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How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms

Slashdot - 2 hours 33 min ago
theodp writes: Noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook's advice for President Trump at last week's White House gathering of the Tech Titans was that "coding should be a requirement in every public school," the New York Times examines How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms (Warning: source may be paywalled). "The Apple chief's education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools," writes Natasha Singer. "But even without Mr. Trump's support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda -- thanks largely to the marketing prowess of Code.org, an industry-backed nonprofit group." Singer continues: "In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org, said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried. Along the way, Code.org has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers -- touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain. The rise of Code.org coincides with a larger tech-industry push to remake American primary and secondary schools with computers and learning apps, a market estimated to reach $21 billion by 2020." Singer also mentions Apple's work to spread computer science in schools. The company launched a free app last year called Swift Playgrounds to teach basic coding in Swift, as well as a yearlong curriculum for high schools and community colleges to teach app design in Swift.

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Research Finds 1 In 3 American Cats and Dogs Are Overweight

Slashdot - 5 hours 33 min ago
After surveying 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the U.S. last year, a group of researchers found that about one in three were overweight or obese. "Looking over data from the last decade, the researchers say the new figures reveal a 169-percent increase in hefty felines and a 158-percent increase in chunky canines," reports Ars Technica. From the report: All the data is from researchers at Banfield, which runs a chain of veterinary hospitals across 42 states. The researchers surveyed animals that checked into one of Banfield's 975 locations, putting them through a five-point physical and visual exam. Animals were considered overweight if their ribs were not clearly visible or easily felt and if their waists were also hard to see. Pets were dubbed obese if their ribs couldn't be felt at all and they had no visible waist. As in humans, being overweight makes pets more prone to chronic health conditions. Also similar to humans, doctors blame pets' weight problems on overfeeding and lack of exercise. Other contributing factors include genetics and health issues such as arthritis, which can make play painful. Last, some pet owners may not be able to spot weight issues in their pets -- particularly because so many more dogs and cats are now overweight, making chubby pets the new norm. Dog breeds with the highest prevalence of obesity are Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, the researchers report. For cats, the fattest breeds are Manx and Maine Coons.

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Mayors of 7,400 Cities Vow To Meet Obama's Climate Commitments

Slashdot - 9 hours 3 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change. At the first meeting of a "global covenant of mayors," city leaders from across the US, Europe and elsewhere pledged to work together to keep to the commitments made by Barack Obama two years ago. Cities will devise a standard measurement of emission reductions to help them monitor their progress. They will also share ideas for delivering carbon-free transport and housing. Kassim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, told reporters he had travelled to Europe to "send a signal" that US states and cities would execute the policies Obama committed to, whether the current White House occupants agreed or not. Reed, whose administration has promised that the city of Atlanta will use 100% renewable energy by 2035, said 75% of the US population and GDP lay in urban areas, where local leaders were committed to fighting climate change. "We have the ability to still achieve between 35% and 45% CO2 emission reductions without the involvement of the national government and it is why I chose to be here at this time to send a signal to 7,400 cities around the world that now should be a time of optimism, passion and action," he said.

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London Metropolitan Police's 18,000 Windows XP PCs Is a Disaster Waiting To Happen

Slashdot - 11 hours 33 min ago
According to MSPoweruser, the London Metropolitan Police are still using around 18,000 PCs powered by Windows XP, an operating system Microsoft stopped supporting in 2014. What's more is that the police force is upgrading its PCs from Windows XP to Windows 8.1, instead of Windows 10. Only 8 PCs at the police force are reportedly powered by the "most secure version of Windows right now." From the report: From the looks of things, the London Metropolitan Police will continue to upgrade their systems to Windows 8.1 at the moment. Windows 8.1 is still being supported by Microsoft, although the mainstream support for the OS is set to end on the 9 January 2018. Microsoft will offer extended support for the OS until 2023, which means Windows 8.1 is still a much more secure alternative for the Metropolitan Police than Windows XP. Windows 10 still would have been the best option in terms of security, however. Microsoft is releasing security updates for the OS every month, and the new advanced security features like Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection makes PCs running Windows a whole lot more secure. The spokesman of the 0Conservative London Assembly said in a statement: "The Met is working towards upgrading its software, but in its current state it's like a fish swimming in a pool of sharks. It is vital the Met is given the resources to step up its upgrade timeline before we see another cyber-attack with nationwide security implications."

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Researchers Create New Probiotic Beer That Boosts Immunity

Slashdot - 12 hours 13 min ago
randomErr writes: A new patent has been filed for a innovative brewing technique that incorporates a live strain of good bacteria into the brewing process. Researchers at NUS (National University of Singapore) have created a probiotic sour beer that may boost immunity and improve gut health. The bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei L26 is capable of neutralizing toxins and viruses and regulating the immune system. Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, of the Food Science and Technology Program at NUS said, "While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project."

