Intel Says Major Security Bug Also Affects Competitors ARM and AMD

Intel fired back at reports that its entire microprocessor family was riddled with a severe security hole, conceding that the vulnerability existed but saying that a fix was in the works and that competing chips were also affected.

Initial reports on Wednesday that the flaw, which could allow hackers to steal confidential information like passwords, only affected Intel’s chips sent the company’s stock price plunging 7% while competitor Advanced Micro Devices shares jumped 6%. Reports that a software fix would slow the performance of affected PCs contributed to the strong reaction.

But in a mid-afternoon statement, Intel (intc) said the early reports were wrong. And mobile chip designer ARM Holdings said its chips were also affected and that it was working with Intel and AMD (amd) on a fix. That helped Intel shares claw back some of the drop and the stock closed down only 3%, while AMD ended with a 5% gain.

“Recent reports that these exploits are caused by a “bug” or a “flaw” and are unique to Intel products are incorrect,” Intel said. “Based on the analysis to date, many types of computing devices — with many different vendors’ processors and operating systems — are susceptible to these exploits.”

ARM, which is owned by SoftBank Group, said in a statement: “ARM have been working with Intel and AMD to devise mitigation for a new method identified by security researchers that can exploit certain high-end processors, including ours…Software mitigation measures have already been shared with our partners. ARM takes all security threats seriously and we encourage individual users to ensure their software is up-to-date and always practice good security hygiene.”

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AMD said its chips were affected by some but not all of a series of related security exploits uncovered by researchers. AMD has already developed a simple software fix for its chips that will not impact PC performance, an AMD spokesman said. “Due to differences in AMD’s architecture, we believe there is a near zero risk to AMD processors at this time,” the company said in a statement. “We expect the security research to be published later today and will provide further updates at that time.”

The problem arose in the software that runs the core processing center on Intel chips, known as the kernel. Researchers found that programs running on a PC could gain access to parts of the kernel’s stored memory that were supposed to be off limits. That could allow a malicious hacker to read confidential information like passwords or data files cached in memory, the tech news site The Register reported.

Some of the confusion resulted from the fact that researchers at Google (googl) had found several different exploits to crack the kernel’s protected data, but had not published their full findings when some of the details began to leak. One exploit with two variations, dubbed Spectre, impacts virtually all major chip lines, while another, called Meltdown, is limited to Intel’s chips.

Intel said it had already begun distributing software fixes to eliminate the issue and denied that the patches would noticeably hamper the performance of affected systems. “Contrary to some reports, any performance impacts are workload-dependent, and, for the average computer user, should not be significant and will be mitigated over time,” Intel said.

BlackBerry surges on deal with Baidu for self-driving cars

(Reuters) – BlackBerry Ltd (BB.TO) and Chinese internet search firm Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) on Wednesday signed a deal to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology, sending BlackBerry’s Toronto-listed shares up 13 percent to a four-year high.

The deal follows similar agreements with firms including Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), Denso (6902.T) and Aptiv Plc (APTV.N) to develop autonomous-driving technology with BlackBerry’s QNX software, which are expected to start generating revenue in 2019.

Investors and analysts are closely watching what comes of those agreements amid expectations that QNX could become a key technology in the burgeoning self-driving vehicle industry, serving as the operating system for computer chips used to run self-driving vehicles.

QNX will be the operating system for Apollo, a platform for self-driving vehicles that Baidu announced in April and has billed as the “Android” of the autonomous driving industry.

“The opportunity is global, it’s for a very large market and I think it’s a very solid win for BlackBerry,” said CIBC Capital Markets analyst Todd Coupland.

Apollo has since signed up several major automakers, including Ford Motor Co (F.N), Hyundai Motor Group (005380.KS) and several Chinese carmakers.

QNX has long been used to run car infotainment consoles. BlackBerry has recently developed the software to run sophisticated computer chips for autos that manage multiple safety-critical systems.

BlackBerry shares rose 13 percent in Toronto to C$16.95, their sharpest one-day gain since April and highest close since March 2013.

The two companies said they will also integrate Baidu’s CarLife, a leading smartphone integration software for connected cars in China, its conversational AI system and high definition maps with BlackBerry’s infotainment platform.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto and John Benny in Bengaluru; Editing by Jim Finkle and Sandra Maler

Navigating the Uncanny Valley of Food 

A quarter century ago, Steven Spielberg created velociraptors that were viscerally compelling enough to toe-claw tap dance straight into our nightmares. Last year, the VFX team behind Rogue One gave us a posthumously CGI-reanimated Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, and that inspired a different and unintended kind of unease. Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori’s famous Uncanny Valley hypothesis proposes that near-perfect human replicas elicit a specific form of revulsion—we’re simultaneously intrigued by something seemingly human enough to deserve empathy, and yet repulsed by the realization that something is off.

Now, we usually cut fake dinosaurs some slack because humanity’s social code doesn’t depend on interpreting T. rex eyebrow tics. But our finely calibrated facial lie detectors are critical when it comes to recognizing and assessing threats, rivals, allies, and potential mates. And, as it turns out, we have similar systems in place to monitor another intimate element of our survival: eating.

