News & Updates

Enlarge / Good grief. (credit:

It has been just a month since Pokémon Go players began noticing that Niantic had started “shadowbanning” accounts that use third-party trackers and bot software, limiting them so they only see common Pokémon. Now, the company is going further to ensure ill-gotten beasts are publicly identified as such and don’t negatively impact the multiplayer experience.

In a post from its verified Reddit account, Niantic Support gave an update regarding “Pokémon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay”:

With the announcement of Raid Battles and the new battle features, we are staying true on our commitment to ensuring that Pokémon Go continues to be a fun and fair experience for all Trainers. Starting today, Pokémon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay will appear marked with a slash in the inventory and may not behave as expected. We are humbled by the excitement for all the new features we announced yesterday. This is one small part of our continued commitment to maintaining the integrity of our community and delivering an amazing Pokémon Go experience.

What Niantic means by Pokémon “not behav[ing] as expected” is unclear, but the wording suggests these beasts may not be effective in the game’s recently announced raid battle and expanded gym features. That coming overhaul will allow six unique Pokémon to be assigned to each individual gym, and it will let players team up for cooperative raids against ultra-powerful Pokémon. We’re guessing Pokémon marked with a slash won’t be able to fight for those coveted gym slots, at the very least.

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If people who reject climate science ever point to actual data, you can just about bet the farm it will be data from satellite measurements of upper-atmosphere temperatures. At least until the record-setting global heat in 2015 and 2016, some of the satellite data was amenable to the claim that global warming had magically ended in 1998.

That was always nonsense, involving cherry-picking a start year and ignoring ongoing corrections to the complex satellite measurements. That said, it is certainly fair to compare the satellite records to climate models to see what we can learn.

In the early 2000s, a run of La Niña years temporarily held global temperatures slightly below the long-term trend. The climate model projections prepared for the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which projected temperatures using future scenarios from 2000 to 2005 forward, ran a little above the satellite data. Is that just because of the La Niña conditions in the Pacific, or are the models off in some way?

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Enlarge / AT&T will own a bunch of new media properties if it is allowed to buy Time Warner. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

A group of mostly Democratic senators led by Al Franken (D-Minn.) today urged the Department of Justice to block AT&T’s proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The senators’ letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions predicts that “the combined company’s unmatched control of popular content and the distribution of that content will lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and poorer quality services for Americans.”

The Democrats couched their language a bit and said that the DOJ should block the merger if it “determine[s] that the substantial harms to competition and consumers arising from the transaction outweigh the purported benefits.” But the senators made it clear that they believe the merger’s potential harms will outweigh the benefits for consumers even if the government imposes conditions on the transaction.

Time Warner is the owner of programmers such as HBO, CNN, and Turner Broadcasting System, while AT&T is the country’s biggest pay-TV provider, with 21 million DirecTV subscribers and four million U-verse TV subscribers. AT&T is also one of the largest home and mobile broadband companies. (The Time Warner involved in this transaction is completely separate from the similarly named Time Warner Cable, which is owned by Charter.)

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Enlarge / An Oculus Rift photo montage from Oculus Connect (credit: Kyle Orland)

Earlier this year, ZeniMax won a $500 million judgment against Facebook-owned Oculus and many of its executives for illegal use of ZeniMax’s VR technology and copyrights. That wasn’t the end of Oculus’ legal trouble, though. The company is now fighting off a proposed injunction that is seeking to bar the sale of any hardware or software “derived” from ZeniMax’s technology or to enforce a 10-year, 20-percent royalty to ZeniMax on that hardware.

US District Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Southern District of Texas heard arguments in that injunction case Tuesday, and he also addressed a ZeniMax request for an additional $500 million in false designation damages and lawyer’s fees. In court filings, ZeniMax argues that “the jury verdict clearly establishes that Oculus wrongly obtained ZeniMax VR technology under the NDA and used it… to establish a business that would not have existed without ZeniMax.”

