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Israel's Tech Sector Says Judicial Overhaul Could Hurt Economy

Israel's technology sector is pushing back against the new government's planned judicial overhaul, saying the proposed changes are spooking investors worried about economic stability, the independence of the courts and a right-wing legislative agenda. From a report: This week, a large Israeli software company said it would move its money out of Israel and the general partner of two venture-capital firms said future money raised could be kept abroad. Those moves followed a letter from hundreds of Israeli economists warning that the judicial changes would concentrate political power and remove democratic checks and balances in a way that "could cripple the country's economy." Two former Bank of Israel governors warned in an opinion column about the negative economic impacts of changes to the top court. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his recently sworn-in government are advancing plans that would give the ruling coalition control over which judges are appointed, and allow a simple majority of lawmakers to override decisions by the Supreme Court. The plan would also limit which cases the court can hear. Top members of the justice system and the political opposition have criticized the overhaul as an attempt to concentrate all power in the hands of the ruling coalition. Israel is highly reliant on its technology sector, which accounts for 15% of the country's gross domestic product and around half of its exports. The country has prospered in recent decades, attracting foreign investment that has fueled an explosion of startups and technology companies. Many Israeli tech companies are based in or have workers who live in the Tel Aviv area, a base for secular and liberal Israelis, many of whom oppose Mr. Netanyahu's government.

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Intel's Horrible Quarter Revealed an Inventory Glut and Underused Factories

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Intel's December earnings showed significant declines in the company's sales, profit, gross margin, and outlook, both for the quarter and the full year. [...] In short: Intel had a difficult 2022, and 2023 is shaping up to be tough as well. Here are some of the most concerning bits from Intel's earnings report and analyst call: Intel didn't give full-year guidance for 2023, citing economic uncertainty. But the data points for the current quarter suggest tough times. Intel guided for about $11 billion in sales in the March quarter, which would be a 40% year-over-year decline. Gross margin will be 34.1%, a huge decrease from the 55.2% in the same quarter in 2021, [CEO Pat Gelsinger's] first at the helm. But the biggest issue for investors is that Intel guided to a 15 cent non-GAAP loss per share, a big decline for a company that a year ago was reporting $1.13 in profit per share. It would be the first loss per share since last summer, which was the first loss for the company in decades. Management gave several reasons for the tough upcoming quarter, but one theme that came through was that its customers simply have too many chips and need to work through inventory, so they won't be buying many new chips. Both the PC and server markets have slowed after a two-year boom spurred by remote work and school during the pandemic. Now, PC sales have slowed and the computer makers have too many chips. Gelsinger is predicting PC sales during the year to be around 270 million to 295 million -- a far cry from the "million units-a-day" he predicted in 2021. Now, Intel's customers have to "digest" the chips they already have, or "correct" their inventories, and the company doesn't know when this dynamic will shift back. "While we know this dynamic will reverse, predicting when is difficult," Gelsinger told analysts. Underpinning all of this is that Intel's gross margin continues to decline, hurting the company's profitability. One issue is "factory load," or how efficiently factories run around the clock. Intel said that its gross margin would be hit by 400 basis points, or 4 percentage points, because of factories running under load because of soft demand. Ultimately, Intel forecasts a 34.1% gross margin in the current quarter -- a far cry from the 51% to 53% goal the company set at last year's investor day. The company says it's working on it, and the margin could get back to Intel's goal "in the medium-term" if demand recovers. "We have a number of initiatives under way to improve gross margins and we're well under way. When you look at the $3 billion reduction [in costs] that we talked about for 2023, 1 billion of that is in cost of sales and we're well on our way to getting that billion dollars," Gelsinger said. The bright spot for Intel: Mobileye, its self-driving subsidiary that went public during the December quarter. According to CNBC, the company reported earnings per share of 27 cents and revenue growth of 59%, to $656 million. "It also forecast strong 2023 revenue of between $2.19 billion and $2.28 billion," the report adds.

