International Travel, Jewish History, Apple, More: Friday Afternoon Buzz, December 29, 2017


KATU: State Department unveiling new international travel advisories. “The previous system was a bit antiquated, a list of alerts and warnings, and the State Department saw potential for a better system. Now, instead of warnings if something has happened in a specific place, the State Department’s new website will have advisories for every one of the nearly 200 countries on Earth, with maps and specifics that are accessible on mobile devices and are quicker to access and easier to interpret. Part of that overhaul is a new four-tiered system, Level 1 through 4, for each country, or even for specific regions of a country.” The site is expected to come online in mid-January.

Times of Israel: Now online: Never-before seen footage of 1900s Jewish Britain. “The images tumble from the screen, in glorious Technicolor or flickering black-and-white. The quality is highly variable and so is the subject matter, ranging from the utterly banal to the high-flown. And yet, there is a connecting thread — the celebration of ‘Jewish Britain on Film,’ a collection which has just been released by the British Film Archive. And, curator Simon McCallum explains, this is part of a much bigger project– ‘Britain on Film’ — where researchers are attempting to digitize more than 10,000 titles.”


Los Angeles Times: Apple apologizes for slowed-down iPhones and offers cheaper battery replacement. “Apple Inc. announced Thursday that it will temporarily lower the price of replacing iPhone batteries, hoping to ease the backlash over its acknowledgment that it deliberately slowed down older-model iPhones.”


The Conversation: AI is learning from our encounters with nature – and that’s a concern. “The idea seems wonderful – a phone app that allows you to take a photo of a plant or animal and receive immediate species identification and other information about it. A ‘Shazam for nature’ so to speak. We are building huge repositories of data related to our natural environments, making this idea a reality. But there are ethical concerns that should be addressed: about how data is collected and shared, who has the right to share it and how we use public data for machine learning. And there’s a bigger concern – whether such apps change what it means to be human.”

Forbes: These Social Media Apps Are Trying To Inspire The Best In Humanity. “Every child is born innocent. Soft and sculptable. It is situations that change us. It is circumstances that force us to adapt. They turn us into something entirely different from the people we were supposed to be. And yet, despite everything, there remains within every human being a desire to do good, however misguided their means may be. According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people engaged some form of volunteer work or other in the United States of America in 2016. That, at the very least, speaks to our inner desire to speak out for the causes that matter and help those who are in need. And while the country technological hub is right now the farthest place from our minds, for it is the land of statistics not humanity, a new generation of bold startups have taken it upon themselves to use the power of social virality to bring out the best in people’s hearts. But can a bunch of social media applications help build a safer, more responsible community?”

The Guardian: Facebook and Twitter threatened with sanctions in UK ‘fake news’ inquiry. “Facebook and Twitter could face sanctions if they continue to stonewall parliament over Russian interference in the EU referendum, the chair of a Commons inquiry has said. Damian Collins, chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which is looking into so-called ‘fake news’, has given the companies until 18 January to correct their failure to hand over information he requested about Russian misinformation campaigns on their platforms.”


PC World: The 12 biggest hacks, breaches, and security threats of 2017. “Security issues took a turn for the serious in 2017. This time around we still suffered the password breaches, malware annoyances, and stolen credit card numbers that have become commonplace in recent years. But the headlines were dominated by more sobering issues.”

ThreatPost: Leaky Rootsweb Server Exposes Some User Data. “ said it closed portions of its community-driven genealogy site RootsWeb as it investigated a leaky server that exposed 300,000 passwords, email addresses and usernames to the public internet. In a statement issued over the weekend, Chief Information Security Officer of Tony Blackham said a file containing the user data was publicly exposed on a RootsWeb server.”

New York Times: That Game on Your Phone May Be Tracking What You’re Watching on TV. “At first glance, the gaming apps — with names like ‘Pool 3D,’ ‘Beer Pong: Trickshot’ and ‘Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin’ — seem innocuous. One called “Honey Quest” features Jumbo, an animated bear. Yet these apps, once downloaded onto a smartphone, have the ability to keep tabs on the viewing habits of their users — some of whom may be children — even when the games aren’t being played.”


CleanTechnica: Microsoft ‘AI For Earth’ Project Will Democratize Access To Climate Change Data. “Information is power. Until recently, information about the condition of the earth’s environment has been accessible only to a limited number of people — climate scientists, researchers, and government officials among them. On December 11 — the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate accords — Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, announced his company will invest $50 million over the next 5 years to democratize access to the data available about the environment available from the thousands of land, sea, and atmospheric sensors in place around the world using AI or artificial intelligence.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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