From birth, we are wired to seek sweetness and avoid bitterness, two points on an intricate flavor compass used by our ancestors to navigate between easy calories and potential poisons. We no longer lean heavily on flavor for life-and-death guidance, it’s true. But those instinctual flavor-tracking systems continue to operate in the background of our daily lives, even as the food landscape changes dramatically. Fervent foodie tribes who demand low-sugar, grain-free, and especially animal-free alternatives to our favorite foods are pushing food industry innovation deeper into the realm of imitation. And as this pressure mounts, food companies should be wary of stumbling into the unsettling pit of another uncanny valley.

Creating food is an intricate balancing act of battling senses. Salt, for example, suppresses bitterness and enhances sweetness, while indole, a single aroma compound, can give us either the aroma of jasmine or barnyard feces, depending on its concentration. Our ears act like amplifiers to turn up the crunchy texture of potato chips, and our eyes gobble up tasteless yellow food coloring to boost the apparent fruitiness of canary-colored banana pudding. And even our memories and moods can warp and twist flavor perception. If I share a bite of what I think is perfectly cooked and seasoned barbecue brisket with a 65-year-old Japanese winemaker, I might hear that it was too soft, undersalted, and oversmoked.

So building food from the ground up to hit a rigidly specified flavor target, it should seem obvious, is nothing short of a cosmic achievement. Especially if you hope to scale that innovation to the level of commercial food production, as companies like Hampton Creek, Ripple, and Memphis Meats have attempted in the last few years.

Like the clunky claymation effects that predated Phantom Peter Cushing, the first commercial food analogues aimed slightly lower than sensory parity. Success for the first butter substitutes and tofu-based “deli meats” was defined primarily by whether the material could be spread on toast or stacked under lettuce and tomatoes. These first steps were far enough from the uncanny valley that they were an exciting novelty for health-conscious diners or vegetarians. For the rest of us, they were a blip on the radar.

But as consumers have gotten more discerning, the ambition and investment in imitations have grown. In the past half-decade, we’ve seen millions of dollars put towards developing sophisticated, animal-free renditions of dairy, meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, transitioning the movement out of the test kitchen and into the mainstream. Hampton Creek is making strides to expand their egg-free empire beyond mayonnaise and into our morning breakfast routine with plant-based, scramble-able eggs. Memphis Meats looks to go straight to the source, culturing animal muscles in vitro to build chicken wings and beef steaks cell by cell. The food scientists leading this charge are armed with sensitive gas chromatographs to map the volatile composition of yogurt as it ferments, texture analyzers to quantify the snappiness of a sausage casing or the gooeyness of a perfectly poached egg, and massive, searchable libraries of taste and aroma compound descriptors to aid in the architecture of new flavors.

We can now translate real food reference points into data-based flavor blueprints with better resolution than ever before. But the data is still incomplete—miniscule quantities of aroma compounds that barely register on a gas chromatograph readout can scream into our nostrils, for instance—and that can leave us with some truly unnatural eating experiences.

The Bay Area beverage company Ava Winery believes that we can use these blueprints to cobble pure ethanol and a cocktail of the right taste and aroma compounds into cheaper, ostensibly more sustainable imitations of our favorite wines. In a vacuum, Ava’s Moscato d’Asti is delicious, with more sophisticated depth and nuance than any soda you’ll find on the market. But if you’ve ever had wine before, then the Ava product tastes like it was poured through a funhouse mirror. Even a faint food memory is enough to prime our brains for nitpicking, exposing all of the details and higher-order interactions between our senses that even the best analytical equipment fails to capture.

Food analogue companies have made some staggeringly impressive leaps. But with a long, arduous road to perfection still ahead, it’s worth considering the option of avoiding Mori’s valley altogether through the creativity of chefs. Chefs are opportunistic creators: Without a set target to imitate, they are free to explore infinite variations on a flavor theme. They can nimbly veer away from potential hurdles in pursuit of freeform deliciousness. When a chef makes a miso from coffee beans or cures butternut squash in the style of parmesan, she’s not aiming for perfect re-creations of soy and dairy products; she just wants a super savory sauce base with the roasty depth of good coffee or a grateable topping to enhance a squash ravioli. By embracing the natural character of their source ingredients, chefs expand the spectrum of craveable experiences that plant foods can offer beyond mere imitation of animal products.

The food companies attempting to navigate the uncanny valley of food are striving to achieve unprecedented technological feats in the name of a more humane, sustainable future. I want them to succeed for the sake of the environment, because I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of them, and so that we can move on from simple imitation. Biochemically speaking, the abundant variety of tastes, aromas, colors, textures, and flavor-generating enzymes offered by plant foods dwarfs that which we can find in animals—so forcing plants to act like meat actually undersells their potential. The whole point of creating CGI humans in movies is so they can do amazing things normal people can’t, and I look forward to the day when we can expect that same thrill from the snacks we eat at the theater.

