By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
schwit1 shares a report: Google has removed a map outlining the geographical extent of the Greater Kurdistan after the Turkish state asked it to do so, a simple inquiry on the Internet giant's search engine from Wednesday on can show. "Unavailable. This map is no longer available due to a violation of our Terms of Service and/or policies," a note on the page that the map was previously on read. Google did not provide further details on how the Kurdistan map violated its rules.
The map in question, available for years, used to be on Google's My Maps service, a feature of Google Maps that enables users to create custom maps for personal use or sharing through search. Maps drawn by ancient Greeks, Islamic historians, Ottomans, and Westerners showing Kurdistan with alternative names such as "Corduene" or "Karduchi" have existed since antiquity. The use of the name "Kurdistan" was banned by the administration of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the immediate aftermath of the crushed Sheikh Said uprising for Kurdish statehood in 1925. Further reading: Local media report. "Turkish officials outraged by Google map showing the unofficial border of Kurdistan. Turkey demands the removal of the map. There are around 40 million Kurds divided between 4 main countries," Jiyar Gol, a BBC correspondent tweeted.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-along department
PHP 7.3: You can now add trailing commas in function calls under PHP 7.3 (mailing list thread), and also use the list reference assignment, the flexible Heredoc and Nowdoc Syntaxes are also supported. [...] And more: context sensitive lexer, PHPStan support, debugger, twig, hints, suggestions, code completionâ¦â visit PHP Features Page and NetBeans 10 New and Noteworthy for more details on PHP support. JUnit 5.3.1 has been added as a new Library to NetBeans, so you can quickly add it to your Java projects. For Maven projects without no existing tests, JUnit 5 is now the default JUnit version.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's food-for-thought department
An anonymous reader shares a report: When General Motors laid off more than 6,000 workers days after Thanksgiving, John Patrick Leary, the author of the new book Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, tweeted out part of GM CEO Mary Barra's statement. "The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future," she said. Leary added a line of commentary to of Barra's statement: "Language was pronounced dead at the scene." Why should we pay attention to the particular words used to describe, and justify, the regularly scheduled "disruptions" of late capitalism? Published this month by Haymarket Books, Leary's Keywords explores the regime of late-capitalist language: a set of ubiquitous modern terms, drawn from the corporate world and the business press, that he argues promulgate values friendly to corporations (hierarchy, competitiveness, the unquestioning embrace of new technologies) over those friendly to human beings (democracy, solidarity, and scrutiny of new technologies' impact on people and the planet).
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By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
A gene editing technique has been used to produce asexual rice, which could carry traits such as high yields and drought resistance. From a report: After more than 20 years of theorizing about it, scientists have tweaked a hybrid variety of rice so that some of the plants produce cloned seeds. No plant sex necessary. The feat, described earlier this month in Nature, is encouraging for efforts to feed an increasingly crowded world. Crossing two good varieties of grain can make one fabulous one, combining the best versions of genes to give crops desirable traits such as higher yields. But such hybrid grain marvels often don't pass along those coveted genetic qualities to all seeds during reproduction. So farmers who want consistently higher yields have to pay for new hybrid seeds every year.
This new lab version of hybrid rice would preserve those qualities through self-cloning, says study coauthor Venkatesan Sundaresan, a plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis. Though 400 kinds of plants, including some blackberries and citruses, have developed self-cloning seeds naturally, re-creating those pathways in crop plants has "been harder than anyone expected," Sundaresan says. He and his colleagues got the idea for the new research while studying "how a fertilized egg becomes a zygote, this magical cell that regenerates an entire organism," as Sundaresan puts it. The researchers discovered that modifying two sets of genes caused the japonica rice hybrid called Kitaake to clone its own seeds. First the team found that in a fertilized plant egg, only the male version of a gene called BABY BOOM1 found in sperm triggered the development of a seed embryo. So the scientists inserted a genetic starter switch, called a promoter, that let the female version of the same gene do the same job. No male would be necessary to trigger an embryo's development.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
One of the most refreshing aspects of Linux in 2018 was the popularity of Snaps. Canonical revealed that the containerized packages have been a smashing success. Today, the Ubuntu-maker highlights what it feels are the top 10 Snaps of 2018. From a report: "With 2018 drawing to a close, and many of us spending with family during the holiday season, I thought we'd take a look back over some of our favourite Linux applications in the Snap Store. Some have been in the store for over a year, and a few landed only recently, but they're all great," says Alan Pope, Canonical. [...] Canonical shares the Top 10 Snaps: Spotify, Slack, VLC, Nextcloud, Android Studio, Discord, Plex Media Server, Xonotic, Notepad++, and Shotcut.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's 'spectacular' department
There was a boom; then a hum. The lights flickered. A giant plume of smoke filled the New York City sky, and turned it blue. From a report: "A sort of unnatural, fluorescent shade of blue," said Bill San Antonio, 28, who was watching Thursday night from inside a terminal at La Guardia Airport. "We thought it was a U.F.O.," said Yiota Androtsakis, a longtime Astoria resident. Ms. Androtsakis was not the only one. In the earliest moments, hundreds of Twitter users from across the city posted videos of the eerie lights, causing many on social media to fear an alien invasion.
