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Senate Confirms Neil Gorsuch To Supreme Court
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 02:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's history-in-the-making department:
halfEvilTech quotes a report from Washington Post: The U.S. Senate confirmed Neil M. Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. On a vote of 54 to 45, senators confirmed Gorsuch, 49, a Denver-based judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He will become the 113th person to serve on the Supreme Court and is scheduled to be sworn in Monday. Gorsuch's confirmation was the result of a rule change in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the power of his position to change the rules of the Senate to lower the threshold on Supreme Court nominations to end debate from 60 to 51 votes. Therefore, "all presidential nominees for executive branch positions and the federal courts need only a simple majority vote to be confirmed by senators," reports Washington Post. It is unclear as to what exactly Gorsuch's confirmation means for the tech industry. However, it is certain that Gorsuch will "face cases that demand a solid command of the complex issues digital technology raises, from copyright and privacy to intellectual property rights and data storage," writes Issie Lapowsky via Wired.

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Microsoft Formally Bans Emulators On Xbox, Windows 10 Download Shops
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 12:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tough-stance department:
Microsoft is officially banning emulators from Windows Store. The company has updated the Windows Store policy to announce the changes. The new rules bar any applications that emulate pre-existing game systems, resulting in the removal of a popular program that supported games from Nintendo and Sega and other consoles. From a report on ArsTechnica: An affected developer was notified of the change on Tuesday when its product, Universal Emulator, was delisted from the Windows Store. While no proof of a letter or notice from Microsoft was published, the developers at NESBox linked to relevant changes in the Windows Store application rules, dated March 29, which now include this line: "Apps that emulate a game system are not allowed on any device family." This list of general Windows Store rules, written for developers, received a massive update to its "Gaming and Xbox" requirements; these used to contain only one sentence, and it referred hopeful Windows Store game developers to the ID@Xbox program. That existing program requires pre-approval by Microsoft, but developers will soon be able to publish their games directly to both Xbox and Windows 10 marketplaces by paying a one-time fee of $100 or less as part of the Xbox Live Creators Program.

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GNOME Dev Schaller Assures Ubuntu Users the Move To Step Away From Unity Will Bring Consistency Across Linux Distros
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 12:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's one-goal department:
Earlier this week, Canonical announced that Ubuntu will be ditching Unity as the default user interface on desktops to go back to GNOME next year. The company also said that it will be ending development of Ubuntu software for phones and tablets, in what is a push to focus on cloud. In a blog post, Christian Schaller, a developer on Fedora and GNOME (and Senior Software Engineering Manager at Red Hat), offered some assurance to the community that this is the right move in the grand scheme of things. He writes on an official blog post: We look forward to keep working with great Canonical and Ubuntu people like Allison Lortie and Robert Ancell on projects of shared interest around GNOME, Wayland and hopefully Flatpak. It is worth mentioning that even as we [have] been competing with Unity and Ubuntu, we have also been collaborating with them, most recently on [the] integration of features they wanted from GNOME Software such as user reviews. Of course now sharing a bigger set of technologies collaboration will be even easier. I am personally happy to see this convergence of efforts happening because I have -- for a long time -- felt that the general level of investment in the Linux desktop has not been great enough to justify the plethora of Linux desktops out there. Now having reached a position where Canonical, Endless, Red Hat and Suse again share one desktop technology stack and along with consulting companies such as Centricular, CodeThink, Collabora and Igalia helping push parts of the stack forward, we are at least all pulling in the same direction. This change should also make life easier for ISV who now have a more clear target if they want to try to integrate their UI with the Linux desktop as 'the linux desktop' becomes a more meaningful term with this change.

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NYC Poised to Ban Firms From Asking Job Candidates About Pay
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 12:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
In a vote this week, the New York City approved legislation that will ban employers from asking job applicants about what they make in their current or past job and could have far-reaching consequences beyond the city as employers try to standardize their practices. From a report: "This bill will go a long way in addressing wage disparities women -- and particularly women of color -- face," said Public Advocate Letitia James, who sponsored the measure. White women in New York earn on average 84 percent of what white men earn, while Asian women earn 63 percent, black women earn 55 percent and Hispanic women just 46 percent, according to a report from the advocate's office, based on U.S. Census data. Asking about pay in a job interview hurts women who may start from a lower level than male candidates -- an effect that compounds over time. "It perpetuates discrimination," James said. "And it has an effect on their pensions as well."