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Wearable Ultrasound Patch Images the Heart In Real Time

A wearable ultrasound imager for the heart that is roughly the size of a postage stamp, can be worn for up to 24 hours, and works even during exercise may one day help doctors spot cardiac problems that current medical technology might miss, a new study finds. IEEE Spectrum reports: Now scientists have developed a wearable ultrasound device that can enable safe, continuous, real-time, long-term, and highly detailed imaging of the heart. They detailed their findings online on January 25 in the journal Nature. "Potential applications include continuously monitoring the heart in daily life, during exercise, during surgery, and much more," says study coauthor Ray Wu, a nanoengineer at UC San Diego. "This will open up the possibility to detect previously undetectable symptoms of disease, identify symptoms in their very early stages, and greatly improve patient outcomes." The new device is a patch 1.9 centimeters long by 2.2 cm wide and only 0.9 millimeters thick. It uses an array of piezoelectric transducers to send and receive ultrasound waves in order to generate a constant stream of images of the structure and function of the heart. The researchers were able to get such images even during exercise on a stationary bike. No skin irritation or allergy was seen after 24 hours of continuous wear. "The most exciting result is that our patch performs well when an individual is moving," Hu says. "Our patch allows us to evaluate heart performance throughout exercise, providing valuable information about the heart when it is under high stress." The new patch is about as flexible as human skin. It can also stretch up to 110 percent of its size, which means it can survive far more strain than typically experienced on human skin. These features help it stick onto the body, something not possible with the rigid equipment often used for cardiac imaging. In the new study, the researchers focused on imaging the left ventricle, the largest of the heart's four chambers "and strongly considered to be the most important in terms of cardiovascular health, as it is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the entire body," Wu says. Cardiac imaging generally focuses on the left ventricle, but the new device can image all of the heart's four chambers simultaneously, "so it may be possible for future research to focus on other or multiple chambers," he adds. In addition, "the imager can be applied to image various other organs, such as the stomach, kidney, or liver." Traditional cardiac ultrasound imaging constantly rotates an ultrasound probe to analyze the heart in multiple dimensions. To eliminate the need for this rotation, the array of ultrasound sensors and emitters in the new device is shaped like a cross so that ultrasonic waves can travel at right angles to each other. The scientists developed a custom deep-learning AI model that can analyze the data from the patch and automatically and continuously estimate vital details, such as the percentage of blood pumped out of the left ventricle with each beat, and the volume of blood the heart pumps out with each beat and every minute. The root of most heart problems is the heart not pumping enough blood, issues that often manifest only when the body is moving, the researchers note.

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Newly Discovered Asteroid to Pass Close to Earth Tonight

A small asteroid is flying very close to Earth on Thursday night, less than a week after astronomers discovered the object. The New York Times reports: The asteroid, named 2023 BU, was scheduled to pass over the southern tip of South America at 7:27 p.m. Eastern time. The asteroid is fairly small -- less than 30 feet across, about the size of a truck -- and will be best visible in the skies to the west of southern Chile. For space watchers unable to view 2023 BU firsthand, the Virtual Telescope Project will be broadcasting the event on its website and YouTube channel. The asteroid will not hit Earth but will make one of the closest approaches ever by such an object, hurtling past Earth at just 2,200 miles above its surface, according to a news release from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This encounter puts the asteroid "well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites," the statement noted, but the asteroid is not on track to hit any. 2023 BU was unknown to NASA, or anyone, until last Saturday. Gennadiy Borisov, an amateur astronomer in Crimea, noticed the asteroid from the MARGO Observatory, a setup of telescopes that he has used to discover other interstellar objects. Astronomers then determined 2023 BU's orbit around the sun and impending trip past Earth using data from the Minor Planet Center, a project sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union. It publishes positions of newly found space objects, including comets and satellites, from information of several observatories worldwide.

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NYC Will Replace Its Largest Fossil Fuel Plant With Wind Power

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: New York City's largest fossil-fuel plant, which powers 20% of the city, will be replaced with offshore wind power. Ravenswood Generating Station is the New York City fossil fuel plant that will become an offshore wind hub. It's a 2,480-megawatt (MW) power plant in Long Island City, Queens, across from Roosevelt Island, and it's the Big Apple's largest power plant. Rise Light & Power, a New York based energy asset manager and developer that holds Ravenswood as its core asset, is submitting a proposal today, with support from community and state leaders, to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in response to the state's offshore wind solicitation. In a nutshell, the 27-acre waterfront oil and gas industrial site is going to be converted into a clean energy hub that will power one-fifth of New York City with offshore wind power. The Ravenswood offshore wind project will reuse existing physical and electrical infrastructure, and that's going to save New York ratepayers money. An HVDC conductor cable will be brought onshore at the existing power plant site. The cable will interconnect via underground HVAC cables to the NYISO bulk electric system at existing substations adjacent to the site. It will also become an offshore wind operations and maintenance hub that will support the just transition of the existing fossil fuel plant workforce, and drive economic investment into a historically underserved community. Rise Light & Power states that the project will, with training programs and job opportunities, justly transition and upskill Ravenswood's current Local 1-2 UWUA union workers.