Ali Bouzari is a culinary scientist, author, educator, and co-founder of Pilot R&D, a culinary research and development company, and Render, a new food company that collaborates with the best restaurant chefs in the country to reinvent the way food lovers eat. As a chef with a PhD in food biochemistry, Ali has helped to lead the charge in changing the way we think about cooking by teaching and developing curriculum at top universities and collaborating with the country’s most innovative restaurants.

Clean Energy Is a Bright Spot Amid a Dark Tech Cloud

The mood around tech is dark these days. Social networks are a cesspool of harassment and lies. On-demand firms are producing a bleak economy of gig labor. AI learns to be racist. Is there anyplace where the tech news is radiant with old-fashioned optimism? Where good cheer abounds?

Why, yes, there is: clean energy. It is, in effect, the new Silicon Valley—filled with giddy, breathtaking ingenuity and flat-out good news.

This might seem surprising given the climate-change denialism in Washington. But consider, first, residential solar energy. The price of panels has plummeted in the past decade and is projected to drop another 30 percent by 2022. Why? Clever engineering breakthroughs, like the use of diamond wire to slice silicon wafers into ever-skinnier slabs, producing higher yields with less raw material.

Manufacturing costs are down. According to US government projections, the fastest-growing occupation of the next 10 years will be solar voltaic installer. And you know who switched to solar power last year, because it was so cheap? The Kentucky Coal Museum.

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Tech may have served up Nazis in social media streams, but, hey, it’s also creating microgrids—a locavore equivalent for the solar set. One of these efforts is Brooklyn-based LO3 Energy, a company that makes a paperback-sized device and software that lets owners of solar-equipped homes sell energy to their neighbors—verifying the transactions using the blockchain, to boot. LO3 is testing its system in 60 homes on its Brooklyn grid and hundreds more in other areas.

“Buy energy and you’re buying from your community,” LO3 founder Lawrence Or­sini tells me. His chipsets can also connect to smart appliances, so you could save money by letting his system cycle down your devices when the network is low on power. The company uses internet logic—smart devices that talk to each other over a dumb network—to optimize power consumption on the fly, making local clean energy ever more viable.

But wait, doesn’t blockchain number-crunching use so much electricity it generates wasteful heat? It does. So Orsini invented DareHenry, a rack crammed with six GPUs; while it processes math, phase-­changing goo absorbs the outbound heat and uses it to warm a house. Blockchain cogeneration, people! DareHenry is 4 feet of gorgeous, Victorian­esque steampunk aluminum—so lovely you’d want one to show off to guests.

Solar and blockchain are only the tip of clean tech. Within a few years, we’ll likely see the first home fuel-cell systems, which convert natural gas to electricity. Such systems are “about 80 percent efficient,” marvels Garry Golden, a futurist who has studied clean energy. (He’s also on LO3’s grid, with the rest of his block.)

The point is, clean energy has a utopian spirit that reminds me of the early days of personal computers. The pioneers of the 1970s were crazy hackers, hell-bent on making machines cheap enough for the masses. Everyone thought they were nuts, or small potatoes—yet they revolutionized communication. When I look at Orsini’s ­blockchain-based energy-trading routers, I see the Altair. And there are oodles more inventors like him.

Mind you, early Silicon Valley had something crucial that clean energy now does not: massive federal government support. The military bought tons of microchips, helping to scale up computing. Trump’s band of climate deniers aren’t likely to be buyers of first resort for clean energy, but states can do a lot. California already has, for instance, by creating quotas for renewables. So even if you can’t afford this stuff yourself, you should pressure state and local officials to ramp up their solar energy use. It’ll give us all a boost of much-needed cheer.

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Lessons for the 1939 World's Fair for the Coming Transportation Utopia

The future, according to the folks who make the renderings, will be built mostly around whooshing. The details differ from one imagined utopia to the next, but the broad strokes are the same. Cars will run on electricity, drive themselves, even fly. Networks of vacuum tubes and tunnels will connect cities to each other and to the hinterlands. Supersonic jets will turn transoceanic journeys into river crossings. The burning of fossil fuels will seem as remote and unsavory as human sacrifice. Trees will blanket the urban centers; the air will refresh our lungs instead of blackening them.

Moving about the planet will be faster, safer, easier, comfier, greener, cheaper, and whooshier. Best of all, there will be no traffic.

So say the renderings, of which there are many. They’re created by all the players who imagine themselves profitably managing this future—Elon Musk chief among them, but also Lyft and Uber, Ford and General Motors, and innumerable startups.

Ford—which now calls itself a mobility company as well as an automaker—is among the many companies pitching a new, utopian vision of the future.

FOrd

Americans have been given a glimpse of this sort of transportation paradise before. They stood under the hot sun for hours at a time to see it, because they were fed up with traffic, and any world that promises to end it is worth a look. And so millions of people made it up a winding ramp and into a mysterious building and sat in the navy blue mohair chairs that would ferry them through the marquee exhibit of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

The progenitor of the optimism-soaked hybrid of amusement park and educational diorama later perfected by Walt Disney, Futurama was a 17-minute pitch by General Motors that showed its audience a world that had solved transportation by signing over the ground floor of city and country to the car. Everyone in the picture had the keys to that era’s smartphone, the device that unlocked access to a world of wealth and convenience.

