Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

China

Chinese State Media Report Bloated Battery in Apple's iPhone 8 (reuters.com) 36

A fresh case of Apple's new iPhone popping open due to a swollen battery has been reported in state media in China, the world's biggest smartphone market where the U.S. firm is seeking to revive faltering sales. From a report: The incident comes as Apple investigates similar cases reported in Taiwan and Japan of batteries in its latest iPhone 8 Plus becoming bloated, causing the device's casing to open. On its website on Thursday, China's state-backed ThePaper.cn cited an iPhone buyer surnamed Liu as saying his newly purchased iPhone 8 Plus arrived cracked open on Oct. 5. There was no sign of scorching or an explosion. Liu told ThePaper he bought the handset through online marketplace of JD.com. He said he did not charge the new device and returned it to the seller. The fresh reports comes on the heels of another story last week where Apple claimed that it was looking into a similar matter.
Businesses

Goldman Sachs Explores a New World: Trading Bitcoin (wsj.com) 43

Several readers share a report: Goldman Sachs is weighing a new trading operation dedicated to bitcoin and other digital currencies, the first blue-chip Wall Street firm preparing to deal directly in this burgeoning yet controversial market (Editor's note: the link from WSJ, which originally reported this development, could be paywalled; alternative source), according to people familiar with the matter. Goldman's effort is in its early stages and may not proceed, the people said. The firm's interest, though, could boost bitcoin's standing among investors and fuel the debate around digital currencies, which were initially viewed as havens for illicit activity but are pushing further into the mainstream investment world. China in recent weeks has banned exchanges that trade bitcoin, fearing the virtual currency could provide an avenue for capital flight. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co Chief Executive James Dimon, whose bank is the largest dealer in global currencies, last month called bitcoin a "fraud" and said he would fire any employee who traded it. Yet Japan's government has embraced bitcoin, creating regulations to legitimize its trading. India and Sweden have mused about creating their own virtual currencies, and the U.S. Federal Reserve has studied bitcoin and the technology underpinning it.
Encryption

Distrustful US Allies Force Spy Agency To Back Down In Encryption Fight (reuters.com) 104

schwit1 shares a report from Reuters: An international group of cryptography experts has forced the U.S. National Security Agency to back down over two data encryption techniques it wanted set as global industry standards, reflecting deep mistrust among close U.S. allies. In interviews and emails seen by Reuters, academic and industry experts from countries including Germany, Japan and Israel worried that the U.S. electronic spy agency was pushing the new techniques not because they were good encryption tools, but because it knew how to break them. The NSA has now agreed to drop all but the most powerful versions of the techniques -- those least likely to be vulnerable to hacks -- to address the concerns.
Games

PC Gaming Is Back in Focus at Tokyo Game Show (bloomberg.com) 156

After taking a back seat to consoles for the past few years, personal computers are enjoying a resurgence in gaming, thanks to the popularity of e-sports, customizable machines and faster software releases. From a report: This week's Tokyo Game Show will feature a main-stage tournament for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, a hit online survival PC game that's been downloaded more than 10 million times since March. Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One consoles are heading into their fifth years, while Nintendo's Switch is in a bit of a lull before new titles are released for the year-end holiday shopping season. Spending on gaming-ready PC rigs are on track to climb an average of 6.6 percent per year through 2020, while the market as a whole is projected to decline 3.8 percent annually, according to Gartner. Revenue from PC titles will grow by 3 to 4 percent over the coming years, while console-game sales are seen flat, according to DFC Intelligence. Written off years ago for being too expensive, complex and bulky for mass appeal, gaming PCs are seeing a resurgence that could even threaten consoles, according to Kazunori Takahashi, Japan gaming head at Nvidia. "The abundance of titles and the popularity of e-sports is bringing a lot of excitement to PC gaming," said Takahashi, whose employer supplies graphic chips to PC and console makers. Even in Japan, "it's not unreasonable to think that PCs can eventually become a presence that threatens console gaming."
Twitter

Twitter Suspends 300,000 Accounts Tied To Terrorism In 2017 (bloomberg.com) 69

According to a new transparency report, Twitter said it suspended nearly 300,000 accounts globally linked to terrorism in the first half of the year. The company is improving automation tools used to help block accounts that promote terrorism and violence. Bloomberg reports: Of [the nearly 300,000 accounts that were suspended], roughly 95 percent were identified by the company's spam-fighting automation tools. Meanwhile, the social network said government data requests continued to increase, and that it provided authorities with data on roughly 3,900 accounts from January to June. Twitter said about 75 percent of the blocked accounts this year were spotted before a single tweet was sent, and that 935,897 accounts had been suspended since August 2015, with two-thirds of those coming in the past year. American authorities made 2,111 requests from Twitter from January to June, the most of the 83 countries tracked by the company. Twitter supplied information on users in 77 percent of the inquiries. Japan made 1,384 requests and the U.K. issued 606 requests. Turkish authorities continued a trend of aggressively policing Twitter, making 554 requests for account data and issuing court orders to remove 715 pieces of content. Other governments made only 38 total content-removal requests.
Businesses