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US Says It 'Hacked the Hackers' To Bring Down Hive Ransomware Gang

The FBI revealed today that it had shut down the prolific ransomware gang called Hive, "a maneuver that allowed the bureau to thwart the group from collecting more than $130 million in ransomware demands from more than 300 victims," reports Reuters. Slashdot readers wiredmikey and unimind shared the news. From the report: At a news conference, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said government hackers broke into Hive's network and put the gang under surveillance, surreptitiously stealing the digital keys the group used to unlock victim organizations' data. They were then able to alert victims in advance so they could take steps to protect their systems before Hive demanded the payments. "Using lawful means, we hacked the hackers," Monaco told reporters. "We turned the tables on Hive." News of the takedown first leaked on Thursday morning when Hive's website was replaced with a flashing message that said: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized this site as part of coordinated law enforcement action taken against Hive Ransomware." Hive's servers were also seized by the German Federal Criminal Police and the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit. The undercover infiltration, which started in July 2022, went undetected by the gang until now. The Justice Department said that over the years, Hive has targeted more than 1,500 victims in 80 different countries, and has collected more than $100 million in ransomware payments. Although there were no arrests announced on Wednesday, Garland said the investigation was ongoing and one department official told reporters to "stay tuned."

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Q4 2022 Was a Disaster For Smartphone Sales, Sees the Largest-Ever Drop

The International Data Corporation has the latest numbers for worldwide smartphone sales in Q4 2022, and it's a disaster. Shipments declined 18.3 percent year-over-year, making for the largest-ever decline in a single quarter and dragging the year down to an 11.3 percent decline. With overall shipments of 1.21 billion phones for the year, the IDC says this is the lowest annual shipment total since 2013. Ars Technica reports: In the top five for Q4 2022 -- in order, they were Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo -- Apple was, of course, the least affected, but not by much. Apple saw a year-over-year drop of 14.9 percent for Q4 2022, Samsung was down 15.6 percent, and the big loser, Xiaomi, dropped 26.5 percent. For the year, Samsung still took the No. 1 spot with 21.6 percent market share, Apple was No. 2 with 18.8 percent, and Xiaomi took third place at 12.7 percent. The IDC also notes consumers are keeping smartphones longer than ever now, with "refresh rates" or the time that passes before people buy a new phone 'climb[ing] past 40 months in most major markets.' The report closes saying: "2023 is set up to be a year of caution as vendors will rethink their portfolio of devices while channels will think twice before taking on excess inventory. However, on a positive note, consumers may find even more generous trade-in offers and promotions continuing well into 2023 as the market will think of new methods to drive upgrades and sell more devices, specifically high-end models."

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Member of Congress Reads AI-Generated Speech On House Floor

U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss read a speech on the floor of the U.S. House that was generated by AI chatbot ChatGPT. "Auchincloss said he prompted the system in part to 'write 100 words to deliver on the floor of the House of Representatives' about the legislation," reports the Associated Press. "Auchincloss said he had to refine the prompt several times to produce the text he ultimately read. His staff said they believe it's the first time an AI-written speech was read in Congress." From the report: The bill, which Auchincloss is refiling, would establish a joint U.S.-Israel AI Center in the United States to serve as a hub for AI research and development in the public, private and education sectors. Auchincloss said part of the decision to read a ChatGPT-generated text was to help spur debate on AI and the challenges and opportunities created by it. He said he doesn't want to see a repeat of the advent of social media, which started small and ballooned faster than Congress could react. "I'm the youngest parent in the Democratic caucus, AI is going to be part of my life and it could be a general purpose technology for my children," said Auchincloss, 34. The text generated from Auchincloss's prompt includes sentences like: "We must collaborate with international partners like the Israeli government to ensure that the United States maintains a leadership role in AI research and development and responsibly explores the many possibilities evolving technologies provide." "There were probably about a dozen of my colleagues on the floor. I bet none of them knew it was written by a computer," he said. Lawmakers and others shouldn't be reflexively hostile to the new technology, but also shouldn't wait too long before drafting policies or new laws to help regulate it, Auchincloss said. In particular, he argued that the country needs a "public counterweight" to the big tech firms that would help guarantee that smaller developers and universities have access to the same cloud computing, cutting edge algorithms and raw data as larger companies.

