By msmash from Slashdot's x-files-they-want-to-believe department
Tom Usher, reporting for Vice: I arrived at the venue -- a Jurys Inn hotel -- on a wet Saturday morning, to discover that the event was essentially a small carpeted convention room boasting a few cameras, some stalls selling merchandise, and 70 or so attendees watching PowerPoint presentations beamed onto a wall. As I entered, I was offered a gift of "fluoride-free" toothpaste. This made perfect sense, given the location. A popular conspiracy theory states that governments across the world have been putting fluoride in our water supply to tranquilize the masses, despite the fact the only piece of "evidence" for this theory -- which involves both the Nazis and the Communists -- has been widely discredited. With the tone set for the day, I sat down to watch some speeches. The speakers all seemed well aware of how "globe-earthers" view the idea of a flat Earth, i.e. ludicrous, and their talk of the current scientific establishment felt very "us versus them" -- a nice bit of truther tribalism. One speaker talked at length about the moon, and how its orbit proved the Earth couldn't be spherical, which seemed a little counterintuitive. Another talked about how the Egyptian pyramid structure points toward clues that the Earth is a flat diamond shape, supported by pillars. Between sounding off about the Vatican and the fact that the establishment has indoctrinated us to believe all sorts of things, including that the Earth is a sphere, a third speaker suggested that cancer is caused by negative emotions and argued that dinosaurs didn't exist. The story also explores why some people still believe these long-debunked theories. Further reading: The bizarre tale of the flat-Earth convention that fell apart (CNET).Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's making-mends department
President Trump said Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are working to put the troubled Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE back in business. From a report: "President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," Trump said in a message on Twitter. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" ZTE, maker of Android phones popular with budget-minded consumers, said Wednesday that it would cease "major operating activities," raising questions not only about its survival, but the impact on U.S. consumers who have previously bought or were thinking of buying ZTE phones. The announcement followed a decision last month by the U.S. Commerce Department, which banned American companies from exporting products to the Shenzhen, China-based telecom firm for seven years.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's AI-for-good department
An anonymous reader shares a report: New England's groundfish season is in full swing, as hundreds of dayboat fishermen from Rhode Island to Maine take to the water in search of the region's iconic cod and haddock. But this year, several dozen of them are hauling in their catch under the watchful eye of video cameras as part of a new effort to use technology to better sustain the area's fisheries and the communities that depend on them. Video observation on fishing boats -- electronic monitoring -- is picking up steam in the Northeast and nationally as a cost-effective means to ensure that fishing vessels aren't catching more fish than allowed while informing local fisheries management. While several issues remain to be solved before the technology can be widely deployed -- such as the costs of reviewing and storing data -- electronic monitoring is beginning to deliver on its potential to lower fishermen's costs, provide scientists with better data, restore trust where it's broken, and ultimately help consumers gain a greater understanding of where their seafood is coming from. [...] Human observers are widely used to monitor catch in quota-managed fisheries, and they're expensive: It costs roughly $700 a day for an observer in New England. The biggest cost of electronic monitoring is the labor required to review the video. Perhaps the most effective way to cut costs is to use computers to review the footage. Christopher McGuire, marine program director for TNC in Massachusetts, says there's been a lot of talk about automating the review, but the common refrain is that it's still five years off. To spur faster action, TNC last year spearheaded an online competition, offering a $50,000 prize to computer scientists who could crack the code -- that is, teach a computer how to count fish, size them, and identify their species. The contest exceeded McGuire's expectations. "Winners got close to 100 percent in count and 75 percent accurate on identifying species," he says.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-in-a-name? department
An anonymous reader writes: Should the Linux operating system be called "Linux" or "GNU/Linux"? These days, asking that question might get as many blank stares returned as asking, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" Some may remember that the Linux naming convention was a controversy that raged from the late 1990s until about the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Back then, if you called it "Linux", the GNU/Linux crowd was sure to start a flame war with accusations that the GNU Project wasn't being given due credit for its contribution to the OS. And if you called it "GNU/Linux", accusations were made about political correctness, although operating systems are pretty much apolitical by nature as far as I can tell. The brouhaha got started in the mid-1990s when Richard Stallman, among other things the founder of the Free Software Movement who penned the General Public License, began insisting on using the term "GNU/Linux" in recognition of the importance of the GNU Project to the OS. GNU was started by Stallman as an effort to build a free-in-every-way operating system based on the still-not-ready-for-prime-time Hurd microkernel. According to this take, Linux was merely the kernel, and GNU software was the sauce that made Linux work. Noting that the issue seems to have died down in recent years, and mindful of Shakespeare's observation on roses, names and smells, I wondered if anyone really cares anymore what Linux is called. For once and all, I wanted to ask Slashdot crowd what they think.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's war-and-peace department