That vision, for the most part, came true. Futurama predicted the world of 1960. By that new decade, the personal car was in fact dominant, suburbs reigned supreme, and the highway was everyone’s my way. We still live in Futurama today, but it doesn’t feel like utopia. We are locked in a transportation monoculture, reliant on machines that are bad for the planet, bad for the economy, bad for the soul. And, my god, the traffic.

What the hell happened to the future? And how do we stop it from happening again?


Futurama was the creation of Norman Bel Geddes, a Michigan-born designer who started his career building theater sets. By the 1930s, he was leading a field now called industrial design, and his ambition stretched beyond Broadway. Bel Geddes was always looking to solve interesting problems, and when his design firm was between contracts, he would give him employees theoretical problems to keep them busy. One example: What’s the fastest, most luxurious way to get wealthy passengers from New York to Paris? Another: How to eliminate traffic, an increasingly nasty problem in a country with more and more cars crowding roads designed for wagons?

When Bel Geddes heard the 1939 World’s Fair was coming to Flushing, Queens, he spied a stage bigger than any theater’s. And he knew the traffic problem—everyone hates traffic—would bring him his audience. He would fix America’s roadways for the age of the automobile.

Bel Geddes cajoled General Motors into funding the exhibit, and in an 11-month sprint vividly recounted by Barbara Alexandra Szerlip in The Man Who Designed the Future: Norman Bel Geddes and the Invention of Twentieth-Century America, built something no one had seen before. Fair goers who braved the line—sometimes a mile long—would sit on a train of 552 chairs. Each seat had a built-in speaker through which a narrator explained how “this wonderworld of 1960” had eliminated car crashes and congestion with a transcontinental network of cleverly designed highways. Riders would gaze down on that world, marveling at the dioramas of cities dotted by skyscrapers, elevated walkways, and logically placed parks, the cloverleafs that did away with intersections, the networks that let cars coast without interruption.

Over the two years of the New York World’s Fair, close to 30 million people took the ride and walked away with a pin reading “I Have Seen the Future.” Many more heard about the exhibit secondhand, or through radio reports. Perhaps most stunning, Futurama drew more visitors than the Fair’s Midway section, home of amusements like “Miss Nude of 1939” and the burlesque routine of Rosita Royce, whose trained birds removed her clothes.

The Fair came on the heels of the Great Depression and amidst the early days of the Second World War. (Between the 1939 and 1940 seasons, the pavilions put on by Albania, Poland, and Yugoslavia, among others, disappeared.) In the US, it marked a moment when “people were ready for a new vision of prosperity, of a new America,” says Henry Jenkins, a media scholar at the University of Southern California. It was also a moment when science fiction was first entering the cultural mainstream, and with it technological utopianism—the belief that scientific advances could only make life better.

Bel Geddes didn’t invent this idea of the future himself. “Much of Futurama was a pastiche of existing theories and concepts that had appeared in everything from H. G. Wells’s stories and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to sketches by F. L. Wright and Raymond Hood. And certainly Le Corbusier was in the mix,” Szerlip writes. But it was Bel Geddes and his ride that brought such thinking to the attention of the masses. It was the world of Futurama that took hold.

During the war years, Futurama was put on pause. The production of civilian cars was stopped until 1945, and the resources demanded by a global conflict nixed any thought of major infrastructure work at home. But eventually, the American soldiers came home to a country that had been through more than a decade of deprivation and sacrifice. A sudden superpower, the US was ready to make real that memory of the future.

Car sales boomed. The suburbs flourished, offering an American dream to middle and upper classes that still tempts us today: home ownership, 2.5 kids, prosperity. Highways stretched across the country and bored through urban cores, often devastating vibrant but working-class, usually minority neighborhoods: the South Bronx, Minneapolis’ Rondo, Detroit’s Paradise Valley. As the car monoculture took root, public transportation shriveled, streetcar tracks were torn up. Those who couldn’t afford to buy and keep a car were left with the bus, or their feet. And the traffic was insufferable as ever, as the law of induced demand filled every new square foot of concrete nearly as quick as it was poured.

Yet even before master builder Robert Moses declared “the postwar highway era is here”—in the immediate aftermath of the fighting—some critics had started to resist the tide, at least in New York. Moses was an early example of the deep state, a never-elected bureaucrat who amassed so much power that he dictated how New York built its infrastructure for much of the mid-20th century—and how it’s shaped today. Chief among those who dared challenge him was Lewis Mumford, who railed against New York’s elevation of individual transportation.

“Because we have apparently decided that the private motorcar has a sacred right to go anywhere, halt anywhere, and remain anywhere as long as its owner chooses, we have neglected other means of transportation,” Mumford wrote in The New Yorker in 1955. “The major corrective for this crippling overspecialization is to redevelop now despised modes of circulation—public vehicles and private feet,” an argument common today among 21st century urbanists.

