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Court Blocks EPA Effort To Suspend Obama-Era Methane Rule
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's checks-and-balances department:
Michael Biesecker reports via PBS: A federal appeals court in Washington ruled Monday that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped his authority in trying to delay implementation of a new rule requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and reduce methane leaks. In a split decision, the three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the EPA to move forward with the Obama-era requirement that aims to reduce planet-warming emissions from oil and gas operations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in April that he would delay by 90 days the deadline for oil and gas companies to follow the new rule, so that the agency could reconsider the measure. Last month, Pruitt announced he intended to extend the 90-day stay for two years. In a detailed 31-page ruling, the court disagreed with Pruitt's contention that industry groups had not had sufficient opportunity to comment before the 2016 rule was enacted. The judges also said Pruitt lacked the legal authority to delay the rule from taking effect.

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Now Any Florida Resident Can Challenge What Is Taught In Public Florida Schools
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bias-free department:
New submitter zantafio shares a report from Orlando Sentinel: Any resident in Florida can now challenge what kids learn in public schools, thanks to a new law that science education advocates worry will make it harder to teach evolution and climate change. The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) last week and went into effect Saturday, requires school boards to hire an "unbiased hearing officer" who will handle complaints about instructional materials, such as movies, textbooks and novels, that are used in local schools. Any parent or county resident can file a complaint, regardless of whether they have a student in the school system. If the hearing officer deems the challenge justified, he or she can require schools to remove the material in question. The statute includes general guidelines about what counts as grounds for removal: belief that the material is "pornographic" or "is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group."

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65 Percent of Major US Banks Have Failed Web Security Testing, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 07:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's look-the-other-way department:
According to IBS Intelligence, websites run by some of the largest banks in the U.S. have scored the poorest in a new security and privacy analysis audit. "The non-profit Online Trust Alliance (OTA) anonymously audited more than 1,000 websites, ranking their security and privacy practices," reports IBS Intelligence. "None of the sites investigated knew about the test." From the report: In the firm's Online Trust Audit & Honor Roll for 2017 many U.S. banks were among the worst for security and privacy. The industry had both the most failing grades and the least "Honor Roll" recipients. For firms to receive the Honor Roll award, they must achieve an overall score of 80% or higher across three categories: consumer protection, security and privacy. A failure in any of the three squashes its chance entirely. Look away now if you're a U.S. banking customer, as only 27% of the 100 largest banks in the country made the grade. The figure represents a 28% drop from 2016. According to the OTA, the sector had been showing signs of improvement. Yet, due to "increased breaches, low privacy scores and low levels of email authentication," things have slipped. Large banks were found to have moderately good website security (17% of failures) but dropped the ball when it came to their email security (45%) and privacy (34%).

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Norway To Ban the Use of Oil For Heating Buildings By 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-in-line department:
Norway, which is the largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East, is set to become the first country in the world to ban the use of gas to heat buildings. The country plans to pass legislation that will stop the use of both oil and paraffin to warm buildings from 2020 onwards. The Independent reports: Vidar Helgesenlaid, the nation's Environment Minister, laid out the plans in a statement, saying: "Those using fossil oil for heating must find other options by 2020." The country advises its citizens to research alternatives to oil such as heat pumps, hydroelectricity, and even special stoves that burn wood chips. By some stage, the legislation could be widened to include restrictions on using natural gas to heat buildings. The Ministry of Climate and Environment said the ban would apply to both new and old buildings and cover both private homes and the public space of businesses and state-owned facilities. The ministry says the plans are expected to lessen Norway's emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by an estimated 340,000 tons per year, compared to overall national emissions of 53.9 million tons in 2015.