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The Trump Administration No Longer Wants Twitter To Reveal the Owner of an Anti-Trump Account
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 12:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's all-good department:
From a report on Recode: The Trump administration informed Twitter on Friday that it would withdraw its demand that the social media company unmask an account critical of the president -- a move that prompted Twitter to drop its lawsuit. On Thursday, Twitter revealed that U.S. customs agents filed a legal order in a bid to get the company to reveal who is behind @ALT_USCIS -- a so-called "alt-agency" account that has been taking aim at Trump, his immigration policy and the inner workings of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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The iPhone 7 Has Arbitrary Software Locks That Prevent Repair
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 10:17 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-going-south department:
Jason Koebler, reporting for Motherboard: Apple has taken new and extreme measures to make the iPhone unrepairable. The company is now using software locks to prevent independent repair of specific parts of the phone. Specifically, the home buttons of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are not user replaceable, raising questions about both the future repairability of Apple products and the future of the thriving independent repair industry. The iPhone 7 home button will only work with the original home button that it was shipped with; if it breaks and needs to be replaced, a new one will only work if it is "recalibrated" in an Apple Store.

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The Cost of Drugs For Rare Diseases Is Threatening the US Health Care System
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 10:17 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening? department:
An anonymous reader shares an article: There are 7,000 rare diseases affecting 25 million to 30 million Americans. The average drug approved under the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 (ODA), which governs rare disease approval, costs $118,820 per year. Assuming a similar cost, if a single drug were approved under the ODA for 10% of rare diseases, the total would exceed $350 billion annually -- more than 10 percent of the total amount that America spends on health care and much more than the health care costs attributable to either diabetes or Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. If this seems far-fetched, consider the two drugs for treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy that the FDA approved in the last six months: eteplirsen, which is sold by Sarepta Therapeutics and costs $300,000 annually per patient, and deflazacort, which is sold by Marathon Pharmaceuticals and costs $89,000 annually per patient. However, approval of such costly drugs exposes an uncomfortable truth: scientific discovery has outpaced health care economics. [...] In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) determines the cost effectiveness, or value, of newly approved drugs based on their impact on quality-adjusted life years. These determinations inform the National Health System's (NHS) treatment-coverage decisions. In contrast, the FDA is prohibited from considering cost or value in its decision making, and there is no U.S. governmental equivalent of NICE.

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Tearing Down Science's Citation Paywall, One Link at a Time
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 08:59 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's citation-needed department:
Citations play an incredibly important role in academia. To scientists, citations are currency. Citations establish credibility, and determine the impact of a given paper, researcher, and institution. However, the system of how citations work is crippled with a problem. Over the last few decades, only researchers with subscriptions to two proprietary databases, Web of Science and Scopus, have been able to track citation records and measure the influence of a given article or scientific idea. This isn't just a problem for scientists trying to get their resumes noticed; a citation trail tells the general public how it knows what it knows, each link a breadcrumb back to a foundational idea about how the world works, reads an article on Wired. The article adds: On Thursday, a coalition of open data advocates, universities, and 29 journal publishers announced the Initiative for Open Citations with a commitment to make citation data easily available to anyone at no cost (alternative source). "This is the first time we have something at this scale open to the public with no copyright restrictions," says Dario Taraborelli, head of research at the Wikimedia Foundation, a founding member of the initiative. "Our long-term vision is to create a clearinghouse of data that can be used by anyone, not just scientists, and not just institutions that can afford licenses." Here's how it works: When a researcher publishes a paper, the journal registers it with Crossref, a nonprofit you can think of as a database linking millions of articles. The journal also bundles those links with unique identifying metadata like author, title, page number of print edition, and who funded the research. All of the major publishers started doing this when Crossref launched in 2000. But most of them held the reference data -- the information detailing who cited whom and where -- under strict copyright restrictions. Accessing it meant paying tens of thousands of dollars in subscription fees to the companies that own Web of Science or Scopus. Historically, just 1 percent of publications using Crossref made references freely available. Six months after the Initiative for Open Citations started convincing publishers to open up their licensing agreements, that figure is approaching 40 percent, with around 14 million citation links already indexed and ready for anyone to use. The group hopes to maintain a similar trajectory through the year.

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Google Tackles Fake News With Global Fact-Checking Rollout
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 08:59 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's doing-its-part department:
Google is calling on fact-checking organizations to help it bust fake news -- but it's starting in a small way. From a report: Google's Fact Check feature is not new, but today the search giant is rolling out the feature around the world. A global rollout is important if such a tool is to have any real impact. It's all well and good have reports fact-checked on one side of the world, but it's of little use if the same fake stories remain unquestioned and untested elsewhere. Google is doing its part by making the Fact Check label available in Google News everywhere, and spreading it into search results in all languages as well. The Fact Check label has been around since October, providing an at-a-glance way to determine whether or not a particular story has been verified as true. Google admits that it will not be possible to fact-check every single search result it displays, and the company points out that it is not responsible for the actual fact-checking process.