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O'Reilly No Longer Selling Individual Books, Videos Online

Slashdot - 12 hours 43 min ago
dovf writes: Just got an email from O'Reilly Media that as of today, they are no longer selling individual books or videos online -- rather, they are encouraging people to sign up for Safari. They are continuing to publish books and videos, "and you'll still be able to buy them at Amazon and other retailers." They also make it clear that we will not lose access to already-purchased content, updates to such content, etc. More details can be found in the FAQ. No mention, though, of whether the content sold at these other retailers will remain DRM-free... From the FAQ: "You can buy all of the books (ebooks and print) at shop.oreilly.com from Amazon and other digital and bricks-and-mortar retailers. We're no longer selling individual books and videos via shop.oreilly.com -- but we are definitely continuing to publish books and videos on the topics you need to know. And of course, every O'Reilly book and video (including O'Reilly conference sessions) is available instantly on Safari." The only mention of "DRM" in the FAQ is in regard to what happens to the digital content you have in your account at members.oreilly.com. According to O'Reilly, "Your DRM-free ebooks and videos are safe and sound, and you'll continue to have free lifetime access to download them anytime, anywhere."

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US Imposes Stricter Security Screenings At Foreign Airports, But Won't Expand Laptop Ban Yet

Slashdot - 13 hours 13 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States will require foreign airports to implement stricter security practices and screenings for any passengers headed to the U.S. John Kelly, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, announced today that the new measures were being put in place. Though he didn't go into specifics, Kelly said the new requirements would include further screenings of electronics, more thorough vetting of passengers, and measures meant to stop "insider attacks." The U.S. is also encouraging the use of more bomb-detecting dogs, "advanced checkpoint screening technology," and the addition of "preclearance" locations, which station U.S. customs officers overseas, allowing them to screen passengers before boarding instead of after they land. One thing Kelly didn't announce was an expansion of the tablet and laptop ban, which is currently in effect on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. If airports don't comply with the new screening rules, Kelly said, they may be subject to additional electronics bans. But for the time being, it sounds like the ban will be kept to those 10 locations. According to Reuters, airlines have 21 days to comply with the new rules for explosives screenings and four months to comply with everything else.

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Equal Rights Center Sues Uber For Denying Equal Access To People Who Use Wheelchairs

Slashdot - 13 hours 53 min ago
The Equal Rights Center is suing Uber, alleging that the company has chosen not to include wheelchair-accessible cars as an option in its standard UberX fleet of vehicles, and excludes people who use wheelchairs in Washington, D.C. According to the lawsuit, Uber is in violation of Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act. TechCrunch reports: After conducting its own investigation of Uber's services for people in wheelchairs, the ERC found that passengers had to wait an average of eight times longer for an accessible car to arrive. They also had to pay twice as much in fares, according to the ERC's study. Ultimately, the ERC wants Uber to integrate wheelchair accessible cars into its UberX fleet so that people who use wheelchairs don't have to wait longer and pay more to use the car service. Uber said in a statement provided to TechCrunch: "We take this issue seriously and are committed to continued work with the District, our partners, and stakeholders toward expanding transportation options and freedom of movement for all residents throughout the region."

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Samsung Plans To Open $380 Million Home Appliance Plant In US, Creating Almost 1,000 Jobs

Slashdot - 14 hours 33 min ago
Samsung Electronics has agreed to open a $380 million home appliance manufacturing plant in Newberry County, South Carolina. The new plant is expected to generate 954 local jobs by 2020. CNBC reports: The South Korean firm said this year it was in talks to build a home appliances plant in the United States amid worries about protectionist policies under U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on global companies to generate jobs in the country. "With this investment, Samsung is reaffirming its commitment to expanding its U.S. operations and deepening our connection to the American consumers, engineers and innovators," Samsung Electronics America President and CEO Tim Baxter said.

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Facebook's Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 23:20
Sidney Fussell from Gizmodo summarizes a report from ProPublica, which brings to light dozens of training documents used by Facebook to train moderators on hate speech: As the trove of slides and quizzes reveals, Facebook uses a warped, one-sided reasoning to balance policing hate speech against users' freedom of expression on the platform. This is perhaps best summarized by the above image from one of its training slideshows, wherein Facebook instructs moderators to protect "White Men," but not "Female Drivers" or "Black Children." Facebook only blocks inflammatory remarks if they're used against members of a "protected class." But Facebook itself decides who makes up a protected class, with lots of clear opportunities for moderation to be applied arbitrarily at best and against minoritized people critiquing those in power (particularly white men) at worst -- as Facebook has been routinely accused of. According to the leaked documents, here are the group identifiers Facebook protects: Sex, Religious affiliation, National origin, Gender identity, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Serious disability or disease. And here are those Facebook won't protect: Social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, countries. Subsets of groups -- female drivers, Jewish professors, gay liberals -- aren't protected either, as ProPublica explains: White men are considered a group because both traits are protected, while female drivers and black children, like radicalized Muslims, are subsets, because one of their characteristics is not protected.

