By msmash from Slashdot's pursuit-of-happiness department
From a report on The Guardian, shared by five anonymous readers: Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump's policies forecast to deepen the country's social crisis. The US has slipped to 15th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. The world's economic superpower is well behind top-ranked Norway, although it remains above Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world's happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The report's authors stress, however, that the top four are so close that changes are not statistically significant. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The world's "unhappiest" countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department
Students attending Boston public schools are now getting a more accurate depiction of the world after the school district rolled out a new standard map of the world that show North America and Europe much smaller than Africa and South America. From a report on The Guardian: In an age of "fake news" and "alternative facts", city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world. For almost 500 years, the Mercator projection has been the norm for maps of the world, ubiquitous in atlases, pinned on peeling school walls. Gerardus Mercator, a renowned Flemish cartographer, devised his map in 1569, principally to aid navigation along colonial trade routes by drawing straight lines across the oceans. An exaggeration of the whole northern hemisphere, his depiction made North America and Europe bigger than South America and Africa. He also placed western Europe in the middle of his map. Mercator's distortions affect continents as well as nations. For example, South America is made to look about the same size as Europe, when in fact it is almost twice as large, and Greenland looks roughly the size of Africa when it is actually about 14 times smaller.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's faster-deliveries department
Fast shipping is -- finally -- no longer all about Amazon. From a report on CNET: On Monday, eBay announced it will offer a new guaranteed-delivery program in the US starting this summer, pledging deliveries in three or fewer days for more than 20 million products. For the first time, Ebay's shoppers will be able to filter searches to see only items guaranteed to arrive in one, two or three days. "We know we need to continue to up our game on shipping," Hal Lawton, eBay's senior vice president of North America, said in an interview. [...] It's worth noting, though, that this Ebay announcement doesn't actually speed up deliveries on the site. Many professional sellers on Ebay have already been providing these faster deliveries, in some cases for years. Ebay, which says 63 percent of packages sold through its site arrive in three days or less, has been offering customers more conservative delivery estimates because it doesn't ship directly.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's worrisome-patterns department
An anonymous reader shares a report: People worried about college affordability today can at least take this to heart: it could get much, much worse. Tuition has been rising by about 6% annually, according to investment management company Vanguard. At this rate, when babies born today are turning 18, a year of higher education at a private school -- including tuition, fees, and room and board -- will cost more than $120,000, Vanguard said. Public colleges could average out to $54,000 a year. That means without financial aid, the sticker price of a four-year college degree for children born today could reach half a million dollars at private schools, and a quarter million at public ones. That's for a family with one kid; those with more could be facing a bill that reaches seven figures.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's right-to-rent department
"Indiana's cities and towns wouldn't be allowed to put their own restrictions on companies such as Airbnb under a proposal state lawmakers are considering," reports the Associated Press. Slashdot reader El Cubano writes:
The proposed legislation would prohibit local government in the state from banning Airbnb rentals by their residents. There are exceptions for home owner associations (which will still be allowed to ban rentals in their communities) and 180-day per year cap.
It is interesting to see something like this being considered at the state level. Supporters say that they are trying to prevent knee-jerk regulations and to protect an innovative emerging market. At the same time, local authorities are upset that they will no longer have the option to make the determination for themselves.
The bill has already been approved by the Indiana House, as well as a key committee in the Indiana Senate.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-longer-sharing-the-ride department
First the resignations. "The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber," the company's former president told Recode on Sunday, announcing his resignation. "The departures add to the executive exodus from Uber this year," writes The New York Times. An anonymous reader quotes their report.
Brian McClendon, vice president of maps and business platform at Uber, also plans to leave at the end of the month... Raffi Krikorian, a well-regarded director in Uber's self-driving division, left the company last week, while Gary Marcus, who joined Uber in December after Uber acquired his company, left this month. Uber also asked for the resignation of Amit Singhal, a top engineer who failed to disclose a sexual harassment claim against him at his previous employer, Google, before joining Uber. And Ed Baker, another senior executive, left this month as well.