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Slashdot Asks: What Books Are You Reading This Month?
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's book-club department:
An anonymous reader writes: Hey fellow Slashdot readers, what are some books you're reading right now, and intend to pick up later this month? Also if you would be so kind, what are some good new-ish novels (fiction / non-fiction) you recommend? Thanks!

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Earth-Sized Telescope Set To Snap First Picture of a Black Hole
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 07:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's big-picture department:
An anonymous reader writes from a New Scientist report: This week, we will have our first chance to take a picture of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. The image could teach us how black holes work and even how the largest and smallest forces governing the universe fit together. The Event Horizon Telescope is switching on. It consists of eight radio observatories around the world, including telescopes in Spain, the US and Antarctica. And for just four or five nights between 5 and 14 April, if the weather is clear at all of the observatories, they will all turn on at once. Each telescope will point at Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, and measure every radio wave coming from its direction. Linking together observatories spread across such a huge area and combining their observations to filter out extra light will effectively create a powerful "virtual telescope" almost the size of Earth. These telescopes will together capture sharper and more detailed data than we've ever had from Sagittarius A, which we still know very little about, as well as the larger black hole at the centre of nearby galaxy M87. With the telescopes generating a total of 2 petabytes of data per night -- enough to store the full genomes of some 2 billion people -- astronomers hope to take the first image of the event horizon around a black hole, and the bright matter hurtling around it.

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Employers Added Just 98,000 Jobs in March Below Expectations of 180,000
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 06:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-things-are-moving department:
Employers slowed their pace of hiring while the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in almost a decade in March, highlighting steady but sometimes mixed progress across the labor market. From a report on USA Today: Payroll growth weakened significantly last month amid harsher winter weather as employers added 98.000 jobs in a sharper pullback than anticipated. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, fell to 4.5% from 4.7%, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 180,000 employment gains, based on their median estimate. Analysts expected some payback in March after unseasonably mild temperatures pulled forward hiring to early in the year, especially in sectors such as construction, resulting in 200,000-plus job gains in January and February. And a snowstorm that slammed into the Midwest and East Coast in mid-March likely further curtailed job growth, says economist Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics. [...] But some economists also have said the outsize job gains early this year defied a low unemployment rate that's supplying businesses a shrinking pool of available workers. Many analysts expect that trend ultimately to result in average monthly job gains of about 170,000 this year, down from 187,000 last year and 226,000 in 2015.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Plans Fast-Track Repeal of Net Neutrality
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 06:13 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-blink department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is moving quickly to replace the Obama administration's landmark net neutrality rules and wants internet service providers to voluntarily agree to maintain an open internet, three sources briefed on the meeting said Thursday. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump, met on Tuesday with major telecommunications trade groups to discuss his preliminary plan to reverse the rules, the sources said. The rules approved by the FCC under Democratic President Barack Obama in early 2015 prohibited broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a "fast lane," to certain internet services over others. As part of that change, the FCC reclassified internet service providers much like utilities. Pai wants to overturn that reclassification, but wants internet providers to voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to web content, two officials said late Tuesday. The officials briefed on the meeting said Pai suggested companies commit in writing to open internet principles and including them in their terms of service, which would make them binding. It is unclear if regulators could legally compel internet providers to adopt open internet principles without existing net neutrality rules. As part of that move, the Federal Trade Commission would assume oversight of ensuring compliance.Three sources said Pai plans to unveil his proposal to overturn the rules as early as late April and it could face an initial vote in May or June.

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China Court Orders Samsung Units To Pay $11.6 Million To Huawei Over Patent Case
Posted by News Fetcher on April 07 '17 at 02:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's paying-Chinese department:
A Chinese court has ordered Samsung Electronics's mainland subsidiaries to pay 80 million yuan ($11.60 million) to Huawei Technologies for patent infringement, the China firm's first victory against Samsung on its legal challenges over intellectual property. From a report: Three units of Samsung have been ordered by the Quanzhou Intermediary Court to pay the sum for infringing a patent held by Huawei Device Co Limited, the handset unit of Huawei, the Quanzhou Evening News, a government-run newspaper, said on its website on Thursday. The verdict is the first on several lawsuits of Huawei against the South Korean technology giant. Huawei filed lawsuits against Samsung in May in courts in China and the United States -- the first by it against Samsung -- claiming infringements of smartphone patents. Samsung subsequently countersued Huawei in China for IP infringement.