By late Thursday night officials said the event was caused by nothing more than a transformer explosion. "No injuries, no fire, no evidence of extraterrestrial activity," the New York Police Department tweeted, adding later that the explosion was not suspicious. There was one Con Edison employee nearby when the fire started, and the authorities said he was unharmed. Still, Deputy Inspector Osvaldo Nunez, the commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, conceded that the episode "was spectacular." "You could see it from the precinct, and the precinct is about a half-mile away," he said. "You felt it in your chest, the explosions, and the night sky turned an electric blue."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
schwit1 shares a National Review report: After three years, there is no proof that Apple's, Google's, and Microsoft's infiltration of the classroom is producing actual academic improvement and results. Take Facebook's efforts for an example. The company -- under fire for privacy breaches worldwide -- is peddling something called "Summit Learning," a web-based curriculum bankrolled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Last month, students in New York City schools walked out in protest of the program. "It's annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long," freshman Mitchel Storman, 14, told the New York Post. He spends close to five hours a day on Summit classes in algebra, biology, English, world history, and physics. Teacher interaction is minimal. "You have to teach yourself," Storman rightly complained. No outside research supports any claim that Summit Learning actually enhances, um, learning. What more studies are showing, however, is that endless hours of screen time are turning kids into zombies who are more easily distracted, less happy, less socially adept, and less physically fit. Standing up to the Silicon Valley Santas and asserting your family's "right to no" may well be the best long-term gift you can give your school-age children.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Crippling drought this year has caused more than $1 billion in damage. As it has played out, anyone affected by the drought or trying to manage it has turned to a once obscure map that has become key to understanding what's happening: the U.S. Drought Monitor. From a report: That includes water planners who decide resource allotments. Farmers who need water for their livelihood. Federal bureaucrats who use the map to calculate aid for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. And then there are citizen scientists like Dave Kitts outside of Sante Fe, N.M. "I think it's a little obsessive, but I check it every Thursday," says Kitts, who has lived on the same 2-acre spread in New Mexico for decades. Dry years like this past one can crust the soil and kill his pinyon trees. "It's just upsetting and depressing to me," he says. "And when it moves the other direction, it definitely lifts my spirits."
Scientist Mark Svoboda started the drought map 20 years ago, when Congress took an interest after drought struck Washington, D.C. He directs the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "We're covering everything," he says, "from groundwater, stream flow, temperature." In bad drought years like this one, the map has patches of crayon yellow, orange and red that show the levels of drought. Right now, there's a deep crimson bull's-eye in the hardest-hit area of the southwest, where Colorado borders Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The Drought Monitor map is updated weekly, often taking into account input from hundreds of people -- in addition to scientists. Ranchers and farmers from across the country also send missives to state and national offices, making the map a mix of art, science and farmer wisdom. But it starts with recommendations from state climatologists on any potential changes.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Higher education is supposed to be the ticket to employment. But in some Bay Area counties, workers with a high school diploma have lower unemployment rates than those with bachelor's degrees or higher.
From a report: Experts suggested the Bay Area's backwards numbers, which run counter to the national trend, could be the result of too-few lower-wage workers, many of whom have been driven out by skyrocketing housing prices and the rising cost of living. "We have employers call us all the time (saying), 'I'm looking for low-wage, entry-level workers,'" said Kris Stadelman, director of NOVA Workforce Development in Sunnyvale. But there are few workers willing to take on those positions who don't already have jobs, she said.
In Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, the unemployment rate for workers with a high school degree is 3.3 percent, compared to a 3.6 percent rate for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2017 American Community Survey, which measures unemployment by educational attainment for workers between 25 and 64 years old. The same situation exists in two other Bay Area counties -- Marin and Sonoma -- where workers with at least a bachelor's degree don't have the lowest unemployment rate.
The trend is starkest in Sonoma County, where workers without a high school degree have a 0.2 percent unemployment rate compared to a 4.4 percent rate for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher. Workers with a high school diploma in that county have an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent. Statewide, workers with a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, nearly double the 3.5 percent rate of those with a bachelor's or higher.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-rapidly department
This year Fortnite became the world's most popular game, growing its parent company, Epic Games' valuation to $15 billion. It also helped the company pile up cash. Epic grossed a $3 billion profit for this year fueled by the continued success of Fortnite, TechCrunch reported Thursday, citing a person with knowledge of the business. From the report: Fortnite, which is free to play but makes money selling digital items, has popularized the battle royale category -- think Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games -- almost single-handedly, and it has been the standout title for the U.S.-based game publisher. Founded way back in 1991, Epic hasn't given revenue figures for its smash hit -- which has 125 million players -- but this new profit milestone, combined with other pieces of data, gives an idea of the success the company is seeing as a result of a prescient change in strategy made six years ago.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Bottled water, which recently dethroned soda as America's most popular beverage, is facing a crisis. From a report: A consumer backlash against disposable plastic plus new government mandates and bans in places such as zoos and department stores have the world's biggest bottled-water makers scrambling to find alternatives. Evian this year pledged to make all its plastic bottles entirely from recycled plastic by 2025, up from 30% today and among the boldest goals in the industry. Executives at parent company Danone hope the move will help it regain market share and win over plastic detractors who are already pressuring the makers of straws, bags and coffee cups.
