Apple’s Eddy Cue Talks Free Speech, Hate Speech and NRATV

Eddy Cue, Apple's head of services -- which include Apple Music, Apple TV and the App Store -- said Apple does not believe all speech should be protected on its platforms, saying "free speech is important but that doesn't mean it's everything."

However, Cue defended Apple's decision to retain the National Rifle Association's online television channel, NRATV, on Apple TV despite an online movement earlier this month to boycott Apple products until Apple removed the channel. Cue, speaking at a panel with CNN's Dylan Byers at the SXSW convention in Austin on Monday, said NRATV did not violate any of Apple's standards.

Cue said Apple's services team upholds rigorous guidelines and reviews every app or show hoping to be included on Apple's platforms.

"From Day 1, we did not want our App Store to be a place where you buy and sell guns," said Cue. "We don't allow apps to buy or sell guns."

Cue said Apple draws the line on speech that promotes hatred or violence, such as a bomb-making app.

When asked about Google and Facebook's open platform policy and how it has led to fake news, Cue said Apple has taken a great deal of responsibility for its platforms and that there is no such thing as a truly free platform.

"Nobody is completely free," said Cue. "There are no pornography on these sites. So people do draw lines on these sites. We do think free speech is very important, but we don't think white supremacy or hate speech is important speech to be out there."

Cue was asked a variety of topics, which ranged from Apple's desire to buy Netflix or Disney, the company's recent foray into creating original television content, and its acquisition of the digital magazine distributor Texture for an undisclosed amount announced just before Cue went on stage.

Cue said Texture...

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Toys R Us Demise Kills 30,000 Jobs, Creates Black Hole for Toy Makers

The demise of Toys R Us will have a ripple effect on everything from toy makers to consumers to landlords. The 70-year-old retailer is headed toward shuttering its U.S. operations, jeopardizing the jobs of some 30,000 employees while spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

The closing of the company's 740 U.S. stores over the coming months will finalize the downfall of the chain that succumbed to heavy debt and relentless trends that undercut its business, from online shopping to mobile games.

And it will force toy makers and landlords who depended on the chain to scramble for alternatives.

CEO David Brandon told employees Wednesday the company's plan is to liquidate all of its U.S. stores, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press.

Brandon said Toys R Us will try to bundle its Canadian business, with about 200 stores, and find a buyer. The company's U.S. online store would still be running for the next couple of weeks in case there's a buyer for it. Workers in the U.S. will get paid for the next 60 days if they show up for work, but after that all benefits and pay will be cut, Brandon told employees at the meeting, according to the recording. Some workers will be asked to stay longer to help with the liquidation.

It's likely to also liquidate its businesses in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the recording. It's already shuttering its business in the United Kingdom. That would leave it with stores in Canada, central Europe and Asia, where it could find buyers for those assets.

Toys R Us Asia Ltd. has more than 400 retail outlets in Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan...

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New Flavor of Raspberry Pi 3 Is Unleashed

A new version of the Raspberry Pi 3 has been unleashed, with a faster processor and notable improvements on the connectivity front.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ [pictured above] is on sale now, and maintains the same price point at $35. It's powered by a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor which runs at 1.4GHz (compared to 1.2GHz for the Raspberry Pi 3's CPU).

The beefier processor benefits from power-related optimizations and a new heat spreader, which allowed for the higher clock speed to be reached.

The other main boons come on the networking front, with a Cypress CYW43455 chip providing dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi (whereas only 802.11n was supported in the original Pi 3) and Bluetooth 4.2 (a step up from the previous Bluetooth 4.1).

Wireless Wonderment

Couple that chip with an improved antenna, and the Pi Foundation claims the B+ delivers somewhat better performance when it comes to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, but ?EU?far better performance?EU? when we're talking about 5GHz.

The new board also has Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0 for faster wired networking speeds. The Foundation claims the Model B+ is capable of ?EU?roughly three times the wired and wireless network throughput?EU? of its predecessor.

Finally, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ now supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), with a PoE HAT capable of providing the necessary 5V of power set to arrive in the near future.

It's a tidy upgrade for the compact computer board, and one that will doubtless tempt Pi enthusiasts and tinkerers everywhere to reach for their wallets.

If you're short on ideas when it comes to what the Raspberry Pi is capable of, then look no further than our extensive feature on various Pi projects. Furthermore, we recently reported on a new DIY kit from Bang & Olufsen, which lets you make your own smart speakers with a Raspberry Pi.