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China Suspects Its 'Car-Eating,' Traffic-Straddling Bus Is a Total Scam
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 05:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's too-good-to-be-true department:
China's "Transit Elevated Bus" or TEB-1 made headlines last year for its futuristic design that let it straddle two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to pass under it. Now, that very bus is the focus of an investigation. According to Quartz, "police in Beijing announced that it had started an investigation into the company behind the TEB for alleged illegal fundraising." From the report: More than 30 people associated with Huaying Kailai, an online financing platform that has been selling an investment product to raise money from individual investors to develop the bus, have been held, said Beijing's Dongcheng district police bureau in a statement (link in Chinese) on microblogging site Weibo. The statement added that the police is working to recover funds from the firm, and advised TEB investors to report their complaints to local police stations. Huaying Kailai couldn't be reached for comment. The number listed on its website is invalid and a message to the email provided bounced back. Bai Zhiming, who runs Huaying Kailai and is also chief executive of TEB Technology Development, a Beijing-based company that purchased the patent for the elevated bus, was among those detained, according to the police statement. Bai bills himself as "the father of the TEB" on Weibo. Days after the Qinghuangdao government announced the TEB track's demolition, Bai told Chinese media that the bus would be relocated to another Chinese city.

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Kanye West Is Leaving Tidal Because the Company Owes Him Money
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 04:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's money-as-a-motivator department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Kanye West has terminated his contract with Tidal, TMZ reports. West claims that Jay Z's streaming service owes him upwards of $3 million and is in breach of contract, according to TMZ's sources. Through his lawyers, West has terminated his contract with Tidal, while the company apparently refuses to recognize that termination. West was one of the first artists to join Jay Z's streaming service at its launch in 2015; his 2016 album The Life of Pablo was originally released as a Tidal exclusive. West claims that album brought 1.5 million new subscribers to Tidal -- a number that was apparently supposed to come with a bonus check, according to TMZ. West also says Tidal went back on a promise of additional money for exclusive music videos, which Tidal reportedly says Kanye never produced. According to TMZ, Tidal has threatened to sue West if he leaves the service.

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Apple Tests 3-D Face Scanning To Unlock Next iPhone: Bloomberg
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 04:20 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Five years ago, Apple made fingerprint scanners on smartphones popular. Now the company may have found a better technology to replace it. According to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, the Cupertino-based company is exploring 3D facial detection as a replacement for Touch ID fingerprint authentication. From the article: This is powered by a new 3-D sensor, added the people, who asked not to be identified discussing technology that's still in development. The company is also testing eye scanning to augment the system, one of the people said. The sensor's speed and accuracy are focal points of the feature. It can scan a user's face and unlock the iPhone within a few hundred milliseconds, the person said. It is designed to work even if the device is laying flat on a table, rather than just close up to the face. The feature is still being tested and may not appear with the new device. However, the intent is for it to replace the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, according to the person.

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PBS Bets $3 Million That Monkeys Are Better CS Preschool Teachers Than Rabbits
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hand-motions department:
theodp writes: EdSurge reports that a new PBS show will teach preschoolers how to think like computers. Marisa Wolsky, an executive producer at WGBH Boston, believes television can be a way to teach Computational Thinking. She is in the first stages of creating an animated television show called Monkeying Around [$3,000,000 NSF award] that uses four monkeys to teach the subject. Why monkeys? EdSurge explains, "Initially, Wolsky said her team wanted to use rabbits to teach the kids, but after realizing the animal would need to use its hands, they decided to go with monkeys [Rabbits historically enjoyed success teaching the 3 R's]." In a press release announcing the new pre-K show, WGBH cited "a great deal of national interest in computer science and coding," adding that "it is never too early to start." WGBH is not the only PBS station that's bullish on CS. According to an NSF Award Abstract, "Twin Cities PBS (TPT), the National Girls Collaborative (NGC) and [tech-bankrolled] Code.org will lead Code: SciGirls! Media to Engage Girls in Computing Pathways, a three-year [$2.63 million] project designed to engage 8-13 year-old girls in coding through transmedia programming which inspires and prepares them for future computer science studies and career paths [...] Drawing on narrative transportation theory and character identification theory, TPT will commission two exploratory knowledge-building studies to investigate: To what extent and how do the narrative formats of the Code: SciGirls! online media affect girls' interest, beliefs, and behavioral intent towards coding and code-related careers?" And Code Trip, a PBS series touted by Microsoft that aired in 2016 [$200,000 NSF award], explored computer science opportunities for young people by, as Microsoft explained, following "three students traveling around the country to speak with leaders including Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, and Hadi Partovi, entrepreneur and cofounder of Code.org."

