Scott Pruitt is even worse at yes-or-no questions than he is at following ethics rules

Apr 26, 2018

Scott Pruitt is even worse at yes-or-no questions than he is at following ethics rules

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<em>Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment Subcommittee.</em>

Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, just can’t answer yes-or-no questions. That’s one takeaway from one of today’s Congressional hearings, where Pruitt was grilled by lawmakers on his long list of ethical scandals. At one point, Pruitt even refused to answer the very simple question: “Are you the EPA administrator?” (He finally replied with a “yes” the third time he was asked.)

The hearings, one at the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the other at House Appropriations Committee, were technically organized to discuss the EPA’s proposed 2019 budget. But many questions, especially those asked by Democratic lawmakers, revolved around the several scandals that have marred Pruitt’s tenure. Those include…

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Apr 26, 2018

California air regulators say Scott Pruitt didn’t tell the whole truth to Congress

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The California Air Resources Board (CARB) says EPA administrator Scott Pruitt mischaracterized the current working relationship between the two agencies during his testimony today on Capitol Hill. The discrepancy comes at a time when the EPA is considering revoking California’s waiver granted under the 1970 Clean Air Act, which gives the state (and CARB) authority to set its own emissions and air quality standards independent from those set by the EPA.

Pruitt announced on April 2nd that the EPA was overturning Obama-era vehicle emissions standards, and was also “reexamining” California’s waiver as the agency works with the Department of Transportation to set new standards. Today, at two Congressional hearings, amidst a barrage of…

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Apr 26, 2018

Amazon is increasing the cost of annual Prime memberships from $99 to $119

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Amazon announced today during its quarterly earnings call that the price for its Prime membership is going to increase by about 20 percent for US users. The hike, announced by CFO Brian Olsavsky, will raise a Prime membership from $99 a year to $119, effective May 11th for new members and June 16th for existing ones.

“The value of Prime to customers has never been greater,” Olsavsky said. “And the cost is also high, as we pointed out especially with shipping options and digital benefits, we continue to see rises in costs.” Earlier this year, Amazon hiked the price for monthly Prime subscriptions by about 24 percent, to around $156 per year. This price hike, however, is the first time the company has increased its annual fee since 2014.

L…

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Apr 26, 2018

Apple is officially discontinuing its AirPort routers

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Apple is officially getting out of the router business, with the company announcing today that it will be discontinuing its AirPort, AirPort Extreme, and Time Capsule routers, via Engadget. Apple will reportedly continue to offer bug fixes and security patches for the devices going forward, but the company is selling off all of its remaining AirPort hardware while supplies last.

The death of Apple’s router business has been a long time coming, with Bloomberg reporting back in November 2016 that Apple had disbanded the hardware division responsible for its routers, which last saw an update for 802.11ac Wi-Fi back in 2013. Since then, the company’s AirPort offerings have been slowly rendered obsolete by the rising popularity of mesh Wi-Fi…

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Apr 26, 2018

Congress’ social media censorship hearing was a complete disaster

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Nobody expected great things out of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about social media platforms censoring conservatives. The hearing came on the heels of Congress’ multi-day session with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where lawmakers exhaustively asked about the issue. Claims about large-scale censorship are basically unfalsifiable, and none of the tech companies invited even showed up. The whole thing looked potentially like a soapbox for vloggers Lynnette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, who were invited to the hearing alongside a few policy experts.

But the social media hearing was not just bland or tedious. It was depressingly, almost deliriously bad: full of bad arguments, bizarre tangents, and a lot of…

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Apr 26, 2018

Fox is making an interactive film based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books

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The Choose Your Own Adventure books are a staple for young readers. Unlike normal books, CYOA novels give the reader a series of choices at the bottom of each page, each of which directs you to a different page, allowing you to arrive at a new ending each time you read. At CinemaCon today, 20th Century Fox announced that it wants to do something similar with movies. It’s adapting the series for film, and in doing so, will partner with interactive film company Kino Industries to develop an app that will allow theater-goers to chose how the story plays out while they watch.

TheWrap reports that Fox demonstrated the technology in a trailer, while Variety says that the studio will create an app based on Kino’s CtrlMovie technology. If made,…

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Apr 26, 2018

Pinterest now lets you filter search results by skin tone

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Pinterest has rolled out new changes that let users filter hair and beauty search results by skin tone ranges, as a way to make it easier to find what you may be looking for. The changes come after the social media platform conducted a survey and found that 70 percent of people used the service to find and save everyday looks and styles.

A Medium post from Pinterest’s engineering account says the process of programming the search filters to detect skin tone in images was difficult, given how lighting, shadows, and other factors were all variables to consider.