Such warnings proved futile, partly because Moses had nearly complete control over what got funded and built in New York, and he believed in the car above any sort of public transit. (To truly understand today’s cities, take a sabbatical and read Robert Caro’s epic biography of Moses, The Power Broker.)

One man cannot take all the blame. One corporation, though, just might. The ride that wowed millions at the 1939 World’s Fair represented just one strain of the era’s technological utopianism, says Jenkins. The future conjured by H. G. Wells in his book The Shape of Things to Come, and its film adaptation, directed by William Cameron Menzies, included cities full of pedestrians and shared transport.

But Futurama, however artistic, was ultimately a commercial paid for by General Motors. In Szerlip’s telling, Bel Geddes first pitched a similar idea to Shell, and he convinced GM executives to fund his project by telling them the point was to sell not any particular model car, but the future—“With the promise that every citizen can own a piece of that future for the price of a General Motors automobile.”

“We have a corporately sponsored remaking of the technological utopianism through Futurama,” Jenkins says. And that’s the future that we built.


Six decades on, we have a fresh chance. The simultaneous advent of electric, autonomous, and even tubular transportation is an opportunity to rethink and remake our cities. Thus, the renderings, and the promises from companies that before long, the tech they’re developing will clear the air, save lives, and of course, end traffic.

“Highways are an impressive, flashy thing to build. No one is against highways,” Lewis Mumford wrote more than half a century ago. Today, you could swap “hyperloop” for “highway” and you get the same idea—that the shiny future, however ill-conceived, is the one for us.

We have the tools to make sure we don’t repeat our mistakes. “The problem we have now is there is no choice,” says Daniel Sperling, who researches transportation planning at the University of California, Davis. Most places in America, you have to own a car. Autonomous vehicles could change that, and bring mobility to millions. But for the sake of the planet and our lungs, regulators should insist they be electric. To prevent a world where the streets are still clogged with cars, half of them empty, Sperling says, “We desperately need them to be pooled.”

And you can’t settle on one vision, says Di-Ann Eisnor, the director of growth at Waze, who runs the company’s Connected Citizens program. The last time around, “We made assumptions about capacity”—like that you could always make more roads for more cars. Clawing that urban space back demands an experimental mindset. Cities around the world are trying new things. San Francisco is adjusting parking prices based on demand. Mexico City is battling congestion by killing parking. Washington, DC is trying out special zones where Uber and Lyft can safely scoop up passengers. “Technology and community need to go hand in hand,” Eisnor says. “Everyday, test something new.”

Ultimately, we need a future fueled by many imagined utopias, a diversity of approaches and policies. By definition, the monoculture won’t work for all. In the 20th century, the working class was left behind. Any of those lovely renderings would be a fine way to whoosh forward—as long as this time, they bring everyone along for the traffic-free ride.


City Lives

WIRED'S 12 Most-Read Opinion Pieces in 2017

Privacy, Facebook, surveillance, net neutrality, gender issues, climate change, hacking: The list of opinion topics that most attracted attention from WIRED readers in 2017 doubles as a list of Things That Gave Us Angst This Year. Here are the dozen most-read Opinion pieces of 2017.

FCC Wants to Kill Net Neutrality. Congress Will Pay the Price

The Federal Communications Commission’s vote to kill net neutrality provisions drew derision from all corners of WIRED, including our opinion section, which ran several op-eds on the topic. In December Ryan Singel, a former WIRED editor who’s now a media and strategy fellow at the Center for Internet and Society, argued that ending the open internet will have profound effects on the re-election efforts of Congressional Republicans in 2018.

Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science

In August, shortly after Google engineer James Damore posted a diatribe about gender differences on an internal company message board, UC San Diego physics professor Alison Coil explained why male scientists devalue research that identifies gender bias in the field. Academics should believe the research showing discrimination, but, Coil asserted, “What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society.”

A Wet Year Won’t Beat California’s Never-Ending Drought

Last January, as California was saturated with rain and snow, the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick, a hydroclimatologist, explained why a wet year didn’t mean the golden state’s drought was over. Nearly a year later, as the state has been incinerated by historically terrible wildfires, it’s all too clear that Gleick was right.

Equifax Deserves the Corporate Death Penalty

What should government do when a company fails to protect the personal data of 143 million people? Give it the corporate version of the death penalty, argued Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech for People. Fein’s October essay explained that in Georgia—Equifax’s home state—authorities can file suit to dissolve a corporation if it has abused the authority conveyed upon it by the state.

How Social Media Endangers Knowledge

Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian media analyst, wrote that the rise of social media is reducing humans’ curiosity, as people strive for Likes rather than the pursuit of knowledge. Social media, Derakhshan argued, “engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing.”

Potential Trump Science Adviser Says Climate Change Is Great

In February Benjamin Sanderson, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, warned that a top candidate to be Donald Trump’s science advisor, William Happer, was a climate change enthusiast. Ultimately, Happer didn’t get the job, but the position is still vacant.

Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities

Not every question can be answered with code, Emma Pierson, a physics PhD candidate at Stanford, wrote in April. When ethical questions arise in, say, artificial intelligence applications, sound knowledge of other fields—literature, sociology, or ethics, for example—will help uncover solutions that algorithms alone cannot.

A Blackjack Pro Explains How Ignoring the Odds Cost the Falcons the Super Bowl

February’s match-up between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons ended with a killer comeback for the Patriots. Jeff Ma, the leader of the MIT blackjack team that inspired the book Bringing Down the House, explained that the Falcons lost because the team didn’t follow basic probability rules commonly employed at a blackjack table.

Trump’s Taxes Have Probably Already Been Hacked

Given the tremendous amount of attention given to Donald Trump’s tax returns, it’s almost inconceivable that they haven’t already been hacked, wrote John Powers, who runs a New York-based investigative firm, in November.

Facebook’s Not Listening Through Your Phone. It Doesn’t Have To

In November Antonio García Martínez, who was the first ads targeting product manager on Facebook’s ads team, wrote that Facebook isn’t eavesdropping on its users through their smartphones’ microphones. That’s in part because the social network tracks users so many other ways, it doesn’t need to snoop.

Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now

Writer and technologist Jason Tashea explained how algorithms pervade our everyday lives, from our credit scores to the route Waze suggests we take to the airport. Tashea argued that applying algorithms in criminal cases, with no clear oversight or transparency, could result in overly punitive sentences.

A Murder Case Tests Alexa’s Devotion to Your Privacy

As WIRED editors have explained at length, devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home series listen to our conversations, eagerly awaiting a “wake” word to command them to turn on some Miriam Makeba or calculate how many tablespoons are in a cup (16). But, as civil attorney Gerald Sauer explained in a February piece, smart home devices’ microphones can also effectively collect evidence that can be used against their owners in court.

Serial SWAT Hoaxer Arrested in Deadly Call of Duty-Linked Police Shooting

Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot and killed by police in Wichita late Thursday, after a fraudulent emergency call drew police to his family’s residence with their weapons drawn. The hoax call — an instance of what’s known as “swatting” — was placed after an argument in the online game Call of Duty.

Wichita police received a 911 call on Thursday purporting to be from an armed man holding his own family hostage. When they arrived at the address, there was no hostage situation, but Finch was shot and killed after opening the door to the house and, according to police, reaching for his waistband several times. According to Finch’s family, he didn’t play video games. He was unarmed.

The swatting call was reportedly made after an online match in the wargame Call of Duty, with a bet of $1.50 on the line.

The alleged perpetrator, who responded to news about the swatting live on twitter, has been arrested in Los Angeles. Tyler Raj Barriss, 25, known online as “SWAuTistic,” has been previously arrested for making hoax calls to police, including two bomb threats in 2015. More recently, he may have been responsible for a bomb threat that disrupted the FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality rules.

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Security researcher Brian Krebs, himself a former swatting victim, tracked down what appear to be tweets by the perpetrator of the attack. After the fatality was reported, the swatter tweeted: “I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION.”

Krebs also managed to briefly interview the apparent perpetrator via Twitter before Barriss’ arrest. He told Krebs that he had been paid for previous swattings. While he said he felt remorse for the death, he was “too scared” to turn himself in to police.

According to an interview with a man claiming to be the perpetrator on the YouTube channel DramaAlert before the arrest, Barriss was not involved in the inciting online match. Instead, one of the involved players contacted him and asked him to make the fake call.

The phenomenon of swatting has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among online gamers and hackers. According to Krebs, many perpetrators are minors and receive token punishments for their false reports. In some jurisdictions, filing a false police report is a misdemeanor, making it less likely that a swatter could be charged with murder for a resulting death.

Police had not disclosed the charges against Barriss as of this morning.

China's Huawei flags slower smartphone and overall revenue growth

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] on Friday flagged overall and smartphone revenue figures for 2017 that represented its slowest growth in four years, and vowed to extend its global reach with more premium products next year.

The telecom equipment and smartphone maker expects 2017 revenue to rise 15 percent to 600 billion yuan ($92.08 billion), Chief Executive Ken Hu said in his New Year’s message.

That represents the slowest growth since 2013 for Huawei. Its fast revenue growth in recent years has been slowing as Chinese telecom carriers complete the construction of the world’s largest 4G mobile network and as competition intensifies in the smartphone market.

Hu said Huawei’s smartphone shipments in 2017 totaled 153 million units and its global market share topped 10 percent, cementing its position as the world’s third-largest smartphone maker after Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.

Huawei said it would focus on profit after posting near-flat annual profit growth in March, weighed down by its fast-growing but thin-margin smartphone business and marketing spending.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, in a separate New Year’s message said the group will strive to obtain a larger share in the high-end market globally, after recording “significant” growth in markets such as Italy and Germany in the past year.

“In 2018, we will have disruptive products and innovative technology to lead the global market. I believe that 2018 will be the first year that we will truly be walking the road to global prominence,” Yu said.

