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SpaceX Launches Air Force's Most Powerful GPS Satellite Ever Built
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '18 at 12:20 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up,-up,-and-away department:
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and streaked away from Cape Canaveral early Sunday carrying the first in a powerful new generation of GPS navigation satellites into orbit. It was the California rocket builder's 21st launch this year and its first Pentagon-sanctioned national security mission. From a report: Propelled by 1.2 million pounds of thrust from its nine first stage engines, the 229-foot-tall rocket lifted off at 8:51 a.m. EST (GMT-5), climbing straight away from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the 20th major rocket launch from Florida this year, the busiest pace since 1998. The launching came five days late because of a last-minute problem with first stage propellant temperatures Tuesday and stormy weather Thursday. High winds forced another 24-hour delay Saturday, but conditions were ideal Sunday and the rocket put on a spectacular show as it raced away to the northeast through a cloudless sky.

Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the newly reconstituted National Space Council, was on hand for Tuesday's initial launch try but flew back to Washington after touring SpaceX facilities at the Kennedy Space Center. "The most important thing is that we get that rocket up safely and securely and it achieves its mission," Pence told spaceport workers. "I know this bird is going to fly and when it flies, it's going to make a difference for the security and prosperity of the American people." Pence has taken an active role in directing the Trump administration's revised national space policy, calling for establishment of a military "Space Force," increased commercial development in low-Earth orbit and continued NASA development of a huge new rocket and spacecraft to carry astronauts back to the moon.

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Ride Sharing Service Grab is Messing up the World's Largest Mapping Community's Data in Southeast Asia
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 08:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Remote teams incorrectly overwrote data developed by volunteer mappers in Thailand. TechCrunch reports: Grab, Southeast Asia's top ride-hailing company, has hit a roadblock in its efforts to improve its mapping and routing service after running into trouble with OpenStreetMap, the world's largest collaborative mapping community, through a series of blundering edits in Thailand. Grab, which gobbled up Uber's local business in exchange for an equity swap earlier this year, has busily added details and upgraded the maps it uses across its eight markets in Southeast Asia. Accurate maps are, of course, essential to a smooth ride-hailing experience for Grab's 125 million registered users. Without accurate location details, ensuring that drivers and passengers can easily rendezvous becomes nearly impossible.

Grab's effort to improve the never-ending quest of more accurate maps involves a multi-input approach that uses Google Maps as the base with Grab adding in its own information -- "points of interest" cultivated through customer feedback and groundwork -- and other public or licensed information. However, what appears to be a focus on speed has seen it suspend all activities in Thailand -- Southeast Asia's second-largest economy -- after it was found to have overwritten data developed by OpenStreetMap (OSM) with inaccurate edits that were created by a remote team based in India. Established in 2006, OSM's mission is to "make the best map data set of the world" and it makes its data, which is developed by more than two million volunteers from across the world, available for use without charge.

< article continued at Slashdot's closer-look department >

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Starting in 2019, Oslo Will Restrict the Use of Vehicles in its City Center
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 07:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
If you drive a car into the city center of Oslo next month, you shouldn't plan on staying long: There won't be any parking spots. The Norwegian capital is in the process of eliminating the remaining 700 street parking spots in its city center by the end of 2018 as part of its plan to turn the area into a car-free zone. From a report: "We're doing this to give the streets back to the people," Hanna Elise Marcussen, Oslo's vice mayor for urban development, said during a recent phone interview. "And of course, it's environmentally friendly." (The Scandinavian country, recently recognized as one of the world's most ecologically progressive nations, has plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 and halt the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2025.)

[...] In Oslo, the plan to remove cars from the city began in 2015 when a coalition of progressive political parties called for a city center free from vehicles. Similar plans have been met with resistance in places like Dublin, where local officials have proposed expanding that city's pedestrian zone, and Barcelona. Even in ecologically minded Oslo, it wasn't easy. "There's been quite a bit of public date, and there's been quite a lot of controversy, and it's been quite difficult to do this in a way that businesses and citizens can accept," Ms. Marcussen said.

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The First Basic Income Experiment in Germany Will Start in 2019
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 05:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Basic income is going to be tested in Germany next year. From a report: The setup of the experiment will be similar to the one now ending in Finland, which means there will be an unconditional cash transfer to 250 randomly selected people among those already receiving benefits (250 others will act as the control group), and evaluate the impact in terms of labor market behavior, health and social relations. Behind this initiative, to be initiated in May 2019, is the Sanktionsfrei organization, a non-profit managed by volunteer professionals from administration, IT-tech, communications and law. Sanktionsfrei (meaning "free from sanctions"), with headquarters in Berlin, specializes in helping sanctioned citizens by the Hartz IV social security system in Germany. It will conduct this experiment in Berlin, for a 3-year period, accepting volunteers who may apply for it through their website.

