capture is fast and you'll save several seconds, if not a minute," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. At the world's busiest airport in Atlanta, the TSA checkpoint uses a facial recognition camera system to compare a flyer's face to the picture on their ID in seconds. If there's not a match, the TSA officer is alerted for further review. "Facial recognition, first and foremost, is much, much more accurate," Pekoske said. "And we've tested this extensively. So we know that it brings the accuracy level close to 100% from mid-80% with just a human looking at a facial match." The program has been rolled out to more than two dozen airports nationwide since 2020 and the TSA plans to add the technology, which is currently voluntary for flyers, to at least three more airports by the end of the year. There are skeptics. Five U.S. senators sent a letter demanding that TSA halt the program.

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Satellite Beams Solar Power Down To Earth, In First-of-a-Kind Demonstration

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have successfully demonstrated the capability of steering power in a microwave beam from a satellite to targets in space, as well as transmitting some of that power to a detector on Earth. Science Magazine reports: The Caltech mission, funded by the Donald Bren Foundation and Northrop Grumman Corporation, aimed to go a step further with lightweight, inexpensive, and flexible components. The microwave transmitter was an array of 32 flat antennas packed onto a surface slightly larger than a dinner plate. By varying the timing of signals sent to the different antennas, the researchers could steer the array's beam. They pointed it at a pair of microwave receivers about a forearm's distance away and switched the beam from one receiver to the other at will, lighting up an LED on each. The transmitted power was small, just 200 milliwatts, less than that of a cellphone camera light. But the team was still able to steer the beam toward Earth and detect it with a receiver at Caltech. "It was a proof of concept," says Caltech electrical engineer Ali Hajimiri. "It indicates what an overall system can do." The Caltech spacecraft still has two more planned experiments. One is now testing 32 different varieties of solar cell to see which best survives the rigors of space. The second is a folded piece of ultralight composite material that will unfurl into a sail-like structure 2 meters across. Although the sail will not hold any solar cells, it is meant to test the kind of thin, flexible, and large deployments required for a future power station.

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Health Firm 'Grail' Wrongly Told Hundreds of People They Might Have Cancer

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: A biotechnology company selling a $949 blood test that it bills as a "first of its kind" to detect cancer said it incorrectly informed about 400 customers that they might have the disease. The Menlo Park, California, company, called Grail, said it sent a form letter to some customers who had bought its Galleri test, which detects a marker for more than 50 types of cancer, "stating incorrectly that a cancer signal was detected," a company spokeswoman told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement. The company blamed a vendor, PWN Health, for the error, citing a "software configuration issue." In a statement, PWN Health said it said the problem was due to "a misconfiguration of our patient engagement platform used to send templated communications to individuals." It added that it has added processes to make sure such a mistake doesn't occur again, and started contacting the people who received the erroneous letters within 36 hours. The error comes amid an increased demand for health care screening tests, especially for chronic diseases such as cancer. Grail is billing its service as a complement to routine single-cancer tests for diseases such as colon or breast cancer, and said that the blood test can detect forms of the disease that aren't routinely screened for, such as in the gallbladder and pancreas. Grail said it hasn't received reports of patient harm or "adverse events" due to the erroneous letters. "After being notified of the incident, Grail immediately began outreach by phone or email to all individuals who received the PWNHealth letter, and we continued our efforts until we confirmed we successfully reached each individual via phone, email or letter," the spokeswoman said. "The issue was in no way related to or caused by an incorrect Galleri laboratory test result." More than half the erroneous letters were sent to customers who hadn't had their blood drawn yet for the Galleri test, the spokeswoman added. On Monday, Illumina filed an appeal against a FTC order, "demanding that it divest cancer diagnostic test maker Grail over competition concerns in the U.S. market for cancer tests," reports Reuters. According to the filing, Illumina is arguing that the FTC "violated due process by depriving Illumina and Grail of a fair proceeding before an impartial tribunal."

