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Elon Musk + AI + Microsoft = Awesome Dota 2 Player

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 22:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Tonight during Valve's yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed "lifetimes" of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company's prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports... Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world -- something Musk has been beating the drum about for years. "Nobody likes being regulated," Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, "but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too." Musk also thanked Microsoft on Twitter "for use of their Azure cloud computing platform. This required massive processing power."

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iOS 10 Quietly Deprecated A Crucial API For VoIP and Communication Apps

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 21:34
neutrino38 warns that iOS 10 includes a significant change "overlooked by the general public": It deprecates an API that is crucial for VoIP and other instant messaging applications that enable keeping one socket active despite the fact that the application would run in the background. As a replacement, developers need to use PushKit: when an incoming call is to be forwarded to an iOS VoIP client, the VoIP infrastructure needs to: - withold the call - contact Apple push infrastructure using a proprietary protocol to wake up the client app remotely - wait for the application to reconnect to the infrastructure and release the call when it is ready This "I know better than you" approach is meant to further optimize battery life on iOS devices by avoiding the use of resources by apps running in background. It has also the positive effect of forcing developers to switch to a push model and remove all periodic pollings that ultimately use mobile data and clog the Internet. However, the decision to use an Apple infrastructure has many consequences for VoIP providers: - the reliability of serving incoming calls is directly bound to Apple service - Apple may revoke the PushKit certificate. It thus has life and death decision power over third-party communication infrastructures - organizations wanting to setup IPBX and use iOS client have no option but to open access for the push services of Apple in their firewall - It is not possible to have iOS VoIP or communication clients in network disconnected from the Internet - Pure standard SIP clients are now broken on iOS The original submission argues that Apple is creating "the perfect walled garden," adding that "Ironically, the only VoIP 'app' that is not affected is the (future?) VoLTE client that will be added to iOS one day."

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The 2017 Hugo Awards

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 20:34
Dave Knott writes: The Hugo Awards, the most prestigious awards in science fiction, had their 2017 ceremony today, at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland. The winners are: Best Novel: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin Best Novella: "Every Heart a Doorway" by Seanan McGuire Best Novelette: "The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon Best Short Story: "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar Best Related Work: Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K Le Guin Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening , written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Arrival , screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes , written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough Best Series: The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen) John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Ada Palmer This year's slate of nominees, unlike the drama surrounding the 2016 and 2015 Hugos, was less impacted by the ballot-stuffing tactics of the "Rabid Puppies", thanks to a change in the way nominees were voted for this year (including the fact no work could appear in more than one category) in an attempt to avoid tactical slate picks.

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Intel Unveils One-Petabyte Storage Servers For Data Centers

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 19:34
Slashdot reader #9,219 Guy Smiley shared this report on a new breed of high-density flash storage. The Inquirer reports: Intel has unveiled a brand new form factor for solid state disc drives (SSDs)... Intel Optane's new "ruler" format will allow up to a petabyte of storage on a single 1U server rack... By using 3D-NAND, the ruler crams in even more data and will provide more stability with less chance of catastrophic failure with data loss. The company has promised that the Ruler will have more bandwidth, input/output operations per second and lower latency than SAS... As part of the announcement, Intel also announced a range of "hard drive replacement" SSDs -- the S4500 and S4600 0 which are said to have the highest density 32-layer 3D NAND on the market, and are specifically aimed at data centres that want to move to solid state simply and if necessary, in stages.

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Should Workplaces Be Re-Defined To Retain Older Tech Workers?

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 18:34
rgh02 submitted this article from Backchannel which argues companies "need to work harder and more persistently to attract, retain, and recognize talent" -- especially older talent: We "elders" know perfectly well that our workplaces are by and large not about us. We don't drive how roles, functions, advancement, and success are seen. Career development options and the hierarchical career ladders everyone is expected to climb are designed for the majority: younger workers. What can be done? There has to be a systems overhaul... The article suggests restructuring workplaces with "individual contributor tracks" which reward people who don't go on to become managers, as well as things like paid mentoring positions and "phased retirement" programs that create part-time positions to allow a more gradual transition into retirement.

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Canonical Needs Your Help Transitioning Ubuntu Linux From Unity To GNOME

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 17:34
BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: On August 24 and 25, the Ubuntu Desktop team will be holding a "Fit and Finish Sprint," where they will aggressively test GNOME. Canonical is also asking the Ubuntu community to help with this process. In other words, you might be able to assist with making Artful Aardvark even better. What makes this particularly cool, however, is that Canonical will be selecting some community members to visit its London office on August 24 between 4 pm and 9 pm. "Over the two days we'll be scrutinizing the new GNOME Shell desktop experience, looking for anything jarring/glitchy or out of place," says Alan Pope, Community Manager. "We'll be working on the GTK, GDM and desktop theme alike, to fix inconsistencies, performance, behavioral or visual issues. We'll also be looking at the default key bindings, panel color schemes and anything else we discover along the way." A few caveats: Canonical won't pay anyone's travel expenses to London, and "Ideally we're looking for people who are experienced in identifying (and fixing) theme issues, CSS experts and GNOME Shell / GTK themers."