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The GPS Wars Have Begun
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 03:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Where are you? That's not just a metaphysical question, but increasingly a geopolitical challenge that is putting tech giants like Apple and Alphabet in a tough position. From a report: Countries around the world, including China, Japan, India and the United Kingdom plus the European Union are exploring, testing and deploying satellites to build out their own positioning capabilities. That's a massive change for the United States, which for decades has had a practical monopoly on determining the location of objects through its Global Positioning System (GPS), a military service of the Air Force built during the Cold War that has allowed commercial uses since mid-2000 (for a short history of GPS, check out this article, or for the comprehensive history, here's the book-length treatment).

Owning GPS has a number of advantages, but the first and most important is that global military and commercial users depend on this service of the U.S. government, putting location targeting ultimately at the mercy of the Pentagon. The development of the technology and the deployment of positioning satellites also provides a spillover advantage for the space industry. Today, the only global alternative to that system is Russia's GLONASS, which reached full global coverage a couple of years ago following an aggressive program by Russian president Vladimir Putin to rebuild it after it had degraded following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Now, a number of other countries want to reduce their dependency on the U.S. and get those economic benefits. Perhaps no where is that more obvious than with China, which has made building out a global alternative to GPS a top national priority. Its Beidou navigation system has been slowly building up since 2000, mostly focused on providing service in Asia.

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NVIDIA 'GeForce NOW Recommended Routers' Program Helps Gamers Choose Networking Gear
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
NVIDIA has launched the "GeForce NOW Recommended Routers" program to help gamers choose the best router for them. From a report: "The GeForce NOW game-streaming service has transformed where and how you can enjoy your favorite high-performance games. We've rolled out enhancements during its beta period to improve the quality of service from our data centers to your home. With our recommended routers, in-home network congestion becomes a thing of the past, helping to keep your gameplay silky smooth," says NVIDIA. The gaming company also says, "The latest generation of routers allows you to configure settings to prioritize GeForce NOW before all other data. But we wanted to make it even easier. Recommended routers are certified as factory-enabled with a GeForce NOW quality of service (QoS) profile. It's automatically enabled when you're gaming with GeForce NOW."

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Researchers Show Parachutes Don't Work, But There's A Catch
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Reader Beeftopia shares a report: Research published in a major medical journal concludes that a parachute is no more effective than an empty backpack at protecting you from harm if you have to jump from an aircraft. But before you leap to any rash conclusions, you had better hear the whole story. The gold standard for medical research is a study that randomly assigns volunteers to try an intervention or to go without one and be part of a control group. For some reason, nobody has ever done a randomized controlled trial of parachutes. In fact, medical researchers often use the parachute example when they argue they don't need to do a study because they're so sure they already know something works. Cardiologist Robert Yeh, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and attending physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, got a wicked idea one day. He and his colleagues would actually attempt the parachute study to make a few choice points about the potential pitfalls of research shortcuts.

They started by talking to their seatmates on airliners. [...] In all, 23 people agreed to be randomly given either a backpack or a parachute and then to jump from a biplane on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts or from a helicopter in Michigan. Relying on two locations and only two kinds of aircraft gave the researchers quite a skewed sample. But this sort of problem crops up frequently in studies, which was part of the point Yeh and his team were trying to make. Still, photos taken during the experiment show the volunteers were only too happy to take part. The drop in the study was about 2 feet total, because the biplane and helicopter were parked. Nobody suffered any injuries. Surprise, surprise. So it's technically true that parachutes offered no better protection for these jumpers than the backpacks.

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Chrome OS To Block USB Access While the Screen is Locked
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's good-thinking department:
Google will add a new security feature to Chrome OS, the company's web-based operating system that powers its Chromebooks devices, it announced this week. From a report: The new feature, named USBGuard, will block access to the USB port access while the device's screen is locked. According to a Chrome OS source code commit spotted by Chrome Story earlier this week, the new feature is currently available in Chrome OS Canary builds and is expected to land in the stable branch of Chrome OS soon. Once this happens, users can enable it by modifying the following Chrome OS flag: chrome://flags/#enable-usbguard . The way this security feature is meant to work is by preventing the operating system from reading or executing any code when a USB-based device is plugged in, and the screen is locked.

