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Morning intel: Apple day, Clinton v. Trump on national security
Can hacking clouds save the Great Barrier Reef?
By most accounts, the Great Barrier Reef is dying. Warming oceans have bleached over two-thirds of the natural wonder and scientist fear it has reached a critical tipping point from which it cannot come back.
In a last-ditch effort to save the largest reef in the world, scientists have come up with a plan that involves cloud hacking. This isn't the cloud hacking that resulted in the theft of private photos of Jennifer Lawrence, but hacking actual clouds. Scientists hope that if they can make the clouds over the reef brighter and more reflective, it will allow the water surrounding the reef to cool, reviving the delicate coral community.
A team of Australian researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is working on the seemingly farfetched plan and so far believe it just might be possible. The concept, according to The Times, is to spray tiny salt particles, harvested from sea water, at low-lying clouds causing them to increase their density, reflecting the sun's heat back into space. It's a wild idea, but scientists are willing to try it, if it might cool the water temperature even a little. "We wouldn't want to have to do these geo-engineering ideas and deliberately make clouds over the reef if we didn't have to," researcher Daniel Harrison told Australian news outlet ABC. It's a desperate move, but these are desperate times for the warming planet. ML
Fox News must have an interesting vacation policy
It seems like the best time for a little R&R from the network is when you're smack in the middle of a controversy, after which you may or may not come back. Bill O'Reilly's vacation became permanent last week after the network decided to sever ties with the scandal-ridden host. Now O'Reilly's favorite protégé—ambush reporter Jesse Watters—is reportedly taking some time off after coming under fire for a crude joke about Ivanka Trump. CNN's Brian Stelter reports that Watters announced an abrupt vacation until Monday. That means he'll miss two days of his first week in prime-time and his weekend show, CNN reports. Those are some nice perks.
WATCH: Jesse Watters on Fox News re Ivanka Trump: "I really like how she was speaking into that microphone" pic.twitter.com/HoJHLpMtq1— Yashar (@yashar) April 26, 2017
On air I was referring to Ivanka's voice and how it resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ. This was in no way a joke about anything else.— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) April 26, 2017
Don’t tell Comcast about the cord-cutting crisis
The Philly cable powerhouse continues to buck the industry trend of customers abandoning linear pay television in favor of streaming services. In its Q1 2017 earnings report this morning, Comcast said it added 42,000 pay TV subscribers in the first three months of the year, most of whom were residential customers. This has been something of a rosy pattern for Comcast. It was the only legacy cable company to end 2016 with a net gain of pay TV customers. According to Leichtman Research, it added 161,000 for the year. Comcast's many customer service woes earned it a certain level of infamy a few years ago. These days, it credits customer gains with its fancy X1 platform, which is now being used by more than half of its residential customers. Read the full report here.
Someone finally beat up Silicon Valley’s robot cop
The egg-head, egg-shaped robot cop that patrols the malls of Mountain View, California, has been brutally assaulted by some drunk dude. Presumably the Geek Squad was immediately called to the scene before the robotic cop was MediEvac-ed to Best Buy for a reboot.
In near-seriousness, the drunk man in question, Jason Sylvain, approached the 300-pound K5 Knightscope while it was patrolling a parking lot. He then brutally knocked it over, requiring someone with arms and opposable thumbs to pick up the K5. It is now back on patrol, while Sylvain has been arrested for "prowling and public intoxication," according to ABC 7 News. No word on whether the robot's feelings were hurt, but we do know that RoboCop would never have tolerated this.
Xbox head says the world needs a Netflix of video games
Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model, reports the Guardian:
Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience—but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is—and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
"We're in a golden age of television right now," says Spencer. "The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it's because of the business model. I hope as an industry we can think about the same. [Subscription services] might spur new story-based games coming to market because there's a new business model to help support their monetisation."
Uber won’t compensate the family of an employee who committed suicide
Uber has refused the benefits claim of the family of Joseph Thomas, a 34-year-old Uber engineer who took his life in August of last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Thomas had landed the $170,000 role at Uber just five months earlier, but soon became depressed and suffered from extreme stress and anxiety, which he told a doctor and friends was due to the extreme work environment at Uber. As Thomas told a friend on Facebook:
"Man words can't really describe. I'm not dead but I wouldn't describe myself as ok. The sad thing is this place (Uber) has broken me to the point where I don't have the strength to look for another job."
Because Thomas worked for Uber for less than six months, Uber denied the benefits claim of his family—a wife and two children—through its insurance provider because under California law workers' compensation usually doesn't cover psychiatric injuries until a person has been employed for at least six months. Yet there is an exception to that law: "If the psychiatric injury is caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment condition," the six-month limit does not apply.