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Chrome Extension Developers Under a Barrage of Phishing Attacks

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 16:34
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Google's security team has sent out warnings via email to Chrome extension developers after many of them have been the targets of phishing attacks, some of which have been successful and resulted in crooks taking over extensions. These phishing attacks have come into the limelight this past week when phishers managed to compromise the developer accounts for two very popular Chrome extensions -- Copyfish and Web Developer. The phishers used access to these developer accounts to insert adware code inside the extensions and push out a malicious update that overlaid ads on top of web pages users were navigating. According to new information obtained by Bleeping Computer, these attacks started over two months ago and had been silently going on without anyone noticing. All phishing emails contained the same lure -- someone posing as Google was informing extension developers that their add-on broke Chrome Web Store rules and needed to be updated. The extension developer was lured onto a site to view what was the problem and possibly update the extension. Before seeing the alert, the site asked extension developers to log in with their Google developer account, a natural step when accessing a secure backend.

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Russian Group That Hacked DNC Used NSA Attack Code In Attack On Hotels

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Russian government-sponsored group accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee last year has likely been infecting other targets of interest with the help of a potent Windows exploit developed by, and later stolen from, the National Security Agency, researchers said Friday. Eternal Blue, as the exploit is code-named, is one of scores of advanced NSA attacks that have been released over the past year by a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It was published in April in the group's most damaging release to date. Its ability to spread from computer to computer without any user action was the engine that allowed the WCry ransomware worm, which appropriated the leaked exploit, to shut down computers worldwide in May. Eternal Blue also played a role in the spread of NotPetya, a follow-on worm that caused major disruptions in June. Now, researchers at security firm FireEye say they're moderately confident the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, APT 28, and other names has also used Eternal Blue, this time in a campaign that targeted people of interest as they connected to hotel Wi-Fi networks. In July, the campaign started using Eternal Blue to spread from computer to computer inside various staff and guest networks, company researchers Lindsay Smith and Ben Read wrote in a blog post. While the researchers didn't directly observe those attacks being used to infect guest computers connected to the network, they said a related campaign from last year used the control of hotel Wi-Fi services to obtain login credentials from guest devices.

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Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 12:00
A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has shed light on what may turn out to be a growing trend: lower car ownership in cities where ride-sharing services are available. SlashGear reports: While Uber and Lyft have both deployed in a number of cities, they have, at times, had to abandon those cities due to local governments driving them out for one reason or another. That's what happened in Austin, Texas, opening the door for an interesting study on personal car ownership. Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected? The result, according to the study, was a big increase in personal car usage and a statistically significant increase in car ownership. The researchers surveyed a total of 1,200 people from the Austin region, and found that 41-percent of them started using their own car more often to make up for the lack of Uber and Lyft rides. As well, a total of 9-percent of those surveyed bought their own personal car to make up for the services' absences.

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NASA Looks At Reviving Atomic Rocket Program

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 09:00
Big Hairy Ian shares a report from New Atlas: When the first manned mission to Mars sets out, it may be on the tail of an atomic rocket engine. The Space Race vintage technology could have a renaissance at NASA after the space agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama signed a contract with BWXT Nuclear Energy to develop updated Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) concepts and new fuel elements to power them. Today, with NASA once again considering the challenges of sending astronauts to Mars, the nuclear option is back on the table as part of the agency's Game Changing Development program. Under this, NASA has awarded BMXT, which supplies nuclear fuel to the U.S. Navy, a $18.8-million contract running through September 30, 2019 to look into the possibility of developing a new engine using a new type of fuel. Unlike previous designs using highly enriched uranium, BMXT will study the use of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU), which has less than 20 percent of fissile uranium 235. This will provide a number of advantages. Not only is it safer than the highly enriched fuel, but the security arrangements are less burdensome, and the handling regulations are the same as those of a university research reactor. If NASA determines next month that the LEU engine is feasible, the project will conduct testing and refine the manufacturing process of the Cermet fuel elements over the course of a year, with testing of the full-length Cermet fuel rods to be conducted at Marshall. Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian adds: "At the very least it looks much more feasible than Project Orion."