To solve the issue, Pinterest used machine learning from a third-party beauty app ModiFace that already had a suitable facial data library for artificial intelligence use….

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Apr 26, 2018

Amazon is wildly profitable but it’s still taking huge losses overseas

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Amazon reported first quarter earnings results today with eye-popping sales of $51 billion, up by nearly 43 percent year over year, and a net profit of $1.6 billion. That means it’s another strong quarter for CEO Jeff Bezos, whose e-commerce juggernaut continues to defy expectations and earn money hand over fist as it expands into markets like food delivery, grocery chains, and smart home gadgets. But one area the company continues to lag in is international online retail sales, where it faces stiff competition from local rivals.

Though Amazon’s international sales grew 34 percent, it recorded another hefty loss to the tune of $622 million, meaning Amazon is still spending far more than it makes in overseas markets. That said, the rest…

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Apr 26, 2018

iTunes is now available in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10

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Apple is finally bringing its iTunes app to Microsoft’s Windows 10 app store today. Microsoft first revealed nearly a year ago that iTunes would be coming to the Microsoft Store by the end of 2017, but that date came and went. Apple’s iTunes app is the same desktop version available online, but it will be updated and available through the Microsoft Store.

iTunes is one of the most searched for apps that wasn’t available in the Microsoft Store, and the addition will be a boost to Microsoft’s Windows 10 S Mode efforts. Windows 10 in S Mode only supports apps available in the Microsoft Store, and iTunes will provide Windows 10 users with a way to access Apple Music. iTunes is available immediately from the Microsoft Store.

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Apr 26, 2018

Microsoft’s bets on Surface, gaming, and LinkedIn are starting to pay off

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Microsoft posted the third quarter of its 2018 financial results today, reporting revenue of $26.8 billion and net income of $7.4 billion. Revenue has jumped 16 percent year-over-year, and net income is up a massive 35 percent. As ever, Microsoft’s Office and cloud bets are paying off once again, but surprise increases in LinkedIn and Surface revenue are also playing their part in ensuring Microsoft has a diverse amount of successful products and services.

Microsoft now has more than 135 million active Office 365 business users, alongside 30.6 million Office 365 consumer subscriptions. Google unveiled a new Gmail design this week aimed at business users, but businesses continue to flock to Microsoft’s cloud services and Office…

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Apr 26, 2018

Blame Facebook for That Moronic Diamond and Silk Hearing

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On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held what is destined to go down as one of the dumbest hearings in US history. In order to explore potential political bias on social media platforms, conservative commentators Diamond and Silk were invited to testify under oath. The proceedings should have never happened,…

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Apr 26, 2018

Square is buying website maker Weebly for $365 million

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Square announced today that it’s buying website builder Weebly for $365 million, in a deal that includes a mix of cash and stock. According to Square, the intent behind the purchase is to merge Square’s hardware and software for payments with Weebly’s website hosting, design, and online stores to offer a single solution for starting and running businesses across physical and digital storefronts.

“Square began its journey with in-person solutions while Weebly began its journey online. Since then, we’ve both been building services to bridge these channels, and we can go even further and faster together,” Square CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement.

Square’s announcement notes that Weebly will help expand Square’s customer base — Weebly…

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Apr 26, 2018

North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site Has Caved In, Geologists Suspect

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Earlier this month, North Korea announced the closure of its nuclear testing site, saying it’s suspending all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The surprise move by President Kim Jong Un may be an attempt to ease relations prior to a summit with Donald Trump, but a new reports suggests the collapse…

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Apr 26, 2018

Unfortunately, the First Footage From The Predator Does Not Inspire Much Confidence

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Jacob Tremblay opening a box was the best thing in the first footage from Shane Black’s The Predator. Fox showed a taste of the highly anticipated next entry in the scifi series at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, and while opinions will obviously be mixed, I was left very underwhelmed.

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Apr 26, 2018

I’m Seriously Hoping Audubon’s New App Will Make Birding the Next Pokémon Go

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If spotting birds is like catching Pokémon, then Central Park is New York’s Safari Zone. It hosts 200 bird species with other rarities occasionally making an appearance. I recently joined the Audubon Society and Postlight (who built the app) on a walk through the park to try out their new app.

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Apr 26, 2018

Transplanted testicles will always make the donor’s sperm

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A veteran of the US Armed Forces has a new penis and scrotum after the most extensive penis transplant yet, Johns Hopkins Hospital announced this week. Not included in the transplant? Testicles — because the testicles would continue to make the donor’s sperm in the transplant recipient’s body.