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Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's digital-exploitation department:
Five years later and it appears Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien have settled their lawsuit over the digital exploitation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "The Tolkien Estate and book publisher HarperCollins filed a $80 million lawsuit in 2012 alleging that Warners, its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. infringed copyright and breached contract by overstepping their authority," reports Hollywood Reporter. "The plaintiffs claimed that a decades-old rights agreement entitled the studio to create only 'tangible' merchandise based on the books, not other digital exploitations that the estate called highly offensive." From the report: The lawsuit brought the two sides into a new battle. Previously, New Line and the Tolkien Estate had fought over profit participation, coming to a deal in 2009 pegged as being worth more than $100 million. As Warner Bros. readied a Peter Jackson big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, the Tolkien Estate began investigating digital exploitations when its attorney received a spam e-mail about the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game. The subsequent complaint filed in court talked about irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation from the prospect of everything from online games to housing developments. In reaction, Warner Bros. filed counterclaims, alleging that repudiation of a 1969 contract and 2010 regrant caused the studio to miss out on millions in Hobbit licensing and decreased exposure to the Jackson films. Warners contended that digital exploitations was both customary and within its scope of rights. Those counterclaims became the subject of a side fight over whether Warners could sue for being sued. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Warner Bros. had properly asserted contract claims.

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Germany's Federal Cartel Office Claims Facebook 'Extorts' Personal Data From Users
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 01:43 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's social-isolation department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Germany's Federal Cartel Office is examining whether Facebook essentially takes advantage of its popularity to bully users into agreeing to terms and conditions they might not understand. The details that users provide help generate the targeted ads that make the company so rich. In the eyes of the Cartel Office, Facebook is "extorting" information from its users, said Frederik Wiemer, a lawyer at Heuking Kuhn Lueer Wojtek in Hamburg. "Whoever doesn't agree to the data use, gets locked out of the social network community," he said. "The fear of social isolation is exploited to get access to the complete surfing activities of users." Andreas Mundt, the Cartel Office's president, said last week he's "eager to present first results" of the Facebook investigation this year. Like the EU's Google investigation, he said the Facebook case tackles "central questions ensuring competition in the digital world in the future".

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Facebook Can Track Your Browsing Even After You've Logged Out, Judge Says
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 01:43 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's at-their-will department:
A U.S. judge has dismissed nationwide litigation accusing Facebook of tracking users' internet activity even after they logged out of the social media website. From a report: The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook used the "like" buttons found on other websites to track which sites they visited, meaning that the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company could build up detailed records of their browsing history. The plaintiffs argued that this violated federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws. US district judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, dismissed the case because he said that the plaintiffs failed to show that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or suffered any realistic economic harm or loss. Davila said that plaintiffs could have taken steps to keep their browsing histories private, for example by using the Digital Advertising Alliance's opt-out tool or using "incognito mode", and failed to show that Facebook illegally "intercepted" or eavesdropped on their communications.

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Young Men Are Working Less. Some Economists Think It's Because They're Home Playing Video Games.
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-we-live department:
Video games are instrumental in understanding why younger men are working fewer hours, according to a paper published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. From an article: By 2015, American men 31 to 55 were working about 163 fewer hours a year than that same age group did in 2000. Men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year. One puzzle is why the working hours for young men fell so much more than those of their older counterparts. The gap between the two groups grew by about 40 hours a year, or a full workweek on average. Other experts have pointed to a host of reasons -- globalization, technological change, the shift to service work -- that employers may not be hiring young men. Instead of looking at why employers don't want young men, this group of economists considered a different question: Why don't young men want to work? Economists Erik Hurst and his colleagues estimate that, since 2004, video games have been responsible for reducing the amount of work that young men do by 15 to 30 hours over the course of a year (syndicated source). Using the recession as a natural experiment, the authors studied how people who suddenly found themselves with extra time spent their leisure hours, then estimated how increases in video game time affected work. Between 2004 and 2015, young men's leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week. A majority of that increase -- 60 percent -- was spent playing video games, according to government time use surveys. In contrast, young women's leisure time grew by 1.4 hours a week. A negligible amount of that extra time was spent on video games. Likewise for older men and older women: Neither group reported having spent any meaningful extra free time playing video games.