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California Announces DMV-Run Blockchain Through Partnership With Tezos

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: The Department of Motor Vehicles has never been an agency that screams innovation. The agency is better know for bureaucracy and endless lines than technological transformation. But this may be changing after a collaboration between California's DMV and open-source blockchain Tezos and Oxhead Alpha, a crypto-focused software development firm. Together, the three partners are building a DMV-run blockchain that will not only digitize car titles for California drivers, but also seek to streamline title transfers between owners. Ajay Gupta, the chief digital officer at the California DMV, said that the agency hopes to finalize its "shadow ledger," or a full replication of the state's title database on the blockchain, within the next three months before building consumer-facing applications, including digital wallets that hold car title NFTs. "The DMV's perception of lagging behind should definitely change," Gupta told Fortune in an exclusive interview. [...] Andrew Smith, the president of Oxhead Alpha, said that he was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the Gupta-led DMV wanted to move with the initiative. He described the current system as using 18th-century paper-based technology to solve 21st-century transaction fraud, pointing to the common sense solutions presented by digitizing car titles and tracing their movement. For example, if someone buys a "lemon," or faulty car, in California, it will have a special designation on their title. If they then move out of state and back into California with the car, they can shirk the "lemon" branding and sell the car without the new buyer knowing. "As far as the benefit for having a persistent digital title, this is a very obvious use case," Smith said. The DMV worked with Oxhead Alpha and Tezos to create a private instance of the Tezos blockchain, which would increase security compared to relying on a public blockchain. Smith said that the DMV chain is currently operational and running DMV validator nodes. For now, the blockchain will operate in the background, but Gupta hopes to create consumer-facing applications soon. An obvious application would be allowing people to transfer car ownership between digital wallets through an NFT version of their title, with the DMV acting as a middleman to ensure that all the sale obligations are completed. Gupta said that type of functionality is on the horizon. Another possible use case is transferring titles between states. Smith said that he's seen a lot of appetite from municipal-level governments, with mayors such as Miami's Francis Suarez advocating for crypto, and that generating interest from states would come next.

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A Robot Was Scheduled To Argue In Court, Then Came the Jail Threats

schwit1 shares a report from NPR: A British man who planned to have a "robot lawyer" help a defendant fight a traffic ticket has dropped the effort after receiving threats of possible prosecution and jail time. [...] The first-ever AI-powered legal defense was set to take place in California on Feb. 22, but not anymore. As word got out, an uneasy buzz began to swirl among various state bar officials, according to Browder. He says angry letters began to pour in. "Multiple state bar associations have threatened us," Browder said. "One even said a referral to the district attorney's office and prosecution and prison time would be possible." In particular, Browder said one state bar official noted that the unauthorized practice of law is a misdemeanor in some states punishable up to six months in county jail. "Even if it wouldn't happen, the threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up," [said Joshua Browden, the CEO of the New York-based startup DoNotPay]. "The letters have become so frequent that we thought it was just a distraction and that we should move on." State bar associations license and regulate attorneys, as a way to ensure people hire lawyers who understand the law. Browder refused to cite which state bar associations in particular sent letters, and what official made the threat of possible prosecution, saying his startup, DoNotPay, is under investigation by multiple state bar associations, including California's. "The truth is, most people can't afford lawyers," he said. "This could've shifted the balance and allowed people to use tools like ChatGPT in the courtroom that maybe could've helped them win cases." "I think calling the tool a 'robot lawyer' really riled a lot of lawyers up," Browder said. "But I think they're missing the forest for the trees. Technology is advancing and courtroom rules are very outdated."

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Stripe Explores Going Public Within the Next Year

Stripe, the fintech company once valued at $95 billion by private market investors, will make a decision on its plans to go public within the next year, CNBC has confirmed. From the report: Co-founders and brothers John and Patrick Collison told employees on Thursday that they will set a goal of taking the company public or letting staffers sell shares through a secondary offering, The Information first reported. In July, Stripe cut its internal valuation by 28%, from $95 billion to $74 billion. Earlier this month, The Information reported that Stripe again lowered its valuation to $63 billion. Stripe, which provides payments software for e-commerce businesses, topped CNBC's Disruptor 50 list in 2020. Founded in 2010, Stripe's business took off as the U.S. economy and labor market began to recover from the financial crisis. Revenue was turbocharged during Covid from the boom in e-commerce. But in November, the company laid off roughly 14% of its staff as the Nasdaq headed for its worst year since 2008. Stripe is considering a direct listing or private market transaction and has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to advise on the deal, CNBC has learned.