In October Huawei launched its Mate 10 series, its most expensive model to date and powered with AI-enhanced chips which the company says are faster than Apple’s iPhones. The model “sold extremely well”, Yu said, without disclosing a number.

Yu said the division’s revenue is expected to rise 30 percent to 236 billion yuan – also its slowest growth since 2013.

“We need to better understand the needs of high-end users outside China and fashion-savvy young consumers in China,” Yu said.

Industry tracker IDC forecasts China’s total smartphone shipments in 2017 to shrink slightly versus a year earlier.

Hu also said Huawei’s enterprise business needs to “maintain mid-to-high growth speed and become a pillar business for the company in five years”.

He also called on the company’s consumer business to improve profitability, its new public cloud business to increase in scale, and its core carrier business to outperform the industry.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; editing by Christopher Cushing and Jason Neely

These 5 Surprising Myths About Entrepreneurs Just Aren't True (and Here's the Brutal Truth)

To understand how entrepreneurs think, you first need to drop a few myths or stereotypes you may be carrying around. Given the media’s ongoing love affair with entrepreneurs, it shouldn’t surprise you that these myths have grown up around them.

Myth #1: Entrepreneurs are born, not made

This is the same as saying that you can’t teach entrepreneurship. According to management guru Peter Drucker, entrepreneurship is a discipline that can be learned. Passion and persistence may be in your genes, but it takes work to develop the skills that entrepreneurs have.

Myth #2: It takes a lot of money to start a business

Not true! In fact, every year Inc magazine profiles businesses that have started on $1,000 or less. And among Inc‘s annual list of the 5000 fastest-growing private companies, there is no direct relationship between the amount of start-up capital invested and ultimate business success.

Myth #3: You need a business plan to succeed

Sure, investors and lenders want to see a business plan before handing you a wad of cash, but if you don’t need these resources at start up, you may be able to launch your business based on the results of a feasibility analysis and then get some traction with customers. Some Internet entrepreneurs, like Richard Rosenblatt of Demand Media, know how to get a website up and making money within a couple weeks. These savvy entrepreneurs know that testing the market is more important than spending the time to write a business plan.

Myth #4: Entrepreneurs are in it for the money

Okay, some entrepreneurs do think that making money is what it’s all about, but the #1 reason that most entrepreneurs start businesses is independence — the ability to create something they can call their own instead of working for someone else. Entrepreneurs want to control their destiny.

Myth #5: You have to be young and restless to be an entrepreneur

You definitely do not have to be young to be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report found that the number of older adults who are self employed outweighs that of young adults. Entrepreneurship is for all ages!

JD.Com: Is The Current Stock Price Justified?

Preface

Since my article last month about why it was time to sell Square (NASDAQ:SQ) attracted quite a few heated responses, I would like to preface this article with the following note: unless otherwise indicated, my recommendations are not intended to predict day-to-day actions. My approach to investing has always been long-term value/growth. I try to compare the market value of a company with my own assessment and make my investment decisions that way. So as always, please use your own discretion when trading.

That being said, I’d like to share with you the reasons why JD.com(NASDAQ:JD) is my current top holding, and then address some of the most common concerns investors may have.

Reason #1: Sound Management

Source: https://twitter.com/JD_Corporate/status/938979990795890688Source: Twitter

JD’s founder and CEO, Richard Liu, reminds me a lot of Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. He is determined, bold, and persistent. His company, named after his own name (D stands for Dong, which is part of Liu’s first name), is entrenched in his personal vision and belief. Many already know and have compared JD with Amazon, due to JD’s similar operational strategies such as having its own logistics department and its automated warehouses. However, I think the most striking similarity lies within the two founders. Like Bezos, Liu focuses heavily on the future of the company, as opposed to near-term profits. He reiterated this point in his latest earning’s call:

over the long-term, our commitment is to improve our profitability on an annual basis. And with that in mind, we do not manage earnings on a quarterly basis, and if any certain quarter has outsized profitability, we may decide to reinvest part of that excess return back into the business to pursue further growth. So that strategy has not changed. […] so if you look at it over the long-term, any excess return beyond our expectations will be reinvested roughly 30% to 40% of those excess returns back into the business and half of that will be in technologies.

– Richard Liu, 2017 Q3 earnings call

Under Liu’s leadership, JD has become one of the most ethical and trusted companies in China. It is known for never selling counterfeit products, and its deliveries are fast and reliable. Most recently, JD announced a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance with Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University, in an effort to bring safer food supply to China, a huge need for the Chinese.

Reason #2: Robust Growth

JD’s upside comes from its tremendous growth potential.

There are currently only 4 large-cap companies in the current market that are top 20% in all of the following categories:

3-5 Yrs Foward EPS

Rev Growth (TTM vs Prior TTM)

Rev Growth (past 5 Yrs)

Book Value Growth (past 5 Yrs)

Source: Fidelity (account required)

As one can see, JD is part of an elite group of growth companies. While past performances are not always indications of future, it does show what JD has been capable of doing. In addition, the ever-growing Chinese E-commerce market will certainly help JD’s case. The Chinese online retail market share is expected to continue its vigorous rise.

