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Canada

Canada To Tax Ride-Sharing Providers Like Uber (www.cbc.ca) 68

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government announced plans to tax ride-sharing providers like Uber for the first time. According to CBC, the latest consumer tax changes included in Wednesday's federal budget "will add to the cost of Uber rides while ending a public-transit credit." The idea behind the decision is to "help level the playing field and create tax fairness." From the report: The proposed levy on Uber and other ride-hailing services would for the first time impose GST/HST on fares, in the same way they are charged on traditional taxi services. The change will broaden the definition of a taxi business to ensure Uber and other web-based ride-hailing services are required to charge and remit GST/HST, adding to the cost of each trip. The effect on federal revenues will be modest, just $3 million in additional revenue in 2017-18, but the budget suggests the measure is to help level the playing field and create tax fairness. The non-refundable public transit tax credit -- a so-called boutique tax credit introduced by the previous Conservative government -- will be phased out on July 1. The credit enabled public transit users to apply 15 per cent of their eligible expenses on monthly passes and other fares toward reducing the amount of tax they owe. Ending that tax break is expected to save Ottawa more than $200 million a year. Of course, Uber Canada isn't so fond of the idea, calling it a "tax on innovation" that would hurt Uber drivers and users. The company said in a statement: "At a time when Canadians spend far too much time stuck in traffic -- and people should be encouraged to leave their cars at home, take public transit, and share rides -- we should be supporting policies that make sustainable transportation more affordable, not more expensive. Federal tax laws already offer small business owners a break on collecting sales tax, but unfairly exclude taxi drivers. The best way to support taxi drivers and level the playing field is to extend the same exemption to them."
Movies

18 To 24-Year-Olds Are Hitting the Big Screen at Lower Rates (fastcompany.com) 222

An anonymous reader shares a report: For data and movie geeks, the MPAA's latest "Theatrical Market Statistics" report is a wealth of information about the health of the movie business. The big picture: 246 million people went to the movies in the United States and Canada last year, a 2% increase from the year before. But dig into the trends and things start to get a little more interesting. For instance, looking at per capita attendance broken down by age group shows 18- to 24-year-olds are hitting the big screen at lower rates than they were in 2012, although they saw an uptick last year.
Mars

Mars Rover Spots Clouds Shaped By Gravity Waves (sciencemag.org) 56

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: NASA's Curiosity rover has shot more than 500 movies of the clouds above Mars, including the first ground-based view of martian clouds shaped by gravity waves, researchers reported this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martian climate. Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface, says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. "If we wish to understand the water story of Mars's past," Moores says, "we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle." Using Curiosity's navigation camera, Moores and Kloos recorded eight-frame movies of this wispy cloud belt for two martian years. They've used two angles to capture the clouds: one pointed directly up, to see wind direction and speed, and another that keeps the rover's horizon in the frame, allowing a view into the clouds' depth. Given the limited water vapor, solar energy, and atmosphere, the martian clouds lack the variety of shapes seen on Earth. But during one day of cloud gazing -- Curiosity's 1302th martian day, to be precise -- the team got lucky and saw something unusual. That day, when Curiosity looked to the horizon, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction: the first ground-based view of a gravity wave cloud. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.
Businesses

Happiness is on the Wane in the US, UN Global Report Finds (theguardian.com) 381

From a report on The Guardian, shared by five anonymous readers: Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump's policies forecast to deepen the country's social crisis. The US has slipped to 15th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. The world's economic superpower is well behind top-ranked Norway, although it remains above Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world's happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The report's authors stress, however, that the top four are so close that changes are not statistically significant. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The world's "unhappiest" countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.
Canada

Court Fines Canadian $26,500 For 'Unconscionably Stupid' Balloon-Chair Flight (www.cbc.ca) 101

In 2015, 27-year-old Daniel Boria tied over 100 helium balloons to a lawn chair and floated 2.5 miles above Calgary, "getting in the way of commercial aircraft and putting hundreds of lives at risk," reports the CBC. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Boria was ordered to pay $26,500 [USD $18,822] in fines when he was sentenced Friday, after pleading guilty in December to dangerous operation of an aircraft for the 2015 stunt... In handing down the sentence provincial court Judge Bruce Fraser called Boria's stunt "dumb and dangerous" and "unconscionably stupid. There was nothing fantastic, fun or exhilarating about it... There is no precedent for so foolish an escapade"...