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Public Crowd-sourcing Finds New Exoplanets
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 11:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lost-and-found department:
brindafella writes: A participant in a TV program "Stargazing Live" on Australia's ABC TV channel has found four planets closely orbiting a star, using an online database. Astrophysicist Dr Chris Lintott, the principal investigator of Zooniverse, reported on Thursday's show that four "Super Earth" planets had been identified in the data. They orbit closer to their star than Mercury does to our Sun. The person responsible for the find, Andrew Grey, is a mechanic by day and amateur astronomer in his spare time, and lives in the city of Darwin, Northern Territory. The data is sourced from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. "Stargazing Live" host Professor Brian Cox said he could not be more excited about the discovery. "In the seven years I've been making Stargazing Live this is the most significant scientific discovery we've ever made. The results are astonishing."

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US Strikes Syrian Base With Over 50 Tomahawk Missiles
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 10:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's proportional-response department:
mi writes: Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target -- Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in western Syria, the Defense Department said. That's the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired chemical weapons on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that people were not targeted and that aircraft and infrastructure at the site, including the runway, were hit. Slashdot reader Humbubba shares a similar report from Washington Post, adding that Thursday's strike was the "first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country's civil war began six years ago." The report also notes that the strike "dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition."

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Ancient Cannibals Didn't Turn To Cannibalism Just For the Calories, Study Suggests
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 08:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's taste-like-chicken department:
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: A new, slightly morbid study based on the calorie counts of average humans suggests that man-eating was mostly ritualistic, not dietary, in nature among hominins including Homo erectus, H. antecessor, Neandertals, and early modern humans. On average, an adult male human contains 125,822 calories of fat and protein, enough to meet the 1-day dietary requirements of more than 60 people. The numbers represent a lower limit, as Neandertals and other extinct hominins likely had more muscle mass than modern humans. Still, when compared with other animals widely available to ancient man like mammoths (3,600,000 calories), wooly rhinoceroses (1,260,000 calories), and aurochs (979,200 calories), it hardly seems worthwhile to hunt hominins that are just as wily and dangerous as the hunters, the researchers conclude. Some instances of cannibalism from nine Paleolithic sites, which date from 936,000 to 14,700 years ago, might be chalked up to starvation or not wanting to waste a perfectly good body that died from natural causes.

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Alcohol-Related Car Accidents Declined In New York After Introduction of Uber, Analysis Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department:
According to a new paper from Jessica Lynn Peck of the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, ride-hailing services may have helped reduce alcohol-related traffic accidents by 25-30% in New York City. The report specifically focuses on Uber, which was first introduced in the city in May 2011, and looks at how the ride-hailing service has impacted New York City. The Economist notes in its report that Uber is "largely banned outside of New York City." From the report: To control for factors unrelated to Uber's launch such as adverse weather conditions, Ms Peck compares accident rates in each of New York's five boroughs to those in the counties where Uber was not present, picking those that had the most similar population density and pre-2011 drunk-driving rate. The four boroughs which were quick to adopt Uber -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx--
all saw decreases in alcohol-related car crashes relative to their controls. By contrast, Staten Island, where Uber caught on more slowly, saw no such decrease.

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Facebook To Use Photo-Matching To Block Repeat 'Revenge Porn'
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 06:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's automated-processes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from AOL: Facebook is adding tools to make it easier for users to report so-called "revenge porn" and to automatically prevent the images from being shared again once they have been banned, the company said. "Revenge porn" refers to the sharing of sexually explicit images on the internet, without the consent of the people depicted in the pictures, in order to extort or humiliate them. The practice disproportionately affects women, who are sometimes targeted by former partners. Beginning on Wednesday, users of the world's largest social network should see an option to report a picture as inappropriate specifically because it is a "nude photo of me," Facebook said in a statement. The company also said it was launching an automated process to prevent the repeat sharing of banned images. Photo-matching software will keep the pictures off the core Facebook network as well as off its Instagram and Messenger services, it said.

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Uber Contract 'Gibberish', Says MP Investigating Gig Economy
Posted by News Fetcher on April 06 '17 at 04:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's calling-one-out department:
A committee of MPs has lambasted Uber's contracts with drivers as "gibberish" and "almost unintelligible" as the company attempts to ensure its drivers remain self-employed. From a report: Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions select committee that is carrying out an investigation into the so-called gig economy, said: "Quite frankly the Uber contract is gibberish. They are well aware that many, if not most, of their drivers speak English as a second language -- they recently lost a court case trying to escape Transport for London's new English testing rules for private hire drivers -- yet their contract is almost unintelligible." [...] Publishing full details of Uber's contract terms, along with those for the takeaway courier firm Deliveroo and Amazon, Field said all three used some kind of "egregious clause" which attempted to prevent people challenging their "self-employed" designation, although neither Uber's nor Amazon's contract went as far as Deliveroo's, in the committee's view.

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