Big Tech &
Google is facing an imminent antitrust investigation from the US Justice Department (3 minute read)
Google may soon be facing an antitrust investigation from the US Department of Justice regarding its search business and potentially other aspects of the company’s software and services empire. This follows the investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, who had investigated Google in 2013 for antitrust violations without any results. The European Union has already fined Google billions of dollars for three breaches of antitrust law. Google has gone largely unscathed in the US, but there have been controversies over its practices. It is unclear what the DOJ will focus on in its investigation.
Apple has cleared out its Facebook and Instagram pages for iTunes (1 minute read)
Apple is rumored to be removing iTunes from its software lineup with its upcoming Mac OS update. iTunes will supposedly be split into different, more specific apps, for each of its functionalities. The Facebook and Instagram pages for iTunes have now been cleared out, with all the pictures, posts, and videos removed from each account. Apple will officially announce the future of iTunes at its Worldwide Developers Conference.
Report: NASA’s major projects busting budgets, schedules (1 minute read)
NASA’s major projects are more than 27 percent over baseline costs and the average launch delay is 13 months. The James Webb Space Telescope is the main offender for these oversights, as it has delayed its launch by 14 years and its budget is around $8.6 billion above initial cost estimates. NASA’s mega-rocket, the Space Launch System, has also run over cost due to production challenges and likely faces more delays. The Parker Solar Probe launched on time and came millions of dollars under budget, however. Currently, NASA plans to invest $63 billion into 24 major projects.
Scientists Genetically Modify Fungus To Kill Mosquitoes That Spread Malaria (4 minute read)
A fungus that has been modified with genes from a spider produces a venom that can quickly kill mosquitos. In lab experiments, the fungus was able to kill off mosquito populations in a confined area within two generations. While some scientists are worried that using genetic engineering to combat mosquitos may have wide-reaching consequences, such as killing off other organisms, lab research has so far shown the fungus to be harmless to other insects, such as bees. Malaria currently infects over 200 million people every year, killing more than 400,000, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa. Other approaches to combating malaria involve using CRISPR to inject genes into mosquitos that cause them to become infertile.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Entropic (GitHub Repo)
Entropic is a package registry that is designed to be self-hosting and will proactively mirror all dependencies so that each instance is self-sufficient. It is designed so that installs are not dependent on resources that may vanish. All packages published to Entropic are public and can have a list of maintainers specified by the owner. The project is still very new and is only over a month old.
UIBOT replaces the process of designing UIs with a bot. The project is a concept at the moment, and will only generate a UI for a specific, predetermined interface. UIBOT was designed to investigate the advantages and limitations of using automation to design UIs. Users only need to click a button to generate a random design.
U.S. State Department begins social media screening for nearly all visa applicants (2 minute read)
Starting from yesterday, nearly all US visa applicants will be required to submit social media usernames, previous email addresses, and phone numbers as part of the application process. The requirement was first proposed in March 2018, with the US State Department citing national security reasons. Previously, only individuals who had traveled to areas with a high degree of terrorist activity had been required to submit this information. This new barrier to entry to the country comes at a time when competition for highly-skilled talent is at an all-time high, and critics argue that it will deter potential talent from wanting to come to the US. Other countries have lower barriers to entry, and this new requirement might incentivize free workers to start businesses or find work elsewhere.
California is cracking down on the gig economy (7 minute read)
A new bill has been passed by the state Assembly in California that will make it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, as is common practice for many companies that wish to skirt state and federal labor laws. Hundreds and thousands of workers, ranging from Uber and Amazon drivers to manicurists and exotic dancers, would likely become employees under the new bill. As employees, workers will gain labor protections and benefits such as unemployment insurance, health care subsidies, paid parental leave, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, and guaranteed minimum hourly rates. Many companies have fought back against the bill as it adds to the costs of running a business. The bill will still have to pass through the state Senate before it becomes law.