On July 5, 2015, Boria tied $13,000 worth of industrial-sized balloons to a Canadian Tire lawn chair and took to the skies to promote his cleaning company, with the plan to parachute into the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races. Uncooperative weather forced him to bail early, and winds pushed his landing to Ogden Road, where he was arrested by police who had been monitoring Boria since he was spotted above the Stampede grounds... During the time he was in the air, 24 airplanes took off and landed in Calgary.

The judge agreed that $20,000 of the fine should be donated to a charity of Boria's choice, and later Boria "said the stunt was worthwhile and he has no regrets."
Businesses

Insurance Startup Uses Behavioral Science To Keep Customers Honest (fastcompany.com) 52

tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: Insurance startup Lemonade won itself headlines in January with the boast that it had successfully approved a claim in just three seconds. In that time, Lemonade's software had run 18 anti-fraud algorithms and sent a payment to the lucky customer's bank account -- a process that would have taken a traditional property and casualty insurer days, if not weeks. But it's what happened before Lemonade's artificial intelligence kicked into gear that makes the renegade insurer so potentially disruptive to this trillion-dollar industry, for which premiums alone comprise 7% of U.S. GDP. The customer, Brooklyn educator Brandon Pham, opened Lemonade's mobile app, signed an "honesty pledge" to attest to the truth of his claim, and then recorded a short video explaining that his Canada Goose parka, worth nearly $1,000, had been stolen. That deceptively simple claims process is the byproduct of academic research on psychology and behavioral economics conducted by Dan Arielyblog, one of the field's most prominent voices and Lemonade's chief behavioral officer. "There's a lot of science about when people behave and misbehave that has not been put to use," says Lemonade cofounder and CEO Daniel Schreiber. Lemonade is even applying behavioral science to itself, publishing unusually transparent blog posts that include data on customer growth, bank account balances, and more.
Canada

Canadian Millennials Struggle As College Degrees Don't Guarantee Jobs (www.cbc.ca) 632

"CBC News is reporting on how millennials are finding that education only guarantees debt, not a stable job. Not even in STEM," writes Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson, adding "The irony -- one of the teachers touting the values of further education is herself part of the gig economy." An anonymous reader summarizes the article, which reports that 33% of the engineers in Ontario are now underemployed. "I actually thought that coming out of school I would be a commodity and someone would want me," said one 21-year-old mechanical engineering graduate. "But instead, I got hit with a wall of being not wanted whatsoever in the industry." He's applied for 250 engineering jobs, resulting in four interviews, but no job offer, and he's since broadened his job search to the deli counter at the local grocery store, because "It's a job."

"More than 12% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed," reports CBC News, "and more than a quarter are underemployed, meaning they have degrees but end up in jobs that don't require them. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the unemployment rate for 15-to-24-year-olds is almost twice that of the general population... A 2014 Canadian Teachers' Federation report found nearly a quarter of Canada's youth are either unemployed, working less than they want or have given up looking for work entirely."

The article also points out that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities has more than doubled since 1980, from 800,000 to over two million.
Canada

Chatbot that Overturned 160,000 Parking Fines Now Helping Refugees Claim Asylum (theguardian.com) 90

Elena Cresci, writing for The Guardian: The creator of a chatbot which overturned more than 160,000 parking fines and helped vulnerable people apply for emergency housing is now turning the bot to helping refugees claim asylum. The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as "the world's first robot lawyer", giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support. The London-born developer worked with lawyers in each country, as well as speaking to asylum seekers whose applications have been successful. Browder says this new functionality for his robot lawyer is "long overdue". He told the Guardian: "I've been trying to launch this for about six months -- I initially wanted to do it in the summer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right because it's such a complicated issue. I kept showing it to lawyers throughout the process and I'd go back and tweak it.
Canada