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Healthcare Org With Over 100 Clinics Uses OpenAI's GPT-4 To Write Medical Records

US healthcare chain Carbon Health has implemented an AI tool named Carby, powered by OpenAI's GPT-4 language model, to automatically generate medical records from conversations between physicians and patients. The Register reports: If a patient consents to having their meeting recorded and transcribed, the audio recording is passed to Amazon's AWS Transcribe Medical cloud service, which converts the speech to text. The transcript -- along with data from the patient's medical records, including recent test results -- is passed to an ML model that produces notes summarizing important information gathered in the consultation. The screenshot of an example medical chart below shows what type of text the software, nicknamed Carby, generates. The hypothetical patient's information and vital measurements are included, as well as a summaries of medical records and diagnoses. Carbon Health CEO Eren Bali said the software is directly integrated into the firm's electronic health records (EHR) system, and is powered by OpenAI's latest language model, GPT-4. Carbon Health said the tool produces consultation summaries in four minutes, compared to the 16 consumed by a flesh and blood doctor working alone. Clinics can therefore see more patients [...] Generative AI models aren't perfect, and often produce errors. Physicians therefore need to verify the AI-generated text. Carbon Health claims 88 percent of the verbiage can be accepted without edits. Carbon Health said the model is already supporting over 130 clinics, where over 600 staff have access to the tool. A clinic testing the tool in San Francisco reportedly saw a 30 percent increase in the number of patients it could treat.

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Apple Makes Developer Betas Free To Download and Install

Apple has made the Apple Developer Program available for anyone with an Apple ID. Previously, the company limited developer betas to developers who have a paid account that costs $99 per year. MacRumors reports: "OS beta releases" is now listed as an available resource even for those who are not members of the Apple Developer Program. This change means that anyone with an Apple ID can download and install the iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma betas without waiting for the public betas to launch. Of course, it is not a good idea to install these betas on a main device as there can be notable bugs and issues with early software. More information can be found on Apple's membership page.

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SEC Asks For Emergency Order To Freeze Binance US Assets Anywhere In the World

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed an emergency motion seeking to freeze the assets of Binance's U.S. platform and repatriate the funds held by its customers, including both fiat currency and cryptocurrencies. CNBC reports: The freezing order only applies Binance's two U.S. holding companies, not to the non-U.S. regulated international exchange. The order would apply to dozens of accounts held at Axos Bank, the defunct Silvergate Bank, Prime Trust, and other institutions. Two foreign entities also controlled by Zhao, Sigma Chain and Merit Peak, served as conduits for billions of dollars of customer money that was improperly commingled with Binance's funds, the SEC has alleged. The emergency restraining order was necessary, the regulator argued, to "prevent the dissipation of available assets for any judgment, given the Defendants' years of violative conduct, disregard of the laws of the United States." The order also compels Binance's founder, Changpeng Zhao, to "show cause why a preliminary injunction" against Zhao and his two holding companies "should not be entered." The restraining order would also prevent all three entities from destroying evidence. On Monday, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Binance and the company's founder, Changpeng Zhao, accusing the exchange of mishandling customer funds as well as lying to regulators and investors about its operations.

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OpenAI CEO Has No IPO Plan Due To 'Strange' Company Structure

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Microsoft-backed OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has no plans to go public any time soon, Chief Executive Sam Altman said at a conference in Abu Dhabi. "When we develop super intelligence, we are likely to make some decisions that most investors would look at very strangely," Altman said. "I don't want to be sued by ... public market, Wall Street etc, so no, not that interested," he said in response to a question on whether he will take OpenAI public. OpenAI has so far raised $10 billion from Microsoft (MSFT.O) at a valuation of almost $30 billion as it invests more on building computing capacity. "We have a very strange structure. We have this cap to profit thing," he said. OpenAI started off as a non-profit organization but later created a hybrid "capped-profit" company, that allowed it to raise external funds with a promise that the original non-profit operation still benefits. Altman is on a whirlwind tour across the world, meeting heads of states of several countries, and was in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. He plans to travel next to Qatar, India and South Korea. While in Europe he got into controversy for saying OpenAI may leave the region if it becomes too hard to comply with planned laws on AI, inviting criticism from several lawmakers, including EU industry chief Thierry Breton. OpenAI later reversed the stance. "We did not threaten to leave the EU," Altman said on Tuesday. "We expect to be able to comply. There's still more clarity we are waiting for on the EU AI Act, but we are very excited to operate in Europe."