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Yelp's Six-Year Grudge Against Google
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-turned-sour department:
Yelp has become Google's most tenacious pest, and despite the public outcries the crowd-sourced reviews website has seen little mercy over the years. From an NYTimes article: For six years, Jeremy Stoppelman's (chief executive of Yelp) company has been locked in a campaign on three continents to get antitrust regulators to punish Google, Yelp's larger, richer and more politically connected competitor. He has testified before Congress, written op-ed columns and used Twitter to bash Google's behavior (paywalled). Google wasn't always a rival. At one point, it was a suitor. But out of that union that never happened was born a mighty grudge, perhaps even an obsession. At one point, Yelp held a hackathon to create a sort of alternate-universe Google, the better for it to explain Google's ways to regulators. And then you have Luther Lowe. Mr. Lowe, Yelp's vice president for government relations, once spent $3,000 on a stuffed elephant, because it had been knit by Europe's antitrust chief. Unlike Google, whose office is full of artwork and free food, Yelp's Washington presence is just a rented co-working space. So Mr. Lowe keeps the elephant at Yelp's San Francisco headquarters, where there is more room. "This is a shoestring operation," he said. But after years of trying and failing, that operation has finally landed a good punch. Last Tuesday, the European Union fined Google $2.7 billion -- the largest antitrust fine in its history -- for unfairly favoring its own services over those of its rivals. The fine was related to Google's shopping service, so strictly speaking it had nothing to do with the Yelp-Google dispute, which is part of a separate investigation into local search. Still, Yelp and other American technology companies pushed hard to get regulators to issue a bold condemnation of Google's behavior toward competitors, signing a letter that accused Google of "destroying jobs and stifling innovation." And by affirming that Google is the dominant company in online search -- something most people take for granted -- Tuesday's decision is likely to help Yelp's case.

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Ask Slashdot: Is Logging Long Hours a Recipe For Burnout or the Only Way To Get Ahead?
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 11:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-do-you-think? department:
An anonymous reader writes: Over the weekend, I came across this story on Bloomberg that illustrates a common dilemma that many of us face ourselves: are we sure we're working enough? From the article: "Earlier this month, venture capitalist Keith Rabois set off a Silicon Valley firestorm about what it takes to succeed. When another tech investor wrote on Twitter that working on the weekends and burning out isn't cool -- and doesn't work -- Rabois fired back. "Totally false," he said. Rabois cited icons like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Belichick as proof that dogged dedication (usually measured by long hours) was the only way to reach the top of your field. Lots of people objected to this assessment, for reasons ranging from VC privilege to its gendered implications." I was wondering where Slashdot readers find themselves in this debate.

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Colombian Airline Wants To Make Passengers Stand
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 11:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader writes Budget airline VivaColombia is considering plans to remove all seats from its planes and make passengers stand. They hope the move will drive down fares by allowing them to squeeze more passengers into each flight, opening up air travel to working class Colombians and budget holidaymakers. The no-frills carrier announced last week that it is adding 50 new Airbus 320s to its fleet to capitalise on the country's growing tourist market. The new planes will have more seats and lower running costs with the first one going into service at the start of 2018. VivaColombia's founder and CEO William Shaw told the Miami Herald the airline was looking into vertical travel options. He said: "There are people out there right now researching whether you can fly standing up -- we're very interested in anything that makes travel less expensive." He added: "Who cares if you don't have an inflight entertainment system for a one-hour flight? Who cares that there aren't marble floors... or that you don't get free peanuts?"