There's a big problem. The industry has tried and failed for years to make a better bottle. Existing recycling technology needs clean, clear plastic to make new water bottles, and bottled-water companies say low recycling rates and a lack of infrastructure have stymied supply. Danone, for its part, is betting the reputation of its flagship water brand on a new technology that claims to turn old plastic from things like dirty carpets and sticky ketchup bottles into plastic suitable for new water bottles. [...] Bottled-water sales have boomed in recent decades amid safety fears about tap water and a shift away from sugary drinks. Between 1994 and 2017, U.S. consumption soared 284% to nearly 42 gallons a year per person, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., a consulting firm. Further reading: Microplastics Found In 93 Percent of Bottled Water Tested In Global Study, and Amazon Wants To Curb Selling 'CRaP' Items it Can't Profit On, Like Bottled Water and Snacks: Report.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
French tech company Sigfox has developed a bite-size tracker that can be inserted into the horns of rhinos to help conservationists monitor and protect the endangered species. From a report: With the dramatic decline of animal species in the past century mostly due to poaching and urban expansion, wildlife organizations have turned to technology to help safeguard species being pushed towards extinction. The global number of rhinos dwindled to about 20,000 a decade ago due to relentless poaching, though they have rebounded to about 29,000 thanks to conservation efforts. Cameras, infrared and motion sensors, electronic bracelets and drones have been used over the years to protect endangered species, but have at times been limited by vast distances and limited resources in the countries concerned. Sigfox, known for building networks that link objects to the internet, has developed sensors able to give the exact location of rhinos using the firm's network over a longer period of time. [...] The sensors can alert park rangers when rhinos approach an area identified as particularly dangerous due to previous instances of poaching. Combined with other warning sensors, they can be used to get rescue teams to the location in real time.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
The developer of the popular image editing tool Paint.NET, Rick Brewster, has shared his vision of what the coming year holds for his software. The 2019 roadmap for Paint.NET is an exciting one, promising migration to .NET Core, support for brushes and pressure sensitivity, and an expanded plugin system.
BetaNews: Changes are on the cards for app icons and improved high-DPI support -- something that may be seen as mere aesthetic by some, but important changes by others. Switching to .NET Core could have big implications for the software, as Brewter explains: "It's clear that, in the long-term, Paint.NET needs to migrate over to .NET Core. That's where all of the improvements and bug fixes are being made, and it's obvious that the .NET Framework is now in maintenance mode. On the engineering side this is mostly a packaging and deployment puzzle of balancing download size amongst several other variables. My initial estimations shows that the download size for Paint.NET could balloon from ~7.5MB (today) to north of 40MB if .NET Core is packaged 'locally'. That's a big sticker shock... but it may just be necessary."
And, for those who're interested: the move to .NET Core will finally enable a truly portable version of Paint.NET since. Proposals for better DDS support and brushes and pressure sensitivity will be welcomed by digital artists, and there can be few users who are not excited at the prospect of an expanded plugin system.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's time-to-reflect department
Several remarkable movies and shows hit the theaters and TV this year. We had "First Man", "Black Panther", new "Incredibles", "Avengers: Infinity War", more "Star Wars" and "Mission: Impossible" hit the cinemas. On TV, we saw the conclusion of "The Americans", continuation of "Westworld" on HBO, and "Homecoming" arrive on Amazon Prime Video. "Money Heist" on Netflix, "Barry" on HBO, and "Detectorists" on AcornTV garnered good reviews from critics, too. What did you like this year?
Also in this year-ender series: Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Good Books You Read This Year?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
In the Estonian capital of Tallinn, three-day-old Oskar Lunde sleeps soundly in his hospital cot, snuggled into a lime green blanket decorated with red butterflies. Across the room, his father turns on a laptop. "Now we will register our child," Andrejs Lunde says with gravity as he inserts his ID card into the card reader. His wife, Olga, looks on proudly. And just like that, Oskar is Estonia's newest citizen. No paper. No fuss.
From a report: This Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is engaged in an ambitious project to make government administration completely digital to reduce bureaucracy, increase transparency and boost economic growth. As more countries shift their services online, Estonia's experiment offers a glimpse of how interacting with the state might be for future generations. Need a prescription? It's online. Need someone at City Hall? No lines there -- or even at the Department of Motor Vehicles! On the school front, parents can see whether their children's homework was done on time.
Estonia has created one platform that supports electronic authentication and digital signatures to enable paperless communications across both the private and public sectors. There are still a few things that you can't do electronically in Estonia: marry, divorce or transfer property -- and that's only because the government has decided it was important to turn up in person for some big life events. This spring, government aims to go even further. If Oskar had been born a few months later, he would have been registered automatically, with his parents receiving an email welcoming him into the nation.Read Replies (0)