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04.25.17 | 11:31 am

Tech companies are trying to make hearing aids cool—and they just might do it

Words like "hip," "cool," and "fashionable" probably don't make you think about hearing aids, but a new wave of tech companies is looking to shake up the way hearing aids are created, sold, and marketed. With luck, you might even be able to one day pick them up at the pharmacy next to the reading glasses and breath mints. According to Doppler Labs' Kristen "KR" Liu, who spoke with NPR, such devices could be "something that's hip and cool," to the extent that people will have "multiple pairs and it's fashionable." 

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration regulates medical devices, including hearing aids, and doesn't allow them to be sold over the counter. That may be changing though thanks to bipartisan (really!) legislation making its way through Congress, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which may have helped spur the FDA into action. In December, the agency announced that adults would no longer need to be medically evaluated before buying a hearing aid, according to NPR. That's the first step to over-the-counter hearing aid purchases. It could clear the way for the more than 35 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss to pick up a solution at the drug store, instead of hoping insurance will cover them or ponying up $5,000 for a pair.

06.27.17 | 3 hours ago

A pharma exec was sentenced to nine years in prison for profiting from a meningitis outbreak

A Massachusetts pharmacy executive at the center of a deadly meningitis outbreak was sentenced to nine years in prison on Monday for putting profits above safety.

A federal jury convicted Barry Cadden, the owner and head pharmacist of New England Compounding Center, of racketeering and fraud charges in connection with the outbreak, Reuters reports. Cadden was cleared of second-degree murder charges for the outbreak that killed 76 people in what the DOJ has called the largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product. The outbreak occurred when Cadden started to produce drugs in dangerously unsanitary conditions (moldy gloves! unlicensed pharmacist!) sending more than 17,000 vials of the steroid tainted across the country. The contaminated steroid, which was commonly prescribed for back pain, caused injury or death in some 778 people nationwide. According to the Washington Post, back in 2014, federal prosecutors filed a 131-count indictment against Cadden and 13 others, claiming they "operated more like a criminal enterprise than a pharmacy." 

06.27.17 | 4 hours ago

CNN helpfully fact-checks Donald Trump’s tweet about its “way down” ratings

If textbook writers are looking for examples of irony, they would do well to include the latest tweet from Donald Trump—and a sharp rebuttal from CNN. Trump tweeted that "Fake News CNN" had its "Ratings way down!" which he said was due to the network being "caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories."

"Fake News CNN" quickly rebutted the president's claim, tweeting that in its reality (the fact that whose reality even needs to be specified is stupefying), the network had just posted its most-watched second quarter in history. Fake news indeed.

Yesterday, CNN said three journalists have left the network in the aftermath of a now-retracted Russia-related story. More on that bit of real news here.

06.27.17 | 9:13 am

Google responds to the EU fine with a “What about Amazon?” defense

Google was just fined a record $2.7 billion by the European Union over its promoted shopping search results. The commission alleges that Google, by cherry-picking the top results for online purchase queries, distorts the market. Google, however, would like to point out that it's not the only big player in town.

In a blog post published this morning, Google SVP and general counsel Kent Walker writes that the company is actually helping keep the market fair from other competitors. The digital ad juggernaut, you see, is just protecting us plebes from the other digital juggernauts also trying to distort the market. "Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay," he writes. 

He goes on to say that Amazon's influence and growth has also had a big impact on smaller sites and sales. He explains, "As Amazon has grown, it's natural that some comparison services have proven less popular than others." What's next for Google? After shifting the blame to Amazon, it says it's considering appealing the EU's decision. 

[Photo: Kai Oberhauser]

06.27.17 | 8:59 am

This bed startup used a century of research to create a suite of products optimized for the perfect night’s sleep

Tucked away in a corner of Atlanta, Serta Simmons has a high-tech facility devoted to understanding what goes into a good night's sleep. The company has spent over a century conducting research about the optimal temperature and light conditions for sleep, as well as the kinds of materials that go into crafting the most supportive bed. It has channeled all of these insights into a new independent subsidiary called Tomorrow.

Today, the brand launches a full suite of products designed to give a person the most restful night of sleep possible. The first step is, of course, the bed, which is designed to give the right amount of support and help regulate your body temperature. But the full system also involves two different types of pillows, a temperature regulating mattress protector, 500-thread-count sheets, a comforter, blackout drapes, and a tracker that is able to continually record data for one or two sleepers. "Until now, the only way we've been able to measure sleep has been by calculating how much time you've been asleep," says Brian Murphy, founder and president of Tomorrow. 

While other brands have tried to tackle one piece of the sleep puzzle–the pillow, for instance, or the most comfortable sheets–Tomorrow's goal was to use all available information to create a comprehensive system. By taking a direct-to-consumer approach, Tomorrow is able to sell mattresses starting at $550 (which arrive in a box, Casper-style), and the full system of products starts at $1,300. 

06.27.17 | 7:21 am

Florida now allows unmanned delivery robots on sidewalks

The Sunshine State is the fourth state to allow automated delivery robots on sidewalks and crosswalks, reports Recode. There are a few caveats: The robots cannot weigh more than 80 lbs. or go faster than 10 miles per hour. Florida joins Virginia, Idaho, and Wisconsin in allowing robots on sidewalks. 