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Apple's New iOS 17 Will Warn You If Someone Tries To Send Unsolicited Nudes

Apple's new iOS 17 includes a Sensitive Content Warning feature that notifies users when they receive unsolicited nude images. Insider reports: Apple said in a press release that the Sensitive Content Warning would help adult users avoid seeing unwanted nude images and videos. The company would not get access to the content as processing for the new feature occurred on the user's device, the press release added. The tech giant is also expanding Communication Safety, a feature aimed at protecting children, to cover sending and receiving content via AirDrop, Contact Posters, and FaceTime messages. The privacy feature will also expand to cover video content, as well as images. Further reading: Apple Announces iOS 17 With StandBy Charging Mode, Better Autocorrect

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Microsoft To Pay $20 Million Settlement For Illegally Collecting Children's Personal Data

Microsoft has agreed to pay $20 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it illegally collected personal information from children without parental consent and retained it for extended periods. TechCrunch reports: The federal consumer watchdog said Microsoft violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the federal law that governs the online privacy protections for children under the age of 13, which requires companies notify parents about the data they collect, obtain parental consent and delete the data when it's no longer necessary. The FTC said children signing up to Microsoft's Xbox gaming service were asked to provide their personal information -- including their name, email address, phone number and date of birth -- which until 2019 included a pre-filled check box allowing Microsoft to share user information with advertisers. The FTC said Microsoft collected this data before asking for the parent to complete the account setup, but held onto children's data even if the parent abandoned the sign-up process. "Only after gathering that raft of personal data from children did Microsoft get parents involved in the process," said FTC's Lesley Fair in a corresponding blog post. As a result, the FTC will require Microsoft to notify parents and obtain consent for accounts created before May 2021. Microsoft will also have to establish new systems to delete children's personal information if it hasn't obtained parental consent, and to ensure the data is deleted when it's no longer needed.

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Redditor Creates Working Anime QR Codes Using Stable Diffusion

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Tuesday, a Reddit user named "nhciao" posted a series of artistic QR codes created using the Stable Diffusion AI image-synthesis model that can still be read as functional QR codes by smartphone camera apps. The functional pieces reflect artistic styles in anime and Asian art. [...] In this case, despite the presence of intricate AI-generated designs and patterns in the images created by nhciao, we've found that smartphone camera apps on both iPhone and Android are still able to read these as functional QR codes. If you have trouble reading them, try backing your camera farther away from the images. Stable Diffusion is an AI-powered image-synthesis model released last year that can generate images based on text descriptions. It can also transform existing images using a technique called "img2img." The creator did not detail the exact technique used to create the novel codes in English, but based on this blog post and the title of the Reddit post ("ControlNet for QR Code"), they apparently trained several custom Stable Diffusion ControlNet models (plus LoRA fine tunings) that have been conditioned to create different-styled results. Next, they fed existing QR codes into the Stable Diffusion AI image generator and used ControlNet to maintain the QR code's data positioning despite synthesizing an image around it, likely using a written prompt. Other techniques exist to make artistic-looking QR codes by manipulating the positions of dots within the codes to make meaningful patterns that can still be read. In this case, Stable Diffusion is not only controlling dot positions but also blending picture details to match the QR code. This interesting use of Stable Diffusion is possible because of the innate error correction feature built into QR codes. This error correction capability allows a certain percentage of the QR code's data to be restored if it's damaged or obscured, permitting a level of modification without making the code unreadable. In typical QR codes, this error correction feature serves to recover information if part of the code is damaged or dirty. But in nhciao's case, it has been leveraged to blend creativity with utility. Stable Diffusion added unique artistic touches to the QR codes without compromising their functionality. [...] This discovery opens up new possibilities for both digital art and marketing. Ordinary black-and-white QR codes could be turned into unique pieces of art, enhancing their aesthetic appeal. The positive reaction to nhciao's experiment on social media may spark a new era in which QR codes are not just tools of convenience but also interesting and complex works of art.

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Reddit Laying Off Employees and Slowing Hiring Amid Restructuring

Social-media company Reddit is laying off roughly 90 employees and slowing hiring as it restructures key parts of its business. From a report: Reddit is making the moves to address priorities, including funding projects and achieving its goal of breaking even next year, Chief Executive Steve Huffman told employees in an email seen by The Wall Street Journal. The job cuts amount to around 5% of Reddit's workforce of approximately 2,000 people. "We've had a solid first half of the year, and this restructuring will position us to carry that momentum into the second half and beyond," Huffman said in the email. He added that the company would reduce its hiring for the rest of the year to about 100 people from an early plan to hire 300.

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