Jones left Uber after less than six months, though McClendon's departure is said to be more amicable. "Mr. McClendon, in a statement, said he was returning to his hometown, Lawrence, Kansas, after 30 years away. 'This fall's election and the current fiscal crisis in Kansas is driving me to more fully participate in our democracy -- and I want to do that in the place I call home."
In other news, the Teamsters labor union plans to start organizing Uber's drivers into a union, after a Washington judge rejected Uber's attempt to overturn a right-to-unionize ordinance passed by the city of Seattle.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Apple-versus-Australasia department
Apple paid no income tax to New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department for the last 10 years, according to an article shared by sit1963nz, prompting calls for the company to "do the right thing" even from some American-based Apple users. From the New Zealand Herald:
Bryan Chaffin of The Mac Observer, an Apple community blog site founded in 1998...wrote that Apple was the largest taxpayer in the United States, but 'pays next to nothing in most parts of the world... [L]ocal taxes matter. Roads matter. Schools matter. Housing authorities matter. Health care matters. Regulation enforcement matters. All of the things that support civil society matter. Apple's profits are made possible by that civil society, and the company should contribute its fair share.'"
Apple's accounts "show apparent income tax payments of $37 million," according to an earlier article, "but a close reading shows this sum was actually sent abroad to the Australian Tax Office, an arrangement that has been in place since at least 2007. Had Apple reported the same healthy profit margin in New Zealand as it did for its operations globally it would have paid $356 million in taxes over the period."
"It is absolutely extraordinary that they are able to get away with paying zero tax in this country," said Green Party co-leader James Shaw. "I really like Apple products -- they're incredibly innovative -- but it looks like their tax department is even more innovative than their product designers."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's collect-them-all department
97 Things Every Programmer Should Know was published seven years ago by O'Reilly Media, and was described as "pearls of wisdom for programmers collected from leading practitioners." Today an anonymous reader writes:
All 97 are available online for free (and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3), including an essay by "Uncle Bob" on taking personal responsibility and "Unix Tools Are Your Friend" by Athens-based professor Diomidis Spinellis, who writes that the Unix tool chest can be more useful than an IDE.
But the book's official site is also still accepting new submissions, and now points to 68 additional "edited contributions" (plus another seven "contributions in progress"), including "Be Stupid and Lazy" by Swiss-based Java programmer Mario Fusco, and "Decouple That UI" by tech trainer George Brooke.
"There is no overarching narrative," writes the site's editor Kevlin Henney (who also wrote the original book). "The collection is intended simply to contain multiple and varied perspectives on what it is that contributors to the project feel programmers should know...anything from code-focused advice to culture, from algorithm usage to agile thinking, from implementation know-how to professionalism, from style to substance..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's publicly-funded-patents department
The EFF's "Reclaim Invention" campaign provided the template for a patent troll-fighting bill recently introduced in the Maryland legislature to guide public universities. An anonymous reader writes:
The bill would "void any agreement by the university to license or transfer a patent to a patent assertion entity (or patent troll)," according to the EFF, requiring universities to manage their patent portfolios in the public interest. James Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International, argues this would prevent assigning patents to "organizations who are just suing people for infringement," which is especially important for publicly-funded colleges. "You don't want public sector patents to be used in a way that's a weapon against the public." Yarden Katz, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet amd Society, says the Maryland legislation would "set an example for other states by adopting a framework for academic research that puts public interests front and center."
The EFF has created a web page where you can encourage your own legislators to pass similar bills, and to urge universities to pledge "not to knowingly license or sell the rights of inventions, research, or innovation...to patent assertion entities, or patent trolls."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's perks-of-Pennsylvania department
"Seattle tech workers who own their homes can expect to have about $2,000 more in disposable income each month than tech workers in the Bay Area," according to a new study from LinkedIn and Zillow. An anonymous reader writes:
"For technology workers who rent, Seattle, Austin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came out on top among the housing markets analyzed, with the Bay Area at #4..." the two companies reported. "Salaries for other industries don't hold up as well in the San Francisco area, though. Even highly-paid finance workers keep only about 32 percent of their incomes after paying for housing and taxes. In Charlotte or Chicago, they can pocket a median of 61 percent."