Wisconsin State Legislature Signs Off On $3 Billion Foxconn Incentive Package (venturebeat.com) 158

On Thursday, legislators in the state of Wisconsin approved a nearly $3 billion incentive package for the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, Foxconn, in exchange for it investing approximately $10 billion in the state and building a factory that could employ up to 13,000 workers. The legislation is now headed to Republican Governor Scott Walker's desk, where he is expected to give it his seal of approval. VentureBeat reports: The bill passed the Wisconsin State Assembly on a 64-31 vote, after previously passing the state senate on a 20-13 vote. The move signals the start of what will likely be an important experiment in just how much generous incentive packages can do to help create new tech hubs. Governor Walker has said that the Foxconn factory â" the company's first in the United States -- will help transform Wisconsin into "Wisconn Valley." While on a trade mission this week to Japan and South Korea, Governor Walker told reporters that many of the companies he met with on the trip were already "every interested in how they could come to Wisconsin and partner for that new ecosystem." However, there are still a few details that need to be finalized before Foxconn can start breaking ground -- most notably, where the company will build the factory. The factory was set to be built in either Kenosha or Racine County, Wisconsin, before Kenosha dropped out of the running earlier this week.
Japan

Japan Trials Driverless Cars In Bid To Keep Rural Elderly On the Move (reuters.com) 59

According to Reuters, Japan is starting to experiment with self-driving buses in rural communities such as Nishikata, 71 miles (115 km) north of the capital, Tokyo, where elderly residents struggle with fewer bus and taxi services as the population ages and shrinks. From the report: The swift advance of autonomous driving technology is prompting cities such as Paris and Singapore to experiment with such services, which could prove crucial in Japan, where populations are not only greying, but declining, in rural areas.Japan could launch self-driving services for remote communities by 2020, if the trials begun this month prove successful. The government plans to turn highway rest stops into hubs from which to ferry the elderly to medical, retail and banking services. In the initial trials of the firm's driverless six-seater Robot Shuttle, elderly residents of Nishikata, in Japan's Tochigi prefecture, were transferred between a service area and a municipal complex delivering healthcare services. The test also checked the vehicle's operational safety in road conditions ranging from puddles to fallen debris, and if those crossing its path would react to the warning it emits.
Displays

Sharp Announces 8K Consumer TVs Now That We All Have 4K (theverge.com) 285

Thuy Ong reports via The Verge: Now that you've upgraded to a shiny new 4K TV, Sharp has revealed its latest screen to stoke your fear of missing out: a 70-inch Aquos 8K TV. That 8K (7,680 x 4,320) resolution is 16 times that of your old Full HD (1920 x 1080) TV. Sharp calls it "ultimate reality, with ultra-fine details even the naked eye cannot capture," which doesn't seem like a very good selling point. Keep in mind that having a screen with more pixels doesn't buy you much after a certain point, because those pixels are invisible from a distance -- while an 8K panel would be beneficial as a monitor, where you're sitting close, it won't buy you much when leaning back on the couch watching TV. HDR, however, is something else entirely, and fortunately, Sharp's new 8K set is compatible with Dolby Vision HDR and BDA-HDR (for Blu-ray players). The lack of available 8K HDR content is also a problem. But there is some content floating around. The TV will be rolling out to China and Japan later this year, and then Taiwan in February 2018. Sharp is repurposing its 70-inch 8K TV as an 8K monitor (model LV-70X500E) for Europe, which will be on sale in March. There is no news about a U.S. release.
Communications

Germany Unveils World's Most Powerful X-Ray Laser (theguardian.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's most powerful X-ray laser has begun operating at a facility where scientists will attempt to recreate the conditions deep inside the sun and produce film-like sequences of viruses and cells. The machine, called the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), acts as a high-speed camera that can capture images of individual atoms in a few millionths of a billionth of a second. Unlike a conventional camera, though, everything imaged by the X-ray laser is obliterated -- its beam is 100 times more intense than if all the sunlight hitting the Earth's surface were focused onto a single thumbnail. The facility near Hamburg, housed in a series of tunnels up to 38 meters underground, will allow scientists to explore the architecture of viruses and cells, create jittery films of chemical reactions as they unfold and replicate conditions deep within stars and planets.

XFEL is the world's third major X-ray laser facility -- projects in Japan and the U.S. have already spawned major advances in structural biology and materials science. The European beam is more powerful, but most significantly has a far higher pulse rate than either of its predecessors. "They can send 100 pulses out per second, we can send 27,000," said Robert Feidenhan'l, chairman of the European XFEL management board. This matters because to study chemical reactions or biological processes, the X-ray strobe is used to capture flickering snapshots of the same system at different time-points that can be stitched together into a film sequence.