The patient, who asked Johns Hopkins not to reveal his name, suffered a devastating injury to his penis, testicles, part of his lower abdomen, and his legs in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device blew up, The New York Times reports. A team of 11 surgeons replaced the injured flesh of his genitals and lower abdomen with tissue from a deceased donor during a 14-hour surgery at the end of March, and the patient is recovering well,…

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Apr 26, 2018

Oh No, Fox Is Making a Choose Your Own Adventure Movie the Audience Controls With Smartphones

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You know how annoying it is when people take out their phones in the movie theater while you’re just trying to enjoy seeing the Avengers fight Thanos or whatever? Well, Fox wants to make that a feature with a new film based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books. There is an app involved.

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Apr 26, 2018

When the Evil Stepmother Has a Cinderella Story of Her Own: Danielle Teller’s All the Ever Afters

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It can be rather difficult to summon up any sympathy for the stepmother in most versions of Cinderella. Oh, she may not be the worst of the evil stepmothers out there—after all, she never tries to kill her young, beautiful stepdaughter, unlike a certain Evil Queen with a poisoned apple fetish. And she seems motivated, at least in part, with the purest of motives: to help her own daughters achieve a brilliant marriage, and thus, a happy ending. Still. Against this, she turns her stepdaughter into a servant, blatantly favors her own daughters, and—in many versions—quite possibly robs her stepdaughter of her inheritance. And, of course, she famously refuses to let her lovely stepdaughter go to a ball.

No wonder we mostly cheer for Cinderella.

But what if we heard the stepmother’s side of this tale. Would we still cheer as hard?

This is the question brought up by Danielle Teller in All the Ever Afters, billed as the untold story of Cinderella’s stepmother. Named Agnes in this version, unlike her comfortably middle class or lower upper class stepdaughter, depending upon exactly who is telling the tale, Agnes is born into poverty. So dire, that she is sent off, when about ten to work in the laundry of Aviceford Manor, for nothing more than very poor room and board, under the supervision of a lazy, brutal laundress—a person who rather resembles an evil stepmother from a fairy tale.

Fortunately, Agnes—who also functions as the narrator of the story—is clever, and observant, and when she has a chance for a slightly better job offer, she snatches it—beginning the slow, steady and often painful social climbing that will eventually land her in the royal court. She intersperses these memories with updates on life at the court now that Cinderella has married the prince—something not exactly explored in the older versions of this fairy tale. In some ways, these court descriptions are the most fascinating part of the book—especially if, like me, you always wondered how well that marriage would go, given how little time the two spent together before she tried on that shoe.

The bulk of All the Ever Afters, however, is dedicated to the story of Agnes and her slow and often crawl up the social ladder, marked by violence, death, and, most notably, rigid social rules and barriers. Agnes finds dream after dream either barred to her, or drastically changed thanks to her origins, including one particularly heartbreaking moment regarding her religious education. She is intelligent; she is a fiercely hard worker; she is not always honest. And she is determined to succeed, both for herself and her daughters, whatever those barriers. And she’s able to justify nearly every choice she makes—even those that turned her into the figure of an evil stepmother, and may leave readers cheering on Cinderella, more than once, even in a narrative with a narrator pleading for understanding.

The novel is set in an imaginary medieval kingdom, with only a few historical details to pin down the time of the tale—mostly in a passing reference to Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince (1330-1376), placing the story sometime between 1350-1410. That is, shortly after the Black Death (1348-1349) initially swept through Europe, sowing social chaos and change in its wake. The novel makes a nod to this when a major illness transforms the life of Agnes and one of her daughters—though the disease in the novel is smallpox, not plague, a change that works with the novel’s other themes.

Though the kingdom is imaginary, with nothing more than the reference to Edward of Woodstock and a queen called Philippa to anchor it, the setting is a realistic one: as Agnes says bitterly early on, fairies do not exist, and this is a world without any magic other than art and education—both magical in their way. Which does not mean that godmothers—unmagical ones, but godmothers nonetheless—can’t interfere and change a few things. Along with stepmothers.

Since this is the stepmother’s tale, and since the setting is non-magical, the more famous elements—the ball, the pumpkin, the glass slippers—are almost glossed over. In fact, unless I missed it, the book does not contain a single mention of pumpkins, possibly in a nod to its medieval setting—that is, before pumpkins were brought over from the Americas. But Teller does manage to work in a rather clever reference to the rats. And Agnes’ own tale is a story of climbing from rags to riches—that is, pure Cinderella. With a touch more realism, since Agnes lacks a fairy godmother and glass slippers. Which just goes to show how universal Cinderella’s story can be—so universal, even her stepmother can be seen as a Cinderella figure.