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The Petya Ransomware Is Starting To Look Like a Cyberattack in Disguise

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 22:46
Further research and investigation into Petya ransomware -- which has affected computers in over 60 countries -- suggest three interesting things: 1. Ukraine was the epicentre of the attack. According to Kaspersky, 60 percent of all machines infected were located within Ukraine. 2. The attackers behind the attack have made little money -- around $10,000. Which leads to speculation that perhaps money wasn't a motive at all. 3. Petya was either "incredibly buggy, or irreversibly destructive on purpose." An anonymous reader shares a report: Because the virus has proven unusually destructive in Ukraine, a number of researchers have come to suspect more sinister motives at work. Peeling apart the program's decryption failure in a post today, Comae's Matthieu Suiche concluded a nation state attack was the only plausible explanation. "Pretending to be a ransomware while being in fact a nation state attack," Suiche wrote, "is in our opinion a very subtle way from the attacker to control the narrative of the attack." Another prominent infosec figure put it more bluntly: "There's no fucking way this was criminals." There's already mounting evidence that Petya's focus on Ukraine was deliberate. The Petya virus is very good at moving within networks, but initial attacks were limited to just a few specific infections, all of which seem to have been targeted at Ukraine. The highest-profile one was a Ukrainian accounting program called MeDoc, which sent out a suspicious software update Tuesday morning that many researchers blame for the initial Petya infections. Attackers also planted malware on the homepage of a prominent Ukraine-based news outlet, according to one researcher at Kaspersky.

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Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage May Be Hurting Workers, Report Finds

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 22:01
As companies look for ways to cut costs, Seattle's $15 minimum wage law may be hurting hourly workers instead of helping them, according to a new report. From a USA Today article: A report (PDF) from the University of Washington (UW), found that when wages increased to $13 in 2016, some companies may have responded by cutting low-wage workers' hours. The study, which was funded in part by the city of Seattle, found that workers clocked 9 percent fewer hours on average, and earned $125 less each month after the most recent increase. "If you're a low-skilled worker with one of those jobs, $125 a month is a sizable amount of money," Mark Long, a UW public-policy professor and an author of the report told the Seattle Times. "It can be the difference between being able to pay your rent and not being able to pay your rent."

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More Than 40 ISPs Across the Country Tell Chairman Pai to Not Repeal Network Neutrality

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 21:25
An anonymous reader shares a report: One excuse FCC Chairman Ajit Pai regularly offers to explain his effort to gut net neutrality protections is the claim that open Internet rules have harmed ISPs, especially small ones. During a speech earlier this year, he stressed that 22 small ISPs told him that the 2015 Open Internet Order hurt their ability to invest and deploy. In reality, though, many more ISPs feel very differently. Today, more than 40 ISPs told the FCC that they have had no problem with the Open Internet Order (PDF) and that it hasn't hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks. What is more, that they want the FCC to do its job and address the problem Congress created when it repealed the broadband privacy rules in March.

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Google Must Delete Search Results Worldwide, Supreme Court of Canada Rules

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 20:45
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Google on Wednesday in a closely-watched intellectual property case over whether judges can apply their own country's laws to all of the internet. From a report: In a 7-2 decision, the court agreed a British Columbia judge had the power to issue an injunction forcing Google to scrub search results about pirated products not just in Canada, but everywhere else in the world too. Those siding with Google, including civil liberties groups, had warned that allowing the injunction would harm free speech, setting a precedent to let any judge anywhere order a global ban on what appears on search engines. The Canadian Supreme Court, however, downplayed this objection and called Google's fears "theoretical." "This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods," wrote Judge Rosalie Abella.

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A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 20:05
Steve Lohr, writing for the New York Times: A few years ago, Sean Bridges lived with his mother, Linda, in Wiley Ford, W.Va. Their only income was her monthly Social Security disability check. He applied for work at Walmart and Burger King, but they were not hiring. Yet while Mr. Bridges had no work history, he had certain skills. He had built and sold some stripped-down personal computers, and he had studied information technology at a community college. When Mr. Bridges heard IBM was hiring at a nearby operations center in 2013, he applied and demonstrated those skills. Now Mr. Bridges, 25, is a computer security analyst, making $45,000 a year. In a struggling Appalachian economy, that is enough to provide him with his own apartment, a car, spending money -- and career ambitions. "I got one big break," he said. "That's what I needed." Mr. Bridges represents a new but promising category in the American labor market: people working in so-called new-collar or middle-skill jobs. As the United States struggles with how to match good jobs to the two-thirds of adults who do not have a four-year college degree, his experience shows how a worker's skills can be emphasized over traditional hiring filters like college degrees, work history and personal references. [...] On Wednesday, the approach received a strong corporate endorsement from Microsoft, which announced a grant of more than $25 million to help Skillful, a program to foster skills-oriented hiring, training and education. The initiative, led by the Markle Foundation, began last year in Colorado, and Microsoft's grant will be used to expand it there and move it into other states. "We need new approaches, or we're going to leave more and more people behind in our economy," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.