Canadian DMCA In Action: Court Awards Massive Damages In Modchip Case (michaelgeist.ca) 65

New submitter google20000 shares a report from Michael Geist: The Federal Court of Canada has issued a massive damage award in the first major Canadian digital lock copyright ruling involving circumvention of technological protection measures. The ruling, which is the first to conduct an extensive examination of the anti-circumvention rules established in 2012, adopts expansive interpretations to the digital lock protections and narrow views of the exceptions. The case launched by Nintendo confirms that Canada has tough anti-piracy laws with one of the most aggressive digital lock laws in the world and will fuel calls to re-examine the effectiveness of the anti-circumvention exceptions in the 2017 copyright review. The case stems from a lawsuit launched by video game maker Nintendo against Go Cyber Shopping, a modchip seller that operated a retail store in Waterloo, Ontario and several online stores. Go Cyber Shopping offered a wide range of products that allow users to circumvent the digital lock controls on the Nintendo gaming console (such as the Wii) and play unauthorized games including "homebrew" games. Go Cyber Shopping argued that it provided other services but the court says that it did not tender any evidence in that regard. The court concluded that the modchip seller engaged in copyright infringement and circumvented technological protection measures. In fact, it went out of its way to emphasize the importance of TPM protection. It adopted a broad interpretation of a technological protection measure -- rejecting a UK case that used a narrower interpretation -- in favor of an approach that covers access controls that go beyond restrictions on copying.
Medicine

New Scientific Test Finds Up To 75 Liters of Urine In Public Pools (theguardian.com) 215

Scientists have developed a test designed to estimate how much urine has been covertly added to a large volume of water. "The test works by measuring the concentration of an artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium (ACE), that is commonly found in processed food and passed through the body unaltered," reports The Guardian. The findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal. From the report: After tracking the levels of the sweetener in two public pools in Canada over a three-week period they calculated that swimmers had released 75 liters of urine -- enough to fill a medium-sized dustbin -- into a large pool (about 830,000 liters, one-third the size of an Olympic pool) and 30 liters into a second pool, around half the size of the first. Although the researchers were unable to confirm exactly what fraction of visitors were choosing to quietly relieve themselves in the water rather than making the shivery trip to the changing rooms, the results suggest that the urine content was being topped up several times each day. The findings make for unwelcome reading, but swimmers might find some comfort in the measurements from eight hot tubs, which were found to have far higher urine levels. One hotel Jacuzzi had more than three times the concentration of sweetener than in the worst swimming pool. In total, the team sampled 31 different pools and tubs in two Canadian cities and found ACE to be present in 100% of the samples, with concentrations up to 570 times the background level in tap water samples. They used the average ACE concentration in Canadian urine to convert their measurements into approximate volumes of urine.
Earth

3.77-Billion-Year-Old Fossils Found, Could be Earliest Evidence of Life On Earth (theguardian.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares The Guadian report: Scientists say they have found the world's oldest fossils, thought to have formed between 3.77bn and 4.28bn years ago. Comprised of tiny tubes and filaments made of an iron oxide known as haematite, the microfossils are believed to be the remains of bacteria that once thrived underwater around hydrothermal vents, relying on chemical reactions involving iron for their energy. If correct, these fossils offer the oldest direct evidence for life on the planet. And that, the study's authors say, offers insights into the origins of life on Earth. "If these rocks do indeed turn out to be 4.28 [bn years old] then we are talking about the origins of life developing very soon after the oceans formed 4.4bn years ago," said Matthew Dodd, the first author of the research from University College, London. With iron-oxidising bacteria present even today, the findings, if correct, also highlight the success of such organisms. "They have been around for 3.8bn years at least," said the lead author Dominic Papineau, also from UCL.
Businesses

DNA Test Shows Subway's 'Chicken' Only Contains 50 Percent Chicken (arstechnica.com) 244