Source: Statista

Reason #3: Cheap Valuation

For a company with such positive outlook, the current valuation is cheap in my opinion. JD’s next year’s P/E is estimated to be 47.9, which is neither cheap nor expensive for an emerging growth company. However, the Price/Sale Ratio, one that more accurately reflects the value of a company that doesn’t focus on earnings, is only at 1.25, which is ridiculously low. In comparison, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and BABA (NASDAQ:BABA)’s P/S ratios are at 3.47 and 15.34, respectively. Should JD continue its growth and improve its margin (more on this below) as expected, I expect P/S to match up more closely to its peers. Additionally, JD’s price/book ratio is also the lowest of the three.

Source: Fidelity (account required)

Reason #4: Strong and constant partnerships

As many already know, China’s tech giant Tencent currently owns 21.25% stake in JD, one that surpasses its CEO, who owns only 16.2% (Liu still owns 80% of the voting power). As a result, JD gets access to the huge Wechat user base. On Oct 20 this year, JD and Tencent launched JD-Tencent Retail Marketing Solution, which provides a better understanding of Chinese consumers for both JD and Tencent. I expect the effect of the project to start surfacing in 2018.

JD’s ambition doesn’t stop with Tencent. I’m not going to list all of their partnerships, but just know that in December alone, they’ve announced the aforementioned Blockchain Food Safety alliance with Walmart and IBM, introduced New York fashion label Derek Lam’s debut, sponsored the Shenzhen Marathon, announced that they will open hundreds of unmanned stores, partnered with the accelerator firm Plug and Play, pitched to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau about delivering seafood with drones, and invested in Vipshop with along with Tencent (more on this below.) In short, This is one busy company with endless possibilities.

Reason #5: Good financial health

With a 1.1 Current Ratio (Compared to BABA’s 1.7 and AMZN’s 1.0), JD is capable of paying down its debts. it currently has an investment-grade of Baa3 rating from Moody’s, and a BBB from S&P. Both firms also revised the outlook for JD from “Stable” to “Positive” as well.

Concern #1: Profitability and Profit Margin


Income Statement, standardized by S&Q Capital IQ.

Source: Fidelity (account required)

Unlike Amazon in its early days, JD actually posted their first profit in May this year, proving to the world that they are able to profit while growing their business. Nonetheless, One legitimate concern that many investors have is the thin profit margin. Its net profit margin for the most recent quarter is merely 1.23%. A company can have huge revenue, but without a healthy profit margin, it won’t be attractive to investors. To that concern, Liu emphatically made a promise to the investors in the latest earnings call:

I can promise you that net margin would increase every year. […] If you look at our promises in the past 10-plus years, all of our promises would always realize in the end.

– Richard Liu, 2017 Q3 earnings call

Whether you believe him is up to you. But CEOs, especially one like Liu, generally do not make promises in such absolute terms unless he believes that it will 100% come true. Falling short on such a promise would be extremely discouraging to investors and hurts their confidence in the company. JD’s gross margin seems to support Liu’s promise as well, as it has been on a steady increase every year.

(Data extracted from Morningstar)

For what it’s worth, JD is actually doing better than Amazon’s early days, as Amazon had consistently operated at a loss.

Source: Fundable.com

Also, a big part of JD’s operating expenses comes from the traffic acquisition cost (the fees JD pays to partner websites to run its ads or services). That is something I believe can be reduced in the future.

Concern #2: Competition

Despite having two completely different business models, Alibaba is still considered to be JD’s #1 competitor, which has some people worried about the potential risks of BABA dominating market shares. However, a Stifel analyst, who recently resumed coverage of JD with a “buy” rating, noted that there is room for both companies in China’s huge e-commerce market.

One weakness JD had was its apparel business, as they were “only one-third to one-fifth of their major competitors”, according to Liu on their Q3 earnings call. However, that changed when they partnered with one of the largest online retailer in China, Vipshop on Dec 18.(NYSE:VIPS) Vipshop’s main strength is its apparel business, which compliments JD where it lacked the most. I think this move makes a lot of sense for JD, who needed to attract more female customers.

Other Concerns?

As JD is my favorite stock right now, I can be biased when trying to build a bear case. So please let me know in the comment if you have any other concerns regarding the stock, and I will try to address them. Please note that broader market concerns such as North Korea – US relationship, US dollar vs Chinese Yuan strength, etc, while certainly worth considering, generally do not fall into my consideration, as I try not to speculate on macroeconomics and limit my research to company-specifics.

Conclusion

Given its combination of growth, value, and health, JD is a rare opportunity in today’s market, especially for those who missed the boat on Amazon in the early 2000s. The growth path is clear, the upside is huge while the downside is extremely limited. I rate JD as a strong buy, with a price target of $70 (using 2.0 forward P/S, $100 billion Market Cap.)

Disclosure: I am/we are long JD, FB.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.