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FBI Interviews Employees of Russia-Linked Cyber Security Firm Kaspersky Lab

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 19:20
FBI agents on Tuesday paid visits to at least a dozen employees of Kaspersky Lab, a Russia-based cyber-security company, asking questions about that company's operations as part of a counter-intelligence inquiry, multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. From a report: In a classic FBI investigative tactic, agents visited the homes of the employees at the end of the work day at multiple locations on both the east and west coasts, the sources said. There is no indication at this time that the inquiry is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion. Kaspersky has long been of interest to the U.S. government. Its cyber-security software is widely used in the United States, and its billionaire owner, Eugene Kaspersky, has close ties to some Russian intelligence figures, according to U.S. officials.

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Vulnerability Discovered In Latest Ubuntu Distributions, Users Advised To Update

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 19:00
Celarent Darii writes: There is a vulnerability in the latest ubuntu distributions due to the DNS resolver included in systemd. The inclusion of the dns resolver was lamented by many on the mailing list, not without cause. All are advised to update their distribution.

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Toshiba Sues Western Digital For $1 Billion in Damages

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 18:40
Toshiba has raised the stakes in an embittered legal row with its joint venture partner, suing Western Digital for a $1bn in damages and hoping Japanese courts will quash the US firm's interference in the sale of its memory chip business. From a report: The litigation, filed Wednesday in Tokyo District Court, seeks to stop Western Digital from making ownership claims over the enterprise that Toshiba is trying to sell. The Japanese company said in a statement that Western Digital's employees improperly obtained proprietary information. The relationship between Toshiba and Western Digital has gotten more acrimonious, as Toshiba moves toward a sale of the flash-memory division. Last month, Western Digital invoked an arbitration clause in their business agreement, seeking to block Toshiba's transfer of ownership of the unit to a separate legal entity in preparation for a sale. Toshiba, which has since reversed that transfer, then had its lawyers send a letter demanding that the U.S. company stop its "harassment" as Toshiba tries to sell the business.

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President Trump Attacks Amazon, Incorrectly Claiming That It Owns The Washington Post For Tax Purposes

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 17:41
The Washington Post, which has been critical of Donald Trump and his administration in its coverage, has become the latest victim in Trump's Twitter tirade. On Wednesday, he accused Amazon of not "paying internet taxes (which they should)," adding that the company is using The Washington Post "in a scheme to dodge" the taxes. Quick fact check: Amazon doesn't own The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos -- in his personal capacity -- does. At any rate, Trump's furious tweets come a day after The Washington Post reported that a fake issue of Time magazine with Trump on the cover was hanging in some of the president's golf clubs. The timing of this is also awkward because just last week the president met with Bezos and other top executives to discuss ways the White House can modernize government and aid the tech industry. But the two have a long history. As Recode reminds: Meanwhile, Amazon is about to embark on what could be a lengthy government antitrust review of its bid to buy Whole Foods. Already looming large over the roughly $14 billion deal are the president's own comments: He has previously attacked Bezos and claimed the Post is a tax-dodging scheme for Amazon. "He thinks I'll go after him for antitrust," Trump said at one point during his campaign. "Because he's got a huge antitrust problem, because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing." Months later, Trump charged: "Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems, they are going to have such problems." Meanwhile, Bezos isn't one to shy about his anti-Trump views either. At one point during the election, Bezos tweeted that he'd save a seat for Trump on his Blue Origin spacecraft, with the hashtag "sendDonaldtospace."

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Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Defends Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Slashdot - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 17:20
An anonymous reader writes: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has absorbed blistering criticism for the way he handled allegations of sexual misconduct at the San Francisco riding-hailing service. But he can at least count on the support of one big name in Silicon Valley: former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Speaking at the annual Stanford Directors' College Tuesday, Mayer defended Kalanick, suggesting that he was unaware of the toxic culture brewing at Uber because of the company's rapid growth. Mayer's name has come up in reports as a possible replacement for Kalanick at Uber, though there's no indication the company has had talks with her. "Scale is incredibly tricky," Mayer said. "I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he's a phenomenal leader; Uber is ridiculously interesting. I just don't think he knew," she said. "When your company scales that quickly, it's hard." Mayer then compared Uber's situation to the early days of Google when it first brought in Eric Schmidt as CEO to help co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page manage the company.

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