According to an investigation by Canadian media outlet, CBC, the chicken in Subway Restaurants' chicken sandwiches may only contain around 50 percent chicken -- the rest of it is soy, spices and preservatives. The investigation involved DNA testing chicken sandwiches collected from five popular fast food restaurants. While the rest of the sandwiches contained mostly chicken, Subway's oven-roasted chicken and the chicken strips in its Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich clocked in with just 53.6 percent and 42.8 percent chicken, respectively. Ars Technica reports: Among all the chicken sampled, there was a total of about 50 ingredients other than chicken identified. The chicken samples had an average of 16 ingredients. Some of the ingredients are expected, such as salt and other seasonings. But many were commercial preservatives and fillers. One commonality was that they all had high levels of salt. Subway responded to the CBC in a statement: "SUBWAY Canada cannot confirm the veracity of the results of the lab testing you had conducted. However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you had conducted." You can read the full statement here.
Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 116

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Google

Google Assistant To Be Available On Older Versions of Android Soon (zdnet.com) 29

Matthew Miller, writing for ZDNet: Google has announced that Google Assistant is coming to smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, starting this week. The Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English users in the US, followed by English in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as German speakers in Germany. Google continue to add more languages in the future.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Sued By Over 300 Former Employees (mobilesyrup.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: BlackBerry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees across Canada, according to a news release from law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP. The Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, handed them resignation letters. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work. "BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm said. "This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination."
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Canada

Canada Remains a 'Safe Haven' For Online Piracy, Rightsholders Claim (torrentfreak.com) 134

The MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups are calling out Canada, claiming that it remains a "safe haven" for copyright infringers and pirate sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: One of the main criticisms is that, despite having been called out repeatedly in the past, the country still offers a home to many pirate sites. "For a number of years, extending well into the current decade, Canada had a well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material," IIPA writes. Another disturbing development, according to IIPA, is the emergence of stand-alone BitTorrent applications that allow users to stream content directly through an attractive and user-friendly interface, hinting at Popcorn Time. In addition to the traditional pirate sites that remain in Canada, IIPA reports that several websites offering modified game console gear have also moved there in an attempt to escape liability under U.S. law.
Facebook

Facebook Is Closing 200 of Its 500 VR Demo Stations At Best Buy Stores Across US (businessinsider.com) 128

According to Business Insider, "Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the U.S." The reason has to do with "store performance," as multiple Best Buy pop-ups told Business Insider that "it was common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration." From their report: Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert confirmed the closings and said they were due to "seasonal changes." "We're making some seasonal changes and prioritizing demos at hundreds of Best Buy locations in larger markets," she said. "You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the U.S. and Canada." "We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo," she continued. "We're going to find opportunities to do regular events and pop ups in retail locations and local communities throughout the year." Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers, which cost $600 and $200 respectively. Multiple "Oculus Ambassador" workers BI spoke with said that, at most, they would sell a few Oculus headsets per week during the holiday season, and that foot traffic to their pop-ups decreased drastically after Christmas. "There'd be some days where I wouldn't give a demo at all because people didn't want to," said one worker at a Best Buy in Texas who asked to remain anonymous. Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.
Chrome

Google Quietly Makes 'Optional' Web DRM Mandatory In Chrome (boingboing.net) 95

JustAnotherOldGuy quotes a report from Boing Boing: The World Wide Web Consortium's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is a DRM system for web video, being pushed by Netflix, movie studios, and a few broadcasters. It's been hugely controversial within the W3C and outside of it, but one argument that DRM defenders have made throughout the debate is that the DRM is optional, and if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. That's not true any more. Some time in the past few days, Google quietly updated Chrome (and derivative browsers like Chromium) so that Widevine (Google's version of EME) can no longer be disabled; it comes switched on and installed in every Chrome instance. Because of laws like section 1201 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (and Canada's Bill C11, and EU implementations of Article 6 of the EUCD), browsers that have DRM in them are risky for security researchers to audit. These laws provide both criminal and civil penalties for those who tamper with DRM, even for legal, legitimate purposes, and courts and companies have interpreted this to mean that companies can punish security researchers who reveal defects in their products. Further reading: Boing Boing and Hacker News.

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