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MSG Probed Over Use of Facial Recognition To Eject Lawyers From Show Venues

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ArsTechnica: The operator of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall is being probed by New York's attorney general over the company's use of facial recognition technology to identify and exclude lawyers from events. AG Letitia James' office said the policy may violate civil rights laws. Because of the policy, lawyers who work for firms involved in litigation against MSG Entertainment Corp. can be denied entry to shows or sporting events, even when they have no direct involvement in any lawsuits against MSG. A lawyer who is subject to MSG's policy may buy a ticket to an event but be unable to get in because the MSG venues use facial recognition to identify them. In December, attorney Kelly Conlon was denied entry into Radio City Music Hall in New York when she accompanied her daughter's Girl Scout troop to a Rockettes show. Conlon wasn't personally involved in any lawsuits against MSG but is a lawyer for a firm that "has been involved in personal injury litigation against a restaurant venue now under the umbrella of MSG Entertainment," NBC New York reported. James' office sent a letter (PDF) Tuesday to MSG Entertainment, noting reports that it "used facial recognition software to forbid all lawyers in all law firms representing clients engaged in any litigation against the Company from entering the Company's venues in New York, including the use of any season tickets." "We write to raise concerns that the Policy may violate the New York Civil Rights Law and other city, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity," Assistant AG Kyle Rapinan of the Civil Rights Bureau wrote in the letter. "Such practices certainly run counter to the spirit and purpose of such laws, and laws promoting equal access to the courts: forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against the Company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims." The AG's office also said it is concerned that "facial recognition software may be plagued with biases and false positives against people of color and women." The letter asked MSG Entertainment to respond by February 13 "to state the justifications for the Company's Policy and identify all efforts you are undertaking to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and that the Company's use of facial recognition technology will not lead to discrimination." "To be clear, our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues and it is not our intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us," said an MSG spokesperson in a statement. "We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation. Most importantly, to even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination."

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Microsoft Strikes 'Strategic Alliance' With Solar Manufacturer

Microsoft just forged a strategic alliance with a major solar panel manufacturer to try to make good on its clean energy goals. From a report: The deal comes as supply chain woes and allegations of labor abuse are making it increasingly difficult to deploy solar energy across the US. The plan is for solar energy heavyweight Qcells to provide more than 2.5 gigawatts of solar panels and related services to developers working with Microsoft. That's enough to power some 400,000 homes, according to Microsoft, which hailed the collaboration as a "first-of-its-kind." The company has a goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by "more than half" by 2030 and to counteract its remaining pollution by trying to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Microsoft also has a 2030 renewable energy commitment -- one that it won't be able to meet unless it can encourage more solar and wind energy to come online.

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New York City Will Require Uber and Lyft To Go 100 Percent Electric by 2030

In his State of the City speech Thursday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that Uber and Lyft will be required to be zero emission by 2030. The decision by one of the world's largest markets for app-based ridehailing has the potential to affect an estimated 100,000 for-hire vehicles. From a report: Adams said the move will build on efforts his administration has made to electrify the city's fleet of vehicles while installing charging infrastructure to power those vehicles throughout the five boroughs. The mayor will likely implement his plan through the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates the for-hire vehicle industry, including Uber and Lyft. Uber and Lyft, which normally chafe at new requirements and have been known to sue to block rules they don't like, sound largely positive toward the new development in New York.

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Podcast Exclusivity Is Quickly Becoming an Outdated Strategy

If it's still too early to declare platform-exclusive podcast deals dead as we move into 2023, it's becoming ever clearer that this business model is likely not long for this world. From a report: Spotify in particular has spent the past few years building up its arsenal of exclusive podcast content, shelling out more than $1 billion to acquire studios, lock down popular shows and secure marquee names. Those include podcasting behemoth Joe Rogan, former Presidential couple the Obamas (through their Higher Ground media company) and even the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But the tide is turning as we enter what many observers project to be a difficult year for the podcasting industry. As in the streaming video space, the major audio players are reportedly reining in their spending amid economic pressures, bringing the booming market of the last several years toward a close. [...] For one thing, as the digital ad market continues to sag in the months ahead, competition for podcast ad dollars is going to intensify further -- bad news for any creator whose show is limited to a single platform. Despite exponential growth in the number of shows available to listeners -- on Spotify alone, that number grew from around 700,000 at the end of 2019 to 4.7 million in September 2022, per company reports -- the podcast ad market, while still growing, has not expanded nearly as rapidly. Spotify's U.S. podcast ad revenue is projected to steadily increase by about 40 percent year-over-year through 2024, far down from the explosive growth rates of 2020 and 2021 as its podcast operations expanded.

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