Japan

Japan Activated Air Raid Sirens During North Korea's Missile Test Monday (cnn.com) 116

"No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan," the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said Monday. Though it was only a test, the scene on-the-ground is described by Slashdot reader AppleHoshi: Our phones went crazy on receipt of an automated alert from the "J-Alert" system. Shortly afterwards, loudspeakers broadcast another alert (there are loudspeakers everywhere in Japan, to warn of earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons). As normal with any disaster situation in Japan, all of the available television channels immediately switched over to full-coverage mode, with a repetition of what the situation was ("There's a missile heading in the direction of north-central Japan") followed by basic instructions of what to do ("If it comes down in your area, try to extinguish any fires and immediately inform your local police and fire departments").

Shortly before twenty past six we got the news that the missile had over-flown northern Japan and landed in the Pacific, about 1,000 km [621 miles] from the coast of Hokkaido. The "all-clear" was broadcast over the local speakers a short while later. Strange as it may seem, this all had an air of normality about it. Japan gets more than it's fair share of natural disasters, so anyone living here gets plenty of exposure to this same routine. (It's just that the reason is usually an earthquake, typhoon or tsunami, rather than a megalomaniac).

Nintendo

Nintendo Faces Supply Issues Ahead of Holiday Season 100

Takashi Mochizuki and Sarah E. Needleman report via The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Nintendo's latest videogame machine, the Nintendo Switch, is winning fans for both its lineup of popular games and its flexibility -- it works as both a living-room console and a hand-held device. But the real challenge for gamers has been actually getting their hands on it. Production isn't keeping up with demand in Japan, resulting in blockbuster queues and lotteries there. Over weekends in July and early August, tens of thousands of fans lined up at stores for a one-in-10 chance to buy the $300 console at events that have become a form of entertainment. Nintendo's official target is to ship 10 million Switch units in its current fiscal year ending in March 2018. People involved in the supply chain say they have been told to prepare for 18 million units. One executive in the supply chain said his company was ready to pick up the pace of production if asked. One delicate balance for Nintendo: The more it tries to boost output quickly, the more it has to bow to the terms of parts makers, some of whom are also busy with orders for Apple Inc.'s next iPhone. "We're doing everything we can to make sure everyone who wants to buy a Nintendo Switch system can do so," Nintendo said in a statement. "We will ramp up production for the holiday period, which has been factored into our forecast."
Google

Google Takes Blame For Internet Disruption Across Japan (theregister.co.uk) 59

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google on Saturday accepted responsibility for the widespread internet disruptions Japan experienced the previous day. The search engine giant apologized for the trouble, saying it was caused by an errant network setting that was corrected within eight minutes of its discovery. Google did not say whether human error or a technical malfunction was to blame. The disrupted services used internet connections provided by NTT Communications Corp. and KDDI Corp., both of which said Friday that the issues were caused by a change in the flow of data traffic. From a report on The Register: The trouble began when Google 'leaked' a big route table to Verizon, the result of which was traffic from Japanese giants like NTT and KDDI was sent to Google on the expectation it would be treated as transit. Since Google doesn't provide transit services, as BGP Mon explains, that traffic either filled a link beyond its capacity, or hit an access control list, and disappeared. The outage in Japan only lasted a couple of hours, but was so severe that Japan Times reports the country's Internal Affairs and Communications ministries want carriers to report on what went wrong.
The Military

A Global Fish War is Coming, Warns US Coast Guard (usni.org) 192

schwit1 shares an article from the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine. It includes this warning from the Coast Guard's chief of fisheries law enforcement: Nearly two decades into the 21st Century, it has become clear the world has limited resources and the last area of expansion is the oceans. Battles over politics and ideologies may be supplanted by fights over resources as nations struggle for economic and food security. These new conflicts already have begun -- over fish... In 1996, Canada and Spain almost went to war over the Greenland turbot. Canada seized Spanish vessels it felt were fishing illegally, but Spain did not have the same interpretation of the law and sent gunboats to escort its ships. In 1999, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a Russian trawler fishing in the U.S. exclusive economic zone. The lone cutter was promptly surrounded by 19 Russian trawlers. Fortunately, the Russian Border Guard and the Coast Guard drew on an existing relationship and were able to defuse the situation...

Japan protested 230 fishing vessels escorted by seven China Coast Guard ships entering the waters of the disputed Senkaku Islands. Incidents in the South China Sea between the Indonesian Navy and Chinese fishing vessels and China Coast Guard have escalated to arrests, ramming, and warning shots leading experts to suggest only navies and use of force can stop the IUU fishing... The United States needs to show it is serious about protecting sustainable fisheries and international rule of law. It needs a fleet that not only will provide a multilateral cooperation platform, but also take action against vessels and fleets that are unwilling to cooperate... If cooperation cannot be achieved, the United States should prepare for a global fish war.