Thomas's family is now locked in a legal battle with Uber because they claim his suicide was a direct result of Uber's hostile work environment. "We think it was stress and harassment induced by his job, between him being one of the few African-Americans there, working around the clock, and the culture of Uber [that caused his suicide]. And he couldn't talk about it to anyone because of nondisclosure agreements," the family's lawyer said. MG
Kit and Ace closes all U.S. stores and cuts HQ staff
Kit and Ace, the high-end fashion brand launched by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, is drastically paring down its business. In September, it began closing a quarter of its 60 stores. Today, the Globe and Mail reported that the company is closing all remaining U.S., stores. Fast Company has also discovered that it is closing all Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and U.K. stores. It appears that the 10 Canada-based ones will stay open. Last fall it fired 20% of its 280 head office staff. This year, it let go of 35 more.
The brand is privately owned by Wilson, his wife, and his son. In a statement, Wilson said that Kit and Ace would focus on the digital side of the business. ES
This startup wants to make a personal air-quality tester that plugs into your iPhone
A Silicon Valley startup wants to make a personal air-quality tester a reality, and the perfect stocking stuffer for the next Erin Brockovich or Karen Silkwood in your life. Sprimo Labs, the air fanatics behind a personal air purifier that was unveiled at CES earlier this year, came up with a diminutive tester that plugs into your iPhone to give real-time air-quality scores. The tiny device reportedly checks the air for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in your office, home, or the back seat of the car where you're stuck with your brothers on a road trip. The product is currently over at Kickstarter, where it already blew way past its $15,000 funding goal. Check out the videos and decide for yourself if testing VOCs in every room you enter needs to be a part of your daily routine. ML
IBM patents ability to transfer packages between drones
Big Blue thinks one of the sticking points for companies interested in drone delivery is the limited distance over which packages can be sent. Its solution? Develop technology that makes it possible to hand off packages from one drone to another.
Today, IBM announced a patent for technology that achieves just that. The idea, of course, is that with a series of drones ready to go when needed, packages could make their way through the skies, from a distribution center to their destination, traveling much further than is possible with a single drone. As for when this will manifest, the company isn't yet saying. DT
Juno is terminating its stock program for drivers
Today, Gett confirmed that it is acquiring Juno for $200 million. In a letter to Juno drivers announcing the deal, Gett said it would be suspending the restricted stock units program and replacing it with cash bonuses. One Juno's early differentiators was that it offered drivers shares of the company based on the number of hours they worked. Half of the company's founding shares were reserved for drivers, so that even as the company eventually embraced automation, drivers would be taken care of. According to an email Juno sent to its drivers today, they're now only eligible to collect anywhere from $25 to "a four digit number," according to a Juno representative.
Independent Drivers Guild isn't happy about it. In response, the group released the following statement:
"Given the actions of driving apps to date, it comes as little surprise that Juno is cashing out, leaving the drivers who helped build the company with next to nothing. This latest bait-and-switch underscores the need for industry-wide protections to ensure a living wage for drivers in the face of deceptive tactics, empty promises and manipulation from ride-hail apps."
FCC chair Pai proposes plan to reverse 2015 net neutrality ruling
Ajit Pai today introduced a proposed plan to roll back an Obama era ruling that broadband service be regulated like a public utility. The new ruling will be opened for public comment and voted on next month by the FCC commissioners. Pai decided not to immediately reverse the 2015 ruling: "This is not a declaratory ruling," Pai said. "This decision should be made in an open process."
The proposal suggests regulating broadband as a Title 1 information service, as it was before the FCC's 2015 ruling. It would also revoke the FCC's new power to impose an "internet conduct standard," which Pai says allowed the commission ad hoc authority to investigate things like zero-rating. Pai adds that unlike the 2015 proposal, the new proposal will be released in full to the public (tomorrow, actually), well before an FCC vote.
Pai says the result of all this will be greater availability of internet service to poor and rural communities, more jobs for building out new broadband infrastructure, and a better path toward protecting the privacy of web users. MS
Alphabet Earnings preview: How did YouTube TV, Pixel, Daydream, and AI do in Q1?
Tomorrow, Google parent Alphabet announces its first-quarter earnings, which are expected to be quite good. Analysts are predicting the tech giant to report earnings of $7.40 per share on revenues of $24.19 billion.
Here's what we're looking for tomorrow: It would be great if Google CEO Sundar Pichai gives us any insight (as in, subscriber numbers) into how its brand-new YouTube TV service has done since launch, although it may be too soon for that, given that it only launched at the beginning of the month. We'd also like to hear more about how Google's Pixel phone has been selling, how its Home service has been doing, and any further thoughts on how the company plans on making money from its many artificial intelligence efforts. Further, are there any signs that Alphabet's Other Bets initiatives (among them, Nest, Waymo, and Verily) are producing more than just rounding-error revenues?
[Photo: SEASTOCK/iStock] DT