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So Long, Siri: Spotify Testing Its Own Voice-Control Feature

Spotify is experimenting with a voice-control interface, looking to free itself from reliance on Siri and Alexa and pave the way for the company's forthcoming smart speaker.

Users of the service have spotted the new feature hiding in the search bar of Spotify's iOS app. After tapping the magnifying glass to search for a track or playlist , testers see a microphone icon inside a white bubble, according to the Verge.

After users tap on the icon, Spotify suggests a number of typical requests for a voice-controlled music system: "Show Calvin Harris," "Play my Discover Weekly" and "Play some upbeat pop," for instance.

The move comes as Spotify ramps up its efforts to build a smart speaker to challenge Apple, Amazon and Google in the hardware field, all of which have their own music services. A trio of job adverts posted in February confirmed the company's intentions, with Spotify elaborating on its goals to build a "category defining" product "akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo and Snap Spectacles."

Research and development on the new product has progressed to the stage that Spotify is already working on setting up the supply chain, hiring operations managers and project managers to oversee the business. That, alongside the new public test of its voice recognition technology, suggests that the company may be ready to begin production imminently.

Voice recognition technology is becoming a critical strategic fight for Spotify as the company moves towards its direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company has good partnerships across the tech industry with its Spotify Connect feature, which lets users access its library on products such as the Amazon Echo, Sonos speakers and a number of cars.

But with an increasing amount of usage driven by voice, which is seen by many as the next stage in the evolution of computing...

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So Long, Siri: Spotify Testing Its Own Voice-Control Feature

Spotify is experimenting with a voice-control interface, looking to free itself from reliance on Siri and Alexa and pave the way for the company's forthcoming smart speaker.

Users of the service have spotted the new feature hiding in the search bar of Spotify's iOS app. After tapping the magnifying glass to search for a track or playlist , testers see a microphone icon inside a white bubble, according to the Verge.

After users tap on the icon, Spotify suggests a number of typical requests for a voice-controlled music system: "Show Calvin Harris," "Play my Discover Weekly" and "Play some upbeat pop," for instance.

The move comes as Spotify ramps up its efforts to build a smart speaker to challenge Apple, Amazon and Google in the hardware field, all of which have their own music services. A trio of job adverts posted in February confirmed the company's intentions, with Spotify elaborating on its goals to build a "category defining" product "akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo and Snap Spectacles."

Research and development on the new product has progressed to the stage that Spotify is already working on setting up the supply chain, hiring operations managers and project managers to oversee the business. That, alongside the new public test of its voice recognition technology, suggests that the company may be ready to begin production imminently.

Voice recognition technology is becoming a critical strategic fight for Spotify as the company moves towards its direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company has good partnerships across the tech industry with its Spotify Connect feature, which lets users access its library on products such as the Amazon Echo, Sonos speakers and a number of cars.

But with an increasing amount of usage driven by voice, which is seen by many as the next stage in the evolution of computing...

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France Will Sue Google, Apple Over Software Developer Treatment

A French government minister is planning to sue Google and Apple over alleged "abusive commercial practices" that take advantage of French software developers.

France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday in a radio interview that French software developers who create applications for either Google Play Store or Apple App Store have seen unilaterally imposed prices and changes to their contracts by the Silicon Valley giants.

"I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts," Le Maire said on RTL radio, according to Bloomberg.

France's consumer fraud watchdog agency DGCCRF confirmed that they were launching an investigation of Google and Apple, according to Reuters. Le Maire said the fine against the two companies could be millions of euros, according to Bloomberg.

"As powerful as they are, Google and Apple should not be able to treat our startups and our developers the way they currently do," said Le Maire, according to Reuters.

Le Maire, who was appointed last year to his position by President Emmanuel Macron, has been targeting American technology giants in his first year in office. In December, Le Maire's office filed a complaint against Amazon for allegedly abusing its suppliers with lopsided contract clauses and sought a record EUR10 million fine.

In the past few years, France maintained a schizophrenic relationship with American tech giants, both wooing them to build more operations in the country but also pursuing litigation and performing office raids against them for alleged consumer fraud abuses and tax evasion.