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FBI Says Islamic State Used eBay, PayPal To Channel Money To the US

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Islamic State allegedly used PayPal and fake eBay transactions to channel money to an operative in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The man who allegedly received the money was American citizen Mohamed Elshinawy, who was arrested last year in Maryland. The FBI claims that Elshinawy, in his early 30s, sold computer printers on eBay as a front in order to receive the payments through PayPal. The details have come to light because of a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, which alleges Elshinawy was part of a worldwide network that used such channels to fund ISIS. Elshinawy received $8,700 from ISIS, including five PayPal payments from senior ISIS official Siful Sujan through his technology company. Those funds were used to buy a laptop, a cellphone, and a VPN to communicate with IS, according to the affidavit. Sujan was killed in a drone strike in 2015. eBay told The Wall Street Journal it "has zero tolerance for criminal activities taking place on our marketplace." Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for PayPal said it "invests significant time and resources in working to prevent terrorist activity on our platform. We proactively report suspicious activities and respond quickly to lawful requests to support law enforcement agencies in their investigations."

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Vitamin B3 Supplement Can Prevent Miscarriages and Birth Defects, Says Study

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 04:05
brindafella writes: The landmark finding about vitamin B3, made by the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney, Australia, has been described as "the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate." The study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. From News.com.au: "The historic discovery, believed to be among Australia's greatest ever medical achievements, is expected to forever change the way pregnant women are cared for around the globe. Every year 7.9 million babies are born with a birth defect worldwide and one in four pregnant women suffer a miscarriage in Australia. In the vast majority of cases the cause of these problems has remained a mystery. Until now. Professor Sally Dunwoodie from the Victor Chang Institute has identified a major cause of miscarriages as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies. The landmark study found that a deficiency in a vital molecule, known as NAD, prevents a baby's organs from developing correctly in the womb. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is one of the most important molecules in all living cells. NAD synthesis is essential for energy production, DNA repair and cell communication. Disrupting its production causes a NAD deficiency. The Victor Chang researchers have found this deficiency is particularly harmful during a pregnancy as it cripples an embryo when it is forming. At the heart of the paramount discovery is the dietary supplement vitamin B3, also known as niacin. Scientists at the Victor Chang Institute have discovered how to prevent miscarriages and birth defects by simply boosting levels of the nutrient during pregnancy."

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Silicon Valley Billionaire Fails To Prevent Access To Public Beach

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 03:25
Robotron23 writes: Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has lost his appeal to privatize Martins Beach -- a publicly-owned strip of coastline in California. Having previously fenced off the land in a bid to render the area private, Khosla has been ordered to restore access by a California court. Khosla had previously demanded the government pay him $30 million to reopen the gate to the beachfront. The law of California states that all beaches should be open to the public up to the "mean high tide line." "The decision this week, affirming a lower court ruling, stems from a lawsuit filed by the Surfrider Foundation, a not-for-profit group that says the case could have broader implications for beach access across the U.S.," reports The Guardian.

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Netflix Discussing Keeping Streaming Rights To Disney's Marvel, Star Wars Films

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 02:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Netflix is in "active discussions" with Disney about keeping Marvel and "Star Wars" films after 2019, when new Disney and Pixar movies will stop appearing on the streaming service, a senior executive said late on Thursday. Disney announced on Tuesday that it was pulling new Disney and Pixar films from Netflix, starting with new releases in 2019. It will start putting the movies on a new Disney-branded online service that year. Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told analysts the company had not yet decided where it would distribute superhero films from Marvel Studios and movies from "Star Wars" producer Lucasfilm, which the company owns, at that time. Netflix is still in discussions with Disney about retaining rights to stream Marvel and Lucasfilm releases after 2019, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Reuters.

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SoundCloud Saved By $170 Million Emergency Funding As CEO Steps Aside

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 02:05
Last month, SoundCloud announced it was cutting about 40 percent of its staff in a cost-cutting move to help it compete against larger rivals like Spotify and Apple. One week after that announcement, TechCrunch published a report claiming "the layoffs only saved the company enough money to have runway 'until Q4' -- which begins in just 80 days." It now appears the company has closed the necessary funding round to keep itself afloat. TechCrunch reports: CEO Alex Ljung will step aside though remain chairman as former Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor replaces him. Mike Weissman will become COO as SoundCloud co-founder and CTO Eric Wahlforss stays as chief product officer. New York investment bank Raine Group and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek have stepped in to lead the new Series F funding round of $169.5 million. SoundCloud declined to share the valuation or quantity of the new funding round. Yesterday, Axios reported the company was raising $169.5 million at a $150 million pre-money valuation. That's a steep decline in value from the $700 million it was valued at in previous funding rounds. The new Series F round supposedly gives Raine and Temasek liquidation preferences that override all previous investors, and the Series E investors are getting their preferences reduced by 40 percent. They're surely happy about that, but it's better than their investment vaporizing. Raine will get two board seats for bailing out SoundCloud, with partner and former music industry attorney Fred Davis, and the vice president who leads music investments, Joe Puthenveetil, taking those seats.