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Intel Vows Better Communication With Partners About CPU Shortage
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's well-that's-a-start department:
Intel's channel organization is vowing increased communication and transparency with partners on issues such as the current CPU shortage, which has caused delays, price hikes and other challenges this year. From a report: In an exclusive interview with CRN, Todd Garrigues, director of partner sales programs at Intel, said better transparency about supply issues, new business opportunities and new technologies is one of the company's top priorities for partners heading into 2019. "We got some feedback -- some critical feedback if I'm honest -- from some partners through our advisory boards, and we're working hard to make sure we do better at that," he said. "The request, bluntly, was just to work harder at being transparent as close to real time as possible. And we took that to heart -- a lot of internal discussions on how we enable that."

One of the challenges, Garrigues said, has been engaging with Intel's broader base of partners that the company may not have one-on-one relationships with. To mitigate the issue, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is investing more in its relationships with distributors to boost Intel's signal. "One of the big priorities I've placed on this year is really working very close with our distribution partners who do serve that broad channel base more directly," said Jason Kimrey, Intel's U.S. channel chief. "I would tell you that we are having much more direct, open transparent dialogue with them to help them plan and help our mutual customers plan to roadmaps and plan around the supply."

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Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Good Books You Read This Year?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's slashdot-book-club department:
As we inch closer to the end of the year, we will be running a couple of year-ender posts in the next few days. We're starting with books. What were some books you read this year that you would recommend to others? (It could be from any genre.) Second, what were some books from this year that you read that you would recommend to others? And third, what are you reading now, or planning to read soon?

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Google Hit With FTC Complaint Over 'Inappropriate' Kids Apps
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 09:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
The Federal Trade Commission is being asked to investigate how apps that may violate federal privacy laws that dictate the data that can be collected on children ended up in the family section of the Google Play store. From a report: A group of 22 consumer advocates, led by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law School, filed a formal complaint against Google on Wednesday and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the company misled parents by promoting children's apps that may violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Google's own policies. "The business model for the Play Store's Family section benefits advertisers, developers and Google at the expense of children and parents," Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said in a statement. "Google puts its seal of approval on apps that break the law, manipulate kids into watching ads and making purchases."

Among the examples cited in the complaint are a "Preschool Education Center" app and a "Top 28 Nursery Rhymes and Song" app that access location, according to an analysis by privacy research collective AppCensus. Other apps, including "Baby Panda's Carnival" and "Design It Girl -- Fashion Salon," were among those listed that sent device identification data to advertising technology companies, allowing them to build a profile of the user. The complaint also spotlights several apps that may not be age appropriate, including "Dentist Game for Kids," which lets the player give the virtual patient shots in the back of their throat.

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Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Books You Read This Year?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's slashdot-book-club department:
As we inch closer to the end of the year, we will be running a couple of year-ender posts in the next few days. We're starting with books. What were some books you read this year that you would recommend to others? (It could be from any genre.) Second, what were some books from this year that you read that you would recommend to others? And third, what are you reading now, or planning to read soon?

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Faraday Future Had the Worst Year Possible For an EV Startup
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 07:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-luck department:
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Faraday Future is almost out of cash. From a report: At the tail end of 2017, the much-hyped EV startup was sliding toward financial oblivion. But then a crucial round of funding from a then-mysterious benefactor gave the team a lifeline. Faraday planned to finish its first car, the FF 91, and start production before 2019. Like Tesla, the company wanted to usher in a new wave of electric, autonomous and "seamlessly connected" vehicles. But unlike its closest rival, Faraday hasn't spent the past year building and shipping transformative cars. Instead, it's been fighting the investor that decided to bail it out.

The beleaguered EV maker was originally saved by a company called Season Smart, which agreed to invest $2 billion, starting with an $800 million payment, in exchange for a 45 percent stake in the company. In June 2018, Season Smart was acquired by Evergrande Health, a subsidiary of a giant property developer in China, for roughly $853 million. Evergrande took control of Season Smart's stake and agreed to pay the remaining $1.2 billion, split into two $600 million chunks, in 2019 and 2020. As part of the updated deal, it took control of Faraday's assets and intellectual property.

For a while, everything seemed OK. Faraday began constructing a long-overdue factory in Hanford, California, where a Pirelli tire factory once stood. The company hoped it could eventually match Tesla's enormous Gigafactory in splendor and efficiency. But there was a problem. By July Faraday had already burned through its initial $800 million payment. To survive, the startup needed more money -- and it couldn't wait until 2019 for another cash injection.