In January, the DGCCRF launched a probe against Apple over whether it deliberately phased out older iPhones to force customers to upgrade to a newer model. In France, "planned obsolescence" -- the practice of a device maker purposefully...

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France Will Sue Google, Apple Over Software Developer Treatment

A French government minister is planning to sue Google and Apple over alleged "abusive commercial practices" that take advantage of French software developers.

France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday in a radio interview that French software developers who create applications for either Google Play Store or Apple App Store have seen unilaterally imposed prices and changes to their contracts by the Silicon Valley giants.

"I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts," Le Maire said on RTL radio, according to Bloomberg.

France's consumer fraud watchdog agency DGCCRF confirmed that they were launching an investigation of Google and Apple, according to Reuters. Le Maire said the fine against the two companies could be millions of euros, according to Bloomberg.

"As powerful as they are, Google and Apple should not be able to treat our startups and our developers the way they currently do," said Le Maire, according to Reuters.

Le Maire, who was appointed last year to his position by President Emmanuel Macron, has been targeting American technology giants in his first year in office. In December, Le Maire's office filed a complaint against Amazon for allegedly abusing its suppliers with lopsided contract clauses and sought a record EUR10 million fine.

In the past few years, France maintained a schizophrenic relationship with American tech giants, both wooing them to build more operations in the country but also pursuing litigation and performing office raids against them for alleged consumer fraud abuses and tax evasion.

In January, the DGCCRF launched a probe against Apple over whether it deliberately phased out older iPhones to force customers to upgrade to a newer model. In France, "planned obsolescence" -- the practice of a device maker purposefully...

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WHO Says Bottled Water Is Chock Full of Tiny Plastic Particles

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the world's most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter of water being sold.

Concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces for every liter of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyze the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had "found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water" compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene -- the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analyzed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water -- the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr. Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was "satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab."

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International),...

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Nest Unveils Temperature Sensor To Keep Your Home Cozy

Nest's smart heating system just got smarter. From today, you'll be able to pre-order the long-awaited Nest Temperature for $39 (a three pack costs $99) letting you get precise heat readings from every corner of your home.

A bundle that comes alongside the Nest Thermostat [pictured above, on the right] is set to launch in the spring, too.

Smarter Readings

You may be asking, if the smart thermostat itself can read ambient temperature, what's the need for an additional sensor?

Well, a thermostat only take a general reading from its immediate surroundings. So if you've got several floors to your property or a draughty corner, it may not be an accurate reflection of some colder or hotter corners of your home.

With a set of the temperature readers, the thermostat can be programmed to favor the temperature in individual rooms -- perhaps lifting the temperature for a cozy sleep in an icy bedroom, while lowering it at a time when the kitchen is generating lots of heat.

A replaceable CR123 battery keeps each sensor ticking over for as long as two years, but you'll yet to be able to get smart assistant integration for the sensors.

You'll have to wait a bit longer before you can ask Alexa or Google Assistant for specific temperatures in specific rooms.

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U.S. Accuses Russia of Hacking Energy Grid, Critical Infrastructure

The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of a concerted operation to hack the U.S. energy grid and other critical infrastructure including aviation, and separately imposed sanctions on a raft of Russian officials for alleged high-tech interference in the 2016 American presidential election.

The moves were the strongest to date against Russia by the administration, which critics have complained is being soft on Moscow.

U.S. national security officials said the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies had determined that Russian intelligence and others were behind a broad range of cyberattacks beginning a year ago that have infiltrated the energy, nuclear, commercial, water, aviation and manufacturing sectors.

The officials said the Russian hackers chose their targets, obtained access to computer systems, conducted "network reconnaissance" of systems that control key elements of the U.S. economy and then attempted to cover their tracks by deleting evidence of their infiltration.

The U.S. government has helped the industries kick out the Russians from all systems currently known to have been penetrated, according to the officials, but the efforts continue. The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security information, left open the possibility of discovering more breaches, and said the federal government was issuing an alert to the energy industry to raise awareness about the threat and improve preparation.

That alert, published online by Homeland Security, said the hacking effort was a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors who targeted small commercial facilities' networks" to gain access and plant malware, which was then used to monitor activity as well as to move laterally into other, larger industrial control systems.

It also said the hackers exploited open-source material from companies' public websites to mine seemingly innocuous information that was later used to infiltrate networks. In one case, the alert said, hackers downloaded a...

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