The Bay Area's high housing prices are apparently offset by the high salaries paid there to tech workers, according to the study. Even so, both home owners and renters pay roughly half the median income for housing on the west coast, "while a rental in the middle of the country costs more like 25 percent of the median income."
The report also identified the best cities for health workers -- Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Boston -- as well as for finance workers, who do best in Charlotte, Chicago and Dallas. The top 15 cities for tech workers also included those same cities except Chicago and Phoenix, while also including known tech hotspots like Denver, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. But surprisingly the top 15 best cities for tech workers also included Detroit, Nashville, St. Paul (Minnesota) and Tampa, Florida.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fact-checking-by-law department
schwit1 writes: In a bill aimed at securing a "right to be forgotten," introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and (as Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella), New York politicians would require people to remove "inaccurate," "irrelevant," "inadequate" or "excessive" statements about others... Failure to comply would make the search engines or speakers liable for, at least, statutory damages of $250/day plus attorney fees.
The Washington Post reports the bill's provisions would be as follows:
Within 30 days of a "request from an individual, all search engines [and online speakers] shall remove...content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is 'inaccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate' or 'excessive,' and without replacing such removed...content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice.... [I]naccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate', or 'excessive' shall mean content, which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication, is no longer material to current public debate or discourse, especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information...is causing to the requester's professional, financial, reputational or other interest, with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester's role with regard to the matter is central and substantial."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's no-vacancy department
100,000 people people have already downloaded an app that helps fight human trafficking. dryriver summarizes a report from CNN:
Police find an ad for paid sex online. It's an illegally trafficked underage girl posing provocatively in a hotel room. But police don't know where this hotel room is -- what city, what neighborhood, what hotel or hotel room. This is where the TraffickCam phone app comes in. When you're staying at a hotel, you take pictures of your room... The app logs the GPS data (location of the hotel) and also analyzes what's in the picture -- the furniture, bed sheets, carpet and other visual features. This makes the hotel room identifiable. Now when police come across a sex trafficking picture online, there is a database of images that may reveal which hotel room the picture was taken in.
"Technology drives everything we do nowadays, and this is just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier," says Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh, supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database). But the app's creators hope to make it available to all U.S. law enforcement within the next few months, and eventually globally, so their app is already collecting photographs from hotel rooms around the world to be stored for future use.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's getting-a-reaction department
"The first quantum computer to start paying its way with useful work in the real world looks likely to do so by helping chemists," writes MIT Technology Review, "trying to do things like improve batteries or electronics." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
So far, simulating molecules and reactions is the use case for early, small quantum computers sketched out in most detail by researchers developing the new kind of algorithms needed for such machines... "From the point of view of what is theoretically proven, chemistry is ahead," says Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for the IBM division that today sells hardware including supercomputers and hopes to add cloud-hosted quantum computers to its product line-up in the next few years...
Researchers have long used simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts. The tactic can reduce time spent on physical experiments and scientific dead ends, and it accounts for a significant proportion of the workload of the world's supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He's looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group's efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.
< article continued at Slashdot's getting-a-reaction department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lights-from-the-sky department
It's been successfully tested on trucks, as well as UAVs and small rockets, according to a video from Lockheed Martin, which is now shipping the first 60kW-class "beam combined" fiber laser for use by the U.S. Army. An anonymous reader quotes the Puget Sound Business Journal:
Lockheed successfully developed and tested the 58 kW laser beam earlier this year, setting a world record for this type of laser. The company is now preparing to ship the laser system to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command in Huntsville, Alabama [according to Robert Afzal, senior fellow for Lockheed's Laser and Sensor Systems in Bothell]. "We have shown that a powerful directed energy laser is now sufficiently light-weight, low volume and reliable enough to be deployed on tactical vehicles for defensive applications on land, at sea and in the air..." Laser weapons, which complement traditional kinetic weapons in the battlefield, will one day protect against threats such as "swarms of drones" or a flurry of rockets and mortars, Lockheed said.Read Replies (0)