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Climate Change Drives Fish Into New Waters, Remaking an Industry
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 07:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fish-are-moving department:
The catch is shifting northward as water temperatures rise, forcing crews to retool their boats and rework their businesses. From a report: Aboard the Stanley K and the Oracle, two 58-foot vessels, Buck Laukitis and his crews chase halibut across the Bering Sea worth $5 a pound at the docks. As sea temperatures rise, and Arctic ice retreats the fish appear to be avoiding warming waters, migrating northward where they cost more to reach, federal fisheries biologists say. Twice this past fall, the Oracle sailed 800 miles north from the seaport of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, before finding the halibut that a decade ago lived several hundred miles closer to home. Each voyage took twice as long and yielded half as many fish. "It keeps me up at night," he says. "I woke up at three in the morning. I couldn't sleep thinking about where the fish are going."

Across the continent from Mr. Laukitis in Rhode Island, black sea bass have moved in with the warming waters. The bulk once lived roughly 700 miles south off North Carolina. Now they are a staple catch in Point Judith, R.I., along with the summer flounder that also have begun appearing. [...] The impact of climate change has a price, and for fishing-boat owners in sea ports, that means following the catch. The northward movement of fish around the world is disrupting some fishing grounds and revitalizing others -- and fishing businesses are trying to adapt their operations.

< article continued at Slashdot's fish-are-moving department >

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'Something Weird Is Going On' as New Horizons Approaches Distant Asteroid
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 05:40 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's flying-by-night department:
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft passed Pluto in 2015. But now it's getting strange readings while approaching its next destination, the Ultima Thule asteroid.
Popular Mechanics reports:
Ultima Thule appears to not have a light curve, which is perplexing scientists... Asteroids like Ultima Thule reflect sunlight -- that's why they're bright spots instead of dark spots -- but the amount of light they reflect depends on how much of their surface is facing the Sun. The bigger their surface area, the brighter they become. Small asteroids like Ultima Thule aren't perfectly round, which means how much of their surface is facing the Sun changes as they rotate....
Ultima Thule isn't changing its brightness at all. New Horizons has been watching Ultima Thule for three months and hasn't spotted any brightness change, which is really odd. Ultima Thule is definitely not spherical -- astronomers determined that a year ago -- so why doesn't its brightness change?
One theory is that the New Horizon's probe is perfectly aligned with the asteroid's axis of rotation, so it's only seeing Ultima Thule's north (or south) pole. Another is that the asteroid is surrounded by dust clouds that "even out" its light curve. But that usually only happens when asteroids are near the sun and heating up, whereas Ultima Thule "is cold and dark and shouldn't have any dust...."

"Fortunately, we might not have to wait long for an answer to this problem. New Horizons will fly by Ultima Thule on January 1, and should give us high-resolution photos of the entire system," the article concludes. "With any luck, those photos will solve the mystery."

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Should Parents Shun Toys That Track Their Kids?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 23 '18 at 01:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's knowing-when-you're-awake department:
An anonymous reader quotes CBS News:
Parents are realizing that it's not just Santa who's keeping tabs on their kids. Many popular high-tech gadgets that may end up being given as holiday presents can actually track, monitor and record children. Because of that, there are some gifts Felicity and Alden Eute won't have under their Christmas tree. Their mother, Emily, has banned all tech gifts this season. "My husband and I both agree kids don't really need to be on technology or on social media," Emily said. "None of these extra gadgets that just expose you to things kids shouldn't be exposed to at their age."
While federal law requires a parent's permission to track and collect data on children under 13, a Federal Trade Commission complaint filed this week alleges widespread violations through apps that "send persistent identifiers to third parties without giving direct notice to parents." That means things like location data, phone numbers and contact information could be exposed, according to Serge Engleman of the International Computer Science Institute. The institute's surveillance system, under the direction of Engleman, collected evidence that is now before the Federal Trade Commission.... It's not only apps where there are potential violations. "Any kind of interconnected robot-type toys...interactive games that you may play online are collecting data," said Scott Pink, a privacy and cybersecurity specialist.