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Military Tech Could Be Amazon's Secret To Cheap, Non-Refrigerated Food

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 01:20
According to CNBC, Amazon is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business. From the report: The world's biggest online retailer has discussed selling ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year, officials at the startup firm marketing the technology told Reuters. The dishes would be easy to stockpile and ship because they do not require refrigeration and could be offered quite cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant. Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers' homes for a decade. It could also complement Amazon's planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and Amazon's checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage. The pioneering food-prep tech, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, was developed by researchers at Washington State University, and is being brought to market by a venture-backed startup called 915 Labs, based in Denver. The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes, according to 915 Labs. Unlike traditional processing methods, where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone, the dishes retain their natural flavor and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, which would make them suitable for Amazon's storage and delivery business model.

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Hollywood's Bad Summer Movies Are Driving a Decline in Movie Ticket Sales

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 00:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: While some people may point at The Emoji Movie as the root of all that is wrong with Hollywood, The Wall Street Journal reports that the problem goes much deeper than a single misfire featuring Patrick Stewart as a poop emoji. WSJ reports that movie attendance has dropped by 5%, compared with the same period in 2016, and revenues are down, too, dipping just 2.9%, thanks to higher ticket prices making up for the lack of ticket sales. On Aug. 2, AMC shares dropped 27% in one day, the WSJ reports. While films like Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Get Out fared well at the box office, they were the anomalies in a year full of box office disappointments. Instead of giving moviegoers more badass female leads and genre-bending horror films, Hollywood keeps throwing gobs of money at an unwanted fifth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, more Transformers movies, and putting $175 million into King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and then clutching their pearls in shock that no one wanted to see them.

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FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period By Two Weeks

Slashdot - Sat, 08/12/2017 - 00:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: You'll have two extra weeks to file your thoughts with the FCC on its plan to get rid of net neutrality. The proposal's comment period was originally scheduled to end next week, on August 16th, but the commission just pushed the date out to August 30th. The extension was granted in response to 10 groups asking for more time to respond. They had been looking for an additional eight weeks, but the commission said an additional two weeks would be more in line with the type of extensions granted in the past. The commission didn't signal that disruptions to its filing system, caused by an apparent DDOS attack, factored into the decision at all. Granting a two week extension gives people more time to file "reply comments," which are meant to respond to what people filed during the first phase of the comment period, which closed in July. That comment period had been much longer than usual, because the commission released the proposal a month before it was voted on.

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Former Bitcoin Developer Shares Early Satoshi Nakamoto Emails

Slashdot - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 23:20
Jordan Pearson, writing for Motherboard: Satoshi Nakamoto is Bitcoin's anonymous creator and absentee head of state. In the years since she (or he, or they) disappeared into the ether and left the technology in the hands of a few high-profile developers, Nakamoto's words have become nigh-gospel for some in the Bitcoin world. On Friday, a user going by "CipherionX" on the Bitcointalk forum published five emails allegedly between Satoshi Nakamoto and former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn. In an email to Motherboard, Hearn confirmed that he shared the emails with the user. While Hearn himself, who was one of the earliest Bitcoin developers, has previously quoted most of the juicy bits from his correspondence with Nakamoto, it appears to be the first time much of the material has been shared in full. None of the emails are included on a popular database of Nakamoto's writings collected from old emails and forum posts.

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James Damore Explains Why He Was Fired By Google

Slashdot - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 22:30
In an exclusive Wall Street Journal post, the engineer responsible for the anti-diversity "Google manifesto," James Damore, explains why he was fired by the company: I was fired by Google this past Monday for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company's code of conduct and "cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company's "ideological echo chamber." My firing neatly confirms that point. How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument? [...] In my document, I committed heresy against the Google creed by stating that not all disparities between men and women that we see in the world are the result of discriminatory treatment. When I first circulated the document about a month ago to our diversity groups and individuals at Google, there was no outcry or charge of misogyny. I engaged in reasoned discussion with some of my peers on these issues, but mostly I was ignored. Everything changed when the document went viral within the company and the wider tech world. Those most zealously committed to the diversity creed -- that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same -- could not let this public offense go unpunished. They sent angry emails to Google's human-resources department and everyone up my management chain, demanding censorship, retaliation and atonement. Upper management tried to placate this surge of outrage by shaming me and misrepresenting my document, but they couldn't really do otherwise: The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views. When the whole episode finally became a giant media controversy, thanks to external leaks, Google had to solve the problem caused by my supposedly sexist, anti-diversity manifesto, and the whole company came under heated and sometimes threatening scrutiny.

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