The novel’s focus on Agnes does create one difficulty: Ella/Cinderella herself is never particularly convincing—less so, in many ways, than her stepsisters. (One of whom, in a nice touch, is visibly biracial; the other is white-passing.) And not just because we only see Ella/Cinderella through the not always sympathetic gaze of her stepmother—indeed, that very lack of sympathy creates some of the more compelling scenes of the novel, as the two find themselves clashing. But somehow or other, even these angry moments never seem to turn Ella into a real person. And I have to admit, I kinda want magic in my fairy tales, and there’s not much of that here.

But the novel does focus on a central feature of Perrault’s fairy tale, reminding us that Cinderella is less a tale of magic and fairies, and more a tale of social climbing. Something anyone can aspire to, even without a fairy godmother. I think most fairy tale lovers will enjoy this.

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother is available on May 22nd from William Morrow.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

Apr 26, 2018

The Bumblebee Preview Has a Lot of Heart But Keeps the Action of Michael Bay’s Transformers

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After the last few Transformers movies, it seems safe to say not many people are excited for another one. That’s why Bumblebee is trying to do something different. It’s got Travis Knight—the director of Kubo and the Two Strings—at the helm, and it takes place in the ‘80s, long before the original films started, and…

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Apr 26, 2018

NASA and ESA Are Getting Serious About Bringing Martian Soil to Earth

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Earlier today, officials with NASA and the European Space Agency signed a statement of intent to explore the various ways in which Martian soil samples can be collected and delivered back to Earth. Sounds great, but a complex project of this nature won’t be easy, as it would involve the first-ever rocket launch from…

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Apr 26, 2018

Save $20 On One of Simplehuman’s Most Popular Kitchen Trash Cans

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Simplehuman makes our readers’ favorite trash cans, and one of their most popular kitchen models has a rare $20 discount today.

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Apr 26, 2018

Women Who Say They Were Assaulted and Harassed by Uber Drivers Continue to Fight for a Trial by Jury

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On Thursday, 14 women who say they were sexually assaulted and harassed by Uber drivers published an open letter to the company’s board of directors, urging Uber to free them from arbitration. This would mean that they would be able to have their cases heard in a trial by jury, and not behind closed doors by a third…

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Apr 26, 2018

Announcing Perihelion Summer, a New Novella from Greg Egan

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Jonathan Strahan has acquired Greg Egan’s next novella, Perihelion Summer, for Tor.com Publishing!

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

Perihelion Summer is the story of people struggling to adapt to a suddenly alien environment, and the friendships and alliances they forge as they try to find their way in a world where the old maps have lost their meaning.

Said author Greg Egan:

In October 2017, when I started writing Perihelion Summer, I’d already been thinking about the plot for a while, but one question still lingered at the back of my mind: would readers suspend disbelief in a story where an object from interstellar space enters the solar system purely by chance? On a scale that’s measured in light years, even the orbit of Jupiter makes a very small target. But then, three weeks into the writing, an extraordinary event hit the news: the first interstellar visitor ever observed, now known as “Oumuamua,” had just passed within 24 million kilometres of the Earth: six times closer to us than the sun! Taraxippus in Perihelion Summer is a very different kind of object—but the void had begun to seem a lot more crowded.

Said acquiring editor Jonathan Strahan:

I love Greg Egan’s work. I rank his “Learning to be Me” and “Reasons to be Cheerful” amongst the best short stories I’ve read and amongst the best science fiction short stories that anyone has written. His short fiction is engaged, passionate, and powerful, often touching on issues to do with migration and immigration. I’ve been very lucky to work with Greg on a number of occasions over the past 20 years, and I was really excited at the chance to bring his work to Tor.com. Greg’s novellas, like Hugo winner Oceanic, are some of his very best work, and I can’t wait to see how readers will respond to Perihelion Summer.

Greg Egan is a computer programmer, and the author of many acclaimed science fiction novels. He has won the Hugo Award as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Egan’s short fiction has been published in a variety of places, including Interzone, Asimov’s, Nature, and Tor.com. He lives in Australia.

Perihelion Summer will be released in 2019.

Apr 26, 2018

This New Star Trek: Discovery Teaser Offers a Fleeting Glimpse of the Enterprise and Its Crew

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Star Trek: Discovery’s first season ended with the mother of all cliffhangers: the titular ship coming face to face with one of the living legends that is the USS Enterprise. Which means, now that season two of the show has entered production, we can get a teasing look at how the show will translate ‘60s scifi…

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Apr 26, 2018

The World’s First Working Projector Smartwatch Turns Your Arm Into a Big Touchscreen

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Some smartwatches come with powerful processors, lots of storage, and robust software, but have limited capabilities compared to smartphones thanks to their tiny touchscreens. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, however, have now created a smartwatch prototype with a built-in projector that turns the wearer’s…

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