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Videogame PUBG Bans 30,000 Cheaters, Discovers Professional Players Cheated
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 09:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's players-known department:
An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek:
The makers of PUBG sent down the banhammer Thursday afternoon in a ban wave believed to iimpact more than 30,000 fraudulent player accounts. What PUBG Corp likely didn't expect, however, was that its new security measures would also implicate several of the game's pro players.
Like ban waves in most popular online games, technology is at the center of it all. In this particular case, Radar Hacking was the main target. For those unaware of how the method works, Radar Hacks reveal detailed server information and send the collected data to an external device via a third-party VPN. In layman's terms, Radar Hacks allowed PUBG cheaters to see all player positions via a second monitor or smartphone application.... Given what we know now, it appears use of this unsanctioned assistive software was somewhat popular in PUBG's European and North American esports scenes. Over the last handful of hours, multiple apologies, suspensions and explanations have been posted on behalf of players and organizations alike.

Newsweek reports that on at least one team, "Suspicions rose when teammates were admonished for not following in-game calls that didn't align with the information available."

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Alexa Gets Hooked Up To a Singing Fish Toy, and Mocked By Jimmy Kimmel
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 08:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's speaking-of-big-mouths department:
An anonymous reader writes: An updated version of the singing "Big Mouth Billy Bass" plastic fish toy now speaks (with synchronized lip movements) with the voice of Alexa. "Your humdrum life will be totally uprooted because you hung a talking fish on your wall," jokes Fast Company. "Just imagine setting an alarm and being woken up by a Big Mouth Billy Bass dancing and flopping around while it sings to you," adds Mashable.
But more than half the device's 100 reviews from Amazon customer's award it just one star (with another 15% awarding two stars). "The programming on these fish are awful," wrote one reviewer, complaining that the sound continues coming from the Echo device (rather than through the fish's speaker), and when it does actualy sync to the music, "the tail flaps and head movements are off-beat and look terrible."
Meanwhile, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel recently staged a skit with a carolling "choir" of Amazon's smart speakers dressed in Christmas sweaters and caps — a skit which ends with the devices producing a horrific cacophony that Kimmel was unable stop. Kimmel then instructs a stagehand to bring the choir of singing Alexa units "to the ocean, and dump it in."

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Reddit-Quoting Alexa Tells a User: 'Kill Your Foster Parents'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 07:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bad-advice department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian:
An Amazon customer got a grim message last year from Alexa, the virtual assistant in the company's smart speaker device: "Kill your foster parents." The user who heard the message from his Echo device wrote a harsh review on Amazon's website, Reuters reported -- calling Alexa's utterance "a whole new level of creepy". An investigation found the bot had quoted from the social media site Reddit, known for harsh and sometimes abusive messages, people familiar with the investigation told Reuters. The odd command is one of many hiccups that have happened as Amazon tries to train its machine to act something like a human, engaging in casual conversations in response to its owner's questions or comments.

And Alexa also can't tell a human voice from a parrot, according to a Huffington Post story shared by PolygamousRanchKid:
Rocco, an African grey, was caught using the virtual assistant to play his favorite music, tell jokes and even order snacks, The Times of London reports. Thankfully the device's parental lock system prevented the clever boy from actually purchasing any items which included strawberries, ice cream and even a kettle.

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Two Miles From Facebook's Headquarters, Working Poor Live In Trailers
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '18 at 05:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's friend-requests department:
"The working poor are spilling into Bay Area streets for lack of safe, affordable shelter," report two Silicon Valley newspapers describing a "pop-up neighborhood" that's now banding together, "a small community of blue collar RV dwellers...fighting for the only place they can call home."

The beautifully-illustrated article begins with an interview with a grey-haired woman named Lisa Cosey-Steven:
[D]espite steady work and little debt, she trudges back and forth to the office every day from a dark RV trailer, packed floor to ceiling with bags of clothes, pet supplies for her seven dogs, thriller novels and food. Cosey-Stevens, 63, has been parked on the shoulder of Bay Road in East Palo Alto, just about two miles from Facebook headquarters and some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, since June. "No one knows how badly I want out of this," she said during an interview in her trailer. "It's depressing to live like this...."
She's part of an unplanned and impromptu RV park, about 80 people pushed out of apartments and into trailers and the edge of homelessness... Their neighborhood of about 50 RVs lines the eastern end of Bay Road and Tara Street, next to a stretch of salvage yards, warehouses and empty lots guarded by chain link fence. It's just off a thoroughfare for local tech employees and sits adjacent to the site of a new, multi-million dollar youth education center, Epacenter Arts. Several of the aging RVs have large banners draped over the sides, making pleas to the big employers in the area: "SOS -- Facebook, Sobrato, Amazon, Google."

< article continued at Slashdot's friend-requests department >

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