News & Analysis

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    The War Nerd: Doing the math on Alawite casualty numbers

    The Sunday Telegraph said recently that Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will collapse soon, because one-third of Syrian Alawite “males of military age” have already died fighting the Sunni. Lack of manpower, the theory goes, will doom the Alawites. There’s no denying that Assad’s forces have been looking weak lately. Islamic State has been making gains against them in the southeast, taking the only road connecting southern Syria with Iraq. Worse yet, in the minds of artsy Western news-chewers,…
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    CyPhy Works CEO Helen Greiner on drones, Kickstarter, and being the ‘First Lady of Robots’

    In the late 1980’s, MIT was a place where a generation that grew up on the writing of Isaac Asimov, Star Trek, and the Star Wars films was trying to make the worlds that they had found in science fiction a reality — albeit one without robots as overlords and all powerful droids trying to destroy humanity. It was during this period that Helen Greiner met Rodney Brooks and Colin Angle at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. Somewhat dismayed with the…
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    SoundCloud’s doomed monetization efforts have somehow alienated both small-time creators and major labels

    Digital platforms can be divided into two distinct breeds: There are products like Facebook, which despite being immensely popular are rarely described by users as something they “love.” Whereas Zuckerberg’s social network was once a fun way to connect with old friends and stalk the girl who sits behind you in Chem 101, today Facebook is as much a utility as anything. You don’t hear anybody say, “I love the power grid.” Meanwhile, other platforms like Twitter are considerably less popular but inspire far greater measures of devotion from…
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    “Safe writing, ladies”: It’s female reporters who are holding Uber’s feet to the fire

    After a year of threatening and intimidating multiple female journalists who wouldn’t fall in line, Uber appears to have awaken a sleeping female reporting giant. I’m heartened to see that while David Plouffe’s photo opps may have distracted much of the tech blog corps (before, yunno, Plouffe got unceremoniously kicked upstairs to make way for the harder-charging Rachel Whetstone), it’s largely female reporters who are continuing to ask Uber the hard questions. (With the noted exception of Kara Swisher.) Remember Buzzfeed…
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    DTAOL.

    “So many books, so little time.” ― Frank Zappa Earlier this week, the US Director of National Intelligence released a list of books and documents seized from Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in 2011. The list is much as you’d expect from the library of a sexually frustrated bore: A teetering pile of Chomsky and Palast, boxes bursting with conspiracy literature and military porn, along with reports from the Heritage Foundation and a guide to the video game Delta…
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    San Francisco’s independent retailers disrupt themselves to survive

    Retail in San Francisco is hard for the little guy. Shoppers have migrated to mobile. Commercial tenants have no rent control protections. A new minimum wage law has taken effect, amounting to a 40% increase over the next five years. Larger retail chains — Target being the most visible example, opening three stores in the past five years in the city, with plans for more — can absorb these inflating costs with savings elsewhere, whereas for locally-owned shops these pressures seem sure…
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    Uber hard at work on effort to replace drivers with machines

    Travis Kalanick might be able to replace Uber’s drivers faster than expected. Pittsburgh Business Times has spotted a vehicle emblazoned with “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” on a side door. That vehicle is supposed to help the company develop the technology needed to power its self-driving vehicles. This car has a driver, but it carries special equipment used as “part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems,” as Uber put it in an explanation for the…
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    By way of the UK and Vegas, Mitoo wants to capture the adult beer league market

    San Francisco-based sports league platform Mitoo has slowly been making its way West since it was founded in London in 2011. Along the way, the company has partaken in Seedcamp in Paris, 500 Startups, and Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas. With a new $1.5 million funding, Mitoo is now fully entrenched in Silicon Valley, ready to become the go-to app for managers of adult soccer leagues, the local softball beer league, and social sports clubs. The…
  12. Overheard

    “Yes, the President of the United States might have an entire division of highly trained agents dedicated to protecting his life, and one of the world’s most competent social media teams. But on the internet, chaos reigns — for good, for ill. No mass of mere meat-power can hold the barricades. Maybe the next press conference will give us an official White House position on block lists.”

    — The Verge's Adi Robertson on racists harassing @POTUS

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    ICANN head to depart for private sector

    ICANN president and chief executive Fadi Chehadé has announced that he will be leaving the organization for the private sector in March 2016. Chehadé has been an advocate for separating his organization, which controls the Internet’s naming system, from the United States government. [Source: ICANN]
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    AdultFriendFinder hacked

    AdultFriendFinder has been hacked, and information about some 4 million users’ email addresses, dates of birth, IP addresses, and postal codes were compromised. The hack will also reveal someone’s sexual orientation, and whether or not they were using the service to cheat on a spouse. Much of this data has already been made available to spammers. [Source: The Guardian]
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    Germany sues e-commerce sites for sharing data with Facebook

    Facebook isn’t the only company receiving flack from regulators over the data it collects through its “Like” button. Germany’s consumer watchdog has sued two e-commerce companies for using the button on their websites because, the Wall Street Journal reports, the sites didn’t warn visitors that their personal data would be shared with Facebook. The news follows months of intense scrutiny of Facebook’s data practices across much of Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France, and Spain,…
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    HP split to cost between $400M and $450M

    HP’s plan to split into HP Inc. (which will focus on consumer products like printers and personal computers) and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises (which will focus on, you know, enterprise products) is expected to cost between $400 million and $450 million. That cost will be split evenly between the split companies, according to HP chief executive Meg Whitman. [Source: Fortune]
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    Bing indexes app data

    Everyone’s second-or third-favorite search engine is building a new index for apps and “app actions.” In turn, Bing is asking developers to implement two standards — app links and Schema.org’s “action vocabulary” — so it can discover all the information buried inside their mobile applications. [Source: Bing]
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    Uber ‘in talks for $1B credit facility’

    In what many consider a precursor to a public offering, Uber is said to be seeking a $1 billion credit line from “six or seven” banks. The company has raised more than $5 billion in debt and equity since it was founded, and it’s reportedly looking to raise even more soon. [Source: The Wall Street Journal]
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The Week in Review