Technology

The CIA’s conclusion that Russia covertly intervened to swing last month’s presidential election in favour of Donald Trump but its actions did not place the overall credibility of the result in doubt will be hard to swallow for some. The classified CIA investigation, which has not been published, may also have implications for the integrity of Britain’s Brexit referendum last June, and how upcoming elections in France and Germany could be vulnerable to Russian manipulation. The latest revelations are not entirely new. What is fresh is the bald assertion that Moscow was working for Trump. Democrats have been agitating for months for more decisive action by the White House following earlier reports of Russian-inspired hacking designed to undermine their candidate, Hillary Clinton. Some of the thousands of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and members of Clinton’s campaign staff that were leaked, reportedly by Russian proxies, were used to reinforce a key Trump campaign …

Point, shoot and share: smartphones have sparked an explosion in photography. According to tech analyst Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends research, more than 500m photos were uploaded and shared every day in early 2013. That’s startling enough, but a year later, Meeker claimed the daily total had risen to 1.8bn. She did not update the figure in her 2015 report, but it’s reasonable to expect another sharp increase given the growth in both handsets, and the popularity of apps for photo sharing. The big apps for mobile photography are well known: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, with Yahoo’s Flickr getting a long-overdue mobile relaunch in late 2012 to try to compete with these (now more popular) upstarts. Meanwhile, the default camera apps from Android, Apple and Microsoft continue to improve with every software update. But all these are complemented by a rising swell of apps for shooting, editing and sharing. Ten of the best follow. Facetune. …

A secret CIA assessment has found that Russia interfered in last month’s US presidential election with the goal of helping Donald Trump win the White House, the Washington Post has reported, citing officials briefed on the matter. The report comes after President Barack Obama ordered a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle, amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference in the campaign. According to the Washington Post, individuals with connections to Moscow provided anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, among others. Those individuals were “one step” removed from the Russian government, consistent with past practice by Moscow to use “middlemen” in sensitive intelligence operations to preserve plausible deniability, the report said. “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to …

Image copyright Lucasfilm Image caption The writers said it was ‘completely false’ that Rogue One scenes had been re-shot after the election Supporters of Donald Trump are urging a boycott of the Star Wars film, Rogue One, due for US release next week. The campaign began with a series of tweets from activist Jack Posobiec, who claimed the writers changed the film to add scenes linking Mr Trump to racism. Screenwriter Chris Weitz said that this was “completely fake”, though he and another writer have tweeted their opposition to the US president-elect. #DumpStarWars has been retweeted 120,000 times in the past 24 hours. Image copyright @jackposobiec In a Periscope video, Jack Posobiec, who is an activist with Citizens for Trump, claimed the writers had said the Empire in the film “is a white supremacist organisation like the Trump administration and the diverse rebels are going to defeat them”. “They’re trying to make the point of …

Samsung’s next software update for the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone will render the devices useless in order to prevent any more from catching fire and exploding. A problem with the device’s lithium ion battery led some units to combust, in some cases injuring their owners and causing damage to property. The issues continued even after Samsung recalled, replaced and refunded some of the units, leading to a second more expansive recall of 1.9m devices. The Note 7 was banned from so many airlines that the company is opening stalls in airports where owners can swap or refund it before boarding their flight. Although more than 93% of the devices have been returned as part of the exchange program in the United States, some units remain “in the wild”. The software update, which Samsung confirmed would be released in mid-December in the US, will prevent the phones from charging and functioning as mobile phones, essentially turning …

Image copyright Science Photo Library Image caption More than 5,000 space missions have left Earth’s orbit increasingly congested Japan has launched a cargo ship which will use a half mile- (700m)-long tether to remove some of the vast amount of debris from Earth’s orbit. The tether, made of aluminium strands and steel wire, is designed to slow the debris, pulling it out of orbit. The innovative device was made with the help of a fishing net company. There is estimated to be more than 100 million pieces of space junk in orbit, including discarded equipment from old satellites, tools and bits of rocket. Many of these objects are moving at high velocity around the Earth at speeds of up to 28,000km/h (17,500mph) and could cause catastrophic accidents and damage to the world’s orbital telecommunications network. The growing problem of space junk Could lasers remove space junk? The junk has accumulated in the more than 50 …

Image copyright Reuters Image caption A Samsung Note 7 handset caught fire during a lab test in Singapore Samsung is planning to update the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that are still in use despite a fire risk, to prevent them being charged past 30%. The update aims to encourage the few owners who have not yet returned the faulty devices to hand them in. Samsung issued a global recall for the Galaxy Note 7 in September following complaints about exploding batteries. It estimates that in Europe about 10% of Note 7 owners have yet to return their devices. In a statement, Samsung, which plans to begin the changes on 15 December, said the update it issued in September that limited charging capacity to 60% “helped to drive a high rate of return”. “This new battery software update is specifically designed to reinforce to the remaining minority of customers to immediately replace their device,” it said. …

Facebook has, er, “borrowed” a feature from Snapchat. Again. Just as a reminder, here are all the previous times Facebook has tried to take on Snapchat: two clones of Snapchat Stories, two attempted acquisitions, four standalone apps, two ephemeral messaging implementations, and three new cameras with AR lenses. Facebook clearly felt like13 clone attempts could be unlucky, though, so it raced ahead with its14th attack on the ephemeral messaging app: custom geofilters! Except they’re called “frames” in Facebook’s implementation because even it has some shame. Users can the visual frames using nothing more than their graphic design skills, then upload them to Facebook for others to discover when they’re in the right geographic location. That means a concert venue or sports team could offer custom frames for users taking pictures at an event, for example. The UK is one of the first markets to get access to the custom frames, through a feature called the …

Twitter has suspended the accounts of a number of American “alt-right” activists hours after announcing a renewed push to crack down on hate speech. Among the accounts removed were those of the self-described white-nationalist National Policy Institute, its magazine, Radix, and its head Richard Spencer, as well as other prominent alt-right figures including Pax Dickinson and Paul Town. Spencer, who according to anti-hate group SPLC “calls for ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ to halt the ‘deconstruction’ of European culture”, decried the bans as “corporate Stalinism” to right-wing news outlet Daily Caller. “Twitter is trying to airbrush the alt right out of existence,” Spencer said. “They’re clearly afraid. They will fail!” Members of the Reddit forum r/altright called the move a “purge”. Spencer’s ban is particularly notable, since he previously had a verified account on Twitter – the badge the company gives to noteworthy accounts to prove they are who they say they are. In the past, Twitter …

Last April, Omar and Natasha Rajani rented a hall, invited 130 guests, and hired a magician to entertain the little ones. In Natasha’s family, first birthday parties are major celebrations. And the Rajanis, who live in Toronto, felt particularly enthusiastic because for a long time they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to throw one. Natasha, 35, struggled for four years to get pregnant. She and Omar, 40, tried naturally at first; then they used hormones, which led to an ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus—usually in the narrow fallopian tube—and must be removed. Then more hormones. Then in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nothing worked. Infertility affects more than 10 percent of American women—a number that is rising as many women wait longer before considering parenthood. Natasha’s obstetrician next offered an unusual option: the couple could try a new method meant to improve the odds of IVF, offered by a Boston-area …

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