While Oculus’ sale to Facebook “[made] tycoons out of the individual Defendants,” ZeniMax writes, the company “never received a penny for its investment in this revolutionary technology—even though it was ZeniMax that had proven its value to the world long before Defendants ever came along.” The company also points to specific language in the Oculus/ZeniMax NDA that establishes an injunction would be called for if that agreement was broken.

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The WCry ransomware worm has struck again, this time prompting Honda Company to halt production in one of its Japan-based factories after finding infections in a broad swath of its computer networks, according to media reports.

The automaker shut down its Sayama plant northwest of Tokyo on Monday after finding that WCry had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China, and other regions, Reuters reported Wednesday. Discovery of the infection came on Sunday, more than five weeks after the onset of the NSA-derived ransomware worm, which struck an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries. The mass outbreak was quickly contained through a major stroke of good luck. A security researcher largely acting out of curiosity registered a mysterious domain name contained in the WCry code that acted as a global kill switch that immediately halted the self-replicating attack.

Honda officials didn’t explain why engineers found WCry in their networks 37 days after the kill switch was activated. One possibility is that engineers had mistakenly blocked access to the kill-switch domain. That would have caused the WCry exploit to proceed as normal, as it did in the 12 or so hours before the domain was registered. Another possibility is that the WCry traces in Honda’s networks were old and dormant, and the shutdown of the Sayama plant was only a precautionary measure. In any event, the discovery strongly suggests that as of Monday, computers inside the Honda network had yet to install a highly critical patch that Microsoft released in March.

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Enlarge / Founder & CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes. (credit: Getty | Gilbert Carrasquillo)

Theranos told its investors that it has reached a tentative settlement with former business partner Walgreens and will pay out less than $30 million in the agreement, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The drugstore giant filed a searing lawsuit late last year against the beleaguered blood-testing company. Walgreens was seeking $140 million—presumed to be the amount it invested in a 2012 deal with Theranos to host blood-testing ‘Wellness Centers’ in its stores. In court filings, Walgreens alleged that Theranos had broken all its promises and “failed to meet the most basic quality standards and legal requirements” of their partnership.

Today’s reported settlement is not final, and the terms could change. But if they do not, it would mean that Walgreens will be out more than $100 million from their dealings with Theranos.

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The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that.

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Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, you’re aware that autonomous cars are now a thing. The technology is still in relative infancy, but most of the major OEMs, Tier 1 automotive suppliers, and many of the big tech companies—not to mention plenty of startups—have been telling us that we should expect self-driving vehicles to show up (in some geofenced areas) within the next five years. But as often happens, getting the technology in place is only one part of the puzzle. Society has to be ready for it, too. In the case of autonomous cars, both the general public and regulators are going to need to know the cars are safe. And that was the precise reason that Audi brought Jack to Washington DC earlier this month.

Jack has been doing some stellar work for Audi, but he’s not an employee; he’s an AI-controlled car. He was in town to show off his abilities to law makers in Congress, but during his time there, Ars also got to experience his skills.

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A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers’ permission before they use, share, or sell the customers’ Web browsing history.

The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau’s bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers’ opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time.

“The idea that a person should have some say about how their Internet service provider can use, share or sell their personal information is not a controversial question for everyday consumers—it is common sense,” Chau said in an announcement. “Congress and the Administration went against the will of the vast majority of Americans when they revoked the FCC’s own privacy rules in April, but California is going to restore what Washington stripped away.”

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Enlarge (credit: Scott Olson | Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Tesla’s vice president of Autopilot software Chris Lattner announced that he would be leaving Tesla just six months after he joined. Lattner wrote on Twitter: “Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all. I’m interested to hear about interesting roles for a seasoned engineering leader!

Lattner joined Tesla after leaving Apple in January. He had worked at Apple since 2005 and is credited with creating the Swift programming language. Lattner doesn’t appear to have plans for the future just yet, as he tweeted, “My resume is easy to find online. 7 years of Swift experience”

Tesla hired Lattner just as it dropped a partnership with Mobileye and announced that it would be developing hardware and software for Autopilot in house to reach Level 5 autonomy—or fully autonomous driving—faster.

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