When I read "fish war," I was imagining it more like this.
Security

Hacker Helps Family Recover Minivan After Losing One-Of-A-Kind Car Key (bleepingcomputer.com) 169

An anonymous reader writes: A hacker and a mechanic have helped a family regain access to their hybrid car after they've lost their one-of-a-kind car key while on vacation. The car in question is a Toyota Estima minivan, which a Canadian family bought reused and imported from Japan. When they did so, they received only one key, which the father says he lost when he bent down to tie his son's shoelaces.

Because it was a hybrid and the on-board computer was synced to the battery recharge cycles, the car owner couldn't simply replace the car key without risking the car battery to overcharge and catch fire. After offering a reward, going viral on Facebook, in Canadian media, and attempting to find the lost keys using crows, the family finally accepted the help of a local hacker who stripped the car apart and reprogrammed the car immobilizer with new car keys. The whole ordeal cost the family two months of their lives and around $3,500.

Bitcoin

Australia Joins China and Japan in Trying To Regulate Digital Currency Exchanges (cnbc.com) 63

Following moves by China and Japan to regulate digital currencies, Australia is attempting to crackdown on money laundering and terrorism financing with plans to regulate bitcoin exchanges. From a report: "The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide," said Australia's Minister for Justice Michael Keenan in a press release. The Australian government proposed a set of reforms on Thursday which will close a gap in regulation and bring digital currency exchange providers under the remit of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre. These exchanges serve as marketplaces where traders can buy and sell digital currencies, such as bitcoin, using fiat currencies, such as the dollar. The reform bill is intended to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of AUSTRAC.
United Kingdom

Deadly Drug-Resistant Fungus Sparks Outbreaks In UK (arstechnica.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: More than 200 patients in more than 55 UK hospitals were discovered by healthcare workers to be infected or colonized by the multi-drug resistant fungus Candida auris, a globally emerging yeast pathogen that has experts nervous. Three of the hospitals experienced large outbreaks, which as of Monday were all declared officially over by health authorities there. No deaths have been reported since the fungus was first detected in the country in 2013, but 27 affected patients have developed blood infections, which can be life-threatening. And about a quarter of the more than 200 cases were clinical infections. Officials in the UK aimed to assuage fear of the fungus and assure patients that hospitals were safe. "Our enhanced surveillance shows a low risk to patients in healthcare settings. Most cases detected have not shown symptoms or developed an infection as a result of the fungus," Dr Colin Brown, of Public Health England's national infection service, told the BBC.

Yet, public health experts are uneasy about the rapid emergence and level of drug resistance the pathogen is showing. In a surveillance update in July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that C. auris "presents a serious global health threat." It was first identified in the ear of a patient in Japan in 2009. Since then, it has spread swiftly, showing up in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., according to the CDC. So far, health officials have reported around 100 infections in nine U.S. states and more than 100 other cases where the fungus was detected but wasn't causing an infection.

Robotics

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel (qz.com) 38

A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.
Government

Apple Owns $52.6 Billion In US Treasury Securities, More Than Mexico, Turkey or Norway (cnbc.com) 93

randomErr shares a report from CNBC: If Apple were a foreign country, CEO Tim Cook might have considerable political clout in the United States. That's because the tech giant owns $52.6 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, which would rank it among the top 25 major foreign holders, according to estimates from the Treasury Department and Apple's SEC filings released Wednesday. Apple's stake in U.S. government securities as of June, up from $41.7 billion as of last September, puts it ahead of Israel, Mexico and the Netherlands, according to Treasury data released last month, which tracks up to May of this year. With $20.1 billion in short-term Treasury securities and $31.35 billion in long-term marketable Treasury securities, Apple still falls far below countries like China and Japan, which hold over a trillion dollars in U.S. government debt each -- which has caused considerable hand-wringing in Washington. Still, Apple is way above other big companies like Amazon, which owns less than $5 billion in U.S. government or agency securities combined, according to regulatory filings.
Businesses

Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars To Drivers, Says Report (usatoday.com) 35

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Uber knowingly rented recalled Honda sports utility vehicles to its drivers in Singapore, where at least one of which caught fire. USA Today reports: The paper reported Uber's Singapore office bought more than 1,000 Honda Vezel sports utility vehicles to rent to its drivers there. The cars contained a faulty electrical part that could catch on fire and Honda had recalled in Japan and elsewhere. There had been at least six reports of fires in the Vezel. In a statement Uber said that as soon as it learned of a Honda Vezel catching fire, it took swift action to fix the problem, coordinating with Singapore's Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. However it acknowledged that it could have done more. The company said it has since introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in Singapore to ensure that it is fully responsive to safety recalls.

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