06.27.17 | 5:56 am

Google just got fined a record-breaking $2.7 billion by the EU for manipulating search results

The fine is well above the expected $1.2 billion dollars many were expecting and comes after a seven-year inquiry by the European Commission into whether Google broke anticompetitive regulations by favoring search results leading shoppers to Google's Shopping service instead of rival shopping comparison sites, reports Bloomberg. Google is expected to appeal, but, if it would lose, the company could be forced to tweak its algorithms to how it ranks sites in search results, potentially affecting the company's core business globally.

06.27.17 | 5:37 am

Oracle, Yelp, and others have signed a letter of support for the EU’s imminent $1.2 billion anticompetitive fine against Google

Other signatories of the letter include News Corp, Disconnect, Getty Images, and News Media Alliance, reports Recode. The seven companies issued the letter ahead of the EU's actions, which is expected to fine Google this week for its alleged anticompetitive practices relating to its Google Shopping service, which aggregates prices and deals for products from around the web. The EU has been investigating whether or not Google favored its own shopping service in search results over others. If the fine is levied against Google, it will be the largest competition fine in EU history. The letter in full:

Dear Commissioner Vestager,

We represent U.S. companies that employ hundreds of thousands of workers across 50 states. We are writing to express our support for the Commission's enforcement action against Google.

As you near final decisions in the Shopping and Android cases, Google and its allies will no doubt continue to press through its lobbying and public relations machine the fiction that any adverse decision amounts to European "protectionism." As U.S.-based companies, we wish to go on record that enforcement action against Google is necessary and appropriate, not provincial. We have watched Google undermine competition in the United States and abroad. Google operates on a global scale and across the entire online ecosystem, destroying jobs and stifling innovation.

Google and its allies may also claim that there is no factual basis for a decision against Google. That too is untrue. The case against Google, both in Europe and the United States, rests on sound legal and factual foundations. Indeed, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission legal staff found that Google has monopoly power and that it engages in anticompetitive practices.

We believe that decisive action is necessary to restore competition and once again open the internet to innovation and growth. We hope that your counterparts in the United States will use this as an opportunity to address similar anticompetitive conduct by Google.

Disconnect Inc.
Getty Images Inc.
News Corporation
News Media Alliance
Oracle Corporation
Yelp Inc.

06.27.17 | 5:19 am

MIT team shows off a new approach to flying cars—drones that drive

When it comes to drones, they are usually built for one mode of transportation: flying or driving. This mono-modality means drones aren't as efficient as can be at navigating areas like cities where certain areas may be no-fly zones and other areas may have natural or artificial land barriers preventing a drone from driving through it, reports MIT News

Now a team of researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory aim to get around this single mode of navigation issue by creating hybrid drones that use artificial intelligence to identify why one mode of transport is better than the other and automatically switch between flying and driving depending on the physical and regulatory properties of the area the drone is in. You can check out how the system works in the video below.

06.26.17 | 7:37 pm

Report: Apple buys German company that holds key technology for augmented reality glasses

MacRumors sniffed out record of an Apple affiliate company in Germany buying a computer vision company called SensoMotoric Instruments. SensoMotoric is said to hold a trove of patents related to real-time eye tracking, which could be used as an input method in a future pair of Apple AR glasses. Here's the SensoMotoric technology in action:

06.26.17 | 7:13 pm

Attention iPad fans: iOS 11 is now an extremely tempting public beta

Earlier this month at Apple's WWDC keynote, one of the biggest pieces of news was the seriously ambitious new features Apple is building into iOS 11, especially for iPad users. The software isn't set to ship until the fall, but Apple has now released the first public beta—a test version that anyone can install on an iPad (or iPhone).

The usual caveats apply: Beta software is buggy by definition and will likely break some third-party apps (even ones that will work fine by the time of iOS 11's official release). But it's unusual for any upcoming operating system to offer as many temptations to throw caution to the wind as this one does. Here's Mashable's Lance Ulanoff on the major additions, which include more advanced multitasking and a new file manager.

Me, I'm about to take the plunge—knowing that I have a backup that will, in the case of emergency, allow me to return (relunctantly) to iOS 10.

06.26.17 | 5:32 pm

CBO says Senate health care bill would leave 22 million people uninsured over the next decade

The numbers are in, and they're pretty scary. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) today estimated that the Senate's version of the GOP plan to repeal Obamacare would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. That's slightly better than estimates for the House's version of the bill, which the CBO projected would leave 23 million uninsured. The plan, which Senate Republicans revealed last week after cooking it up in secrecy, would increase the number of uninsured by 15 million next year alone, mostly because of the elimination of the Obamacare penalty, the office said. The legislation would also reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over 10 years. Read the full projections here.

[Image: CBO]

06.26.17 | 5:07 pm

Pharma bro trial’s first big challenge? Finding jurors who don’t think Martin Shkreli is terrible

With controversial pharma exec Martin Shkreli's fraud trial set to begin in Brooklyn, at least a dozen jurors have been excused for bias against the so-called "pharma bro," Bloomberg reportsPotential jurors have called Shkreli "an evil man," a "snake," and a "price gouger." While Shkreli is perhaps best known for his unapologetic decision to raise the price of a drug used by HIV patients more than 5,000%, he's facing federal criminal charges for allegedly defrauding investors. In recent months, he's faced comparisons to President Trump for his refusal to curb controversial social media posts, even as he awaits his day in court.