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Microsoft Is Laying off 'Thousands' of Staff in a Major Global Sales Reorganization
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 09:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-job-cuts department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is poised to layoff thousands of employees worldwide in a move to reorganize its salesforce. A source with knowledge of the planned downsizing told TechCrunch that the U.S. firm would lay off "thousands" of staff across the world. The restructuring is set to include an organizational merger that involves its enterprise customer unit and one or more of its SME-focused divisions. The changes are set to be announced this coming week, we understand. Microsoft declined to comment. Earlier this weekend, the Puget Sound Business Journal, Bloomberg and The Seattle Times all reported 'major' layoffs related to a move to increase the emphasis on cloud services within Microsoft's sales teams worldwide. Bloomberg said the redundancies would be "some of the most significant in the sales force in years."

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Russia Behind Cyber-attack, Says Ukraine's Security Service
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 09:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-getting-weird department:
Ukraine says it has discovered who the perpetrators of last week's destructive ransomware attack are. From a report: Ukraine says it has proof that Russian security services were involved in the cyber-attack that targeted businesses around the world last week. The country's security service, the SBU, said it had obtained data that points to a link with an attack on the nation's capital, Kiev, in December. Ukrainian firms were among the first to report issues with malicious software on Tuesday, before the virus spread. Moscow denied any involvement, adding that the allegations were "unfounded".
The virus, which disrupted IT systems across the globe, froze computers and demanded a ransom be paid in the digital currency Bitcoin, which is untraceable. Further reading: The Petya Ransomware Is Starting To Look Like a Cyberattack in Disguise.

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Google's DeepMind and UK Hospitals Made Illegal Deal For Health Data, Says Watchdog
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
A deal between UK hospitals and Google's AI subsidiary DeepMind "failed to comply with data protection law," according to the UK's data watchdog. From a report: The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) made its ruling today after a year-long investigation into the agreement, which saw DeepMind process 1.6 million patient records belonging to UK citizens for the Royal Free Trust -- a group of three London hospitals. The deal was originally struck in 2015, and has since been superseded by a new agreement. At the time, DeepMind and the Royal Free said the data was being shared to develop an app named Streams, which would alert doctors if patients were at risk from a condition called acute kidney injury. An investigation by the New Scientist revealed that the terms of the agreement were more broad than hand been originally implied. DeepMind has since made new deals to deploy Streams in other UK hospitals.

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Samsung Downsizes Workforce For First Time in 7 Years Amid Global Restructuring
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's story-of-our-lives department:
Samsung witnessed a reduction in the number of employees last year in its first manpower cut in seven years due mainly to its restructuring in China, South Korean newspaper Herald reports citing figured published by the company. From the report: The number of employees of the world's largest smartphone and memory chip manufacturer fell 5.2 percent to 308,745 last year from 325,677 the previous year, the data said. By region, domestic employees dropped 3.8 percent to 93,204, and those abroad declined 5.8 percent to 215,541. As of the end of last year, the percentage of the employees at Samsung's companies abroad dropped 0.4 percent to 69.8 percent. The number of Samsung employees in China fell 17.5 percent to 37,070 last year from 44,948 the previous year, while those in North and South America surged 8.5 percent to 25,988.

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US Lifts Laptop Restriction For Flights From Abu Dhabi
Posted by News Fetcher on July 03 '17 at 07:00 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
The United States has lifted a ban on laptops in cabins on flights from Abu Dhabi to the United States, saying Etihad Airways had put in place required tighter security measures. From a report: Etihad welcomed the decision on Sunday and credited a facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport where passengers clear U.S. immigration before they land in the United States for "superior security advantages" that had allowed it to satisfy U.S. requirements. Transportation Security Administration officials have checked that the measures had been implemented correctly, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. officials assessed the airport on Saturday night, Abdul Majeed al-Khoori, acting chief executive of operator Abu Dhabi Airports told Reuters on Monday. The disruption to passengers from the new measures will be "very minimal" with the processing time for those traveling to the United States unchanged, he said by phone.

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