Wikipedia has its own internal "Supreme Court," which adjudicates disputes, takes appeals, and even issues injunctions [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. The cases it hears are as petty as you'd expect. Fascinating story by WSJ: Wikipedia, the vast online crowdsourced encyclopedia, has a high court. It is a panel called the Arbitration Committee, largely unknown to anyone other than Wiki aficionados, which hears disputes that arise after all other means of conflict resolution have failed. The 15 elected jurists on the English-language Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee -- among them a former staffer for presidential candidate John Kerry, an information-technology consultant in a tiny British village and a retired college librarian -- have clerks, write binding decisions and hear appeals. They even issue preliminary injunctions. Founded in 2001, Wikipedia operates largely through community consensus. All editors are volunteers, and anyone can write and edit its millions of articles. In online forums, editors debate content, sources and style, and typically manage to broker peace by talking -- or rather, typing -- it out. But every so often, tempers flare, necessitating a more stringent brand of justice. In 2003, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales created the committee, known as ArbCom, as the final stop in the site's dispute-resolution process. "There are things that wouldn't start an argument anywhere else that can still start an argument on Wikipedia," says Ira Matetsky, a Manhattan litigator and the unpaid panel's longest-serving current member. Among them: capitalization rules and whether individual television episodes deserve encyclopedia entries.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's Apple-declined-to-comment department
On Friday, Apple was hit with a class action lawsuit over the butterfly-switch keyboards, found on the current generation MacBook Pro and MacBook lineups, that have plagued its customers since they were released in 2015. The suit, filed in the Northern District Court of California, alleges that Apple "promoted and sold laptops it knew were defective in that they contain a keyboard that is substantially certain to fail prematurely," The Outline reports, and that selling these computers not only directly to its customers but also to third party retailers constitutes a violation of good faith. From the report: The Outline was the first outlet to substantially cover the magnitude of the issue, writing that Apple Geniuses responsible for diagnosing and repairing these Apple computers would benevolently attribute dead keys and double-spacing spacebars to a "piece of dust" stuck under the keyboard. Under Apple's warranty, Geniuses might offer to replace the entire top case of the computer, a process that takes about a week. Out of warranty, it costs about $700 to replace this part on a MacBook Pro. Apple has declined repeatedly to comment on the issue, but directs sufferers to a support page that instructs users how to tilt the computer at an angle, blow canned air under the malfunctioning keys, light candles arranged in the shape of a pentagram, and recite an incantation to Gaia in hopes of fixing their machines. Earlier this month, users kickstarted a petition on Change.org that calls on Apple to recall MacBook Pro units released since late 2016 over the defective keyboard. The petition has garnered about 20,000 signatures. Widely respected iOS developer and Apple commentator Marco Arment tweeted on the news, "We can't know for sure that Apple knew the 2016 keyboards were defective and sold them anyway. But it's hard to see how they couldn't have known. They were released 18 months earlier in the 12" MacBook, and those had the same problems with high failure rates from the start."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's battle-of-wits department
tedlistens shares a report from Fast Company: To make AI easier for humans to understand and trust, researchers at the [Elon Musk-backed] nonprofit research organization OpenAI have proposed training algorithms to not only classify data or make decisions, but to justify their decisions in debates with other AI programs in front of a human or AI judge. In an experiment described in their paper (PDF), the researchers set up a debate where two software agents work with a standard set of handwritten numerals, attempting to convince an automated judge that a particular image is one digit rather than another digit, by taking turns revealing one pixel of the digit at a time. One bot is programmed to tell the truth, while another is programmed to lie about what number is in the image, and they reveal pixels to support their contentions that the digit is, say, a five rather than a six. The image classification task, where most of the image is invisible to the judge, is a sort of stand-in for complex problems where it wouldn't be possible for a human judge to analyze the entire dataset to judge bot performance. The judge would have to rely on the facets of the data highlighted by debating robots, the researchers say. "The goal here is to model situations where we have something that's beyond human scale," says Geoffrey Irving, a member of the AI safety team at OpenAI. "The best we can do there is replace something a human couldn't possibly do with something a human can't do because they're not seeing an image."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unruly-neighbors department
Last week, Reuters reported that "Illinois' Attorney General said she plans to sue the EPA for allowing a proposed Foxconn plant in neighboring Wisconsin to operate without stringent pollution controls." From the report: On Tuesday, the EPA identified 51 areas in 22 states that do not meet federal air quality requirements for ozone, a step toward enforcing the standards issued in 2015. An exempted area was Racine County, Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois border that is known to have heavily polluted air, where Taiwan-based Foxconn is building a $10 billion liquid-crystal display plant. Pollution monitoring data show the county's ozone levels exceed the 70 parts per billion (ppb) limit. If Racine County had been designated a "non-attainment" area, it would have required Foxconn to install stringent pollution control equipment.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she would file a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the EPA's ozone designations, saying its failure to name Racine County a "non-attainment" area puts people at risk. "Despite its name, the Environmental Protection Agency now operates with total disregard for the quality of our air and water, and in this case, the U.S. EPA is putting a company's profit ahead of our natural resources and the public's health," Madigan said in a statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's steady-as-she-goes department
theodp writes: Almost 1.5 million foreign students have been allowed to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation as part of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which is now larger than the controversial H-1B program (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). According to new Pew Research analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the number of students authorized to work under OPT has grown 400% since the federal government in 2008 increased the amount of time graduates with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees could remain in the United States and work. More than half of those working under OPT from 2004 to 2016 were in STEM fields, Pew found, and as a result, were eligible for the so-called STEM extension. The OPT program added a 17-month STEM extension in 2008, shortly after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates suggested it in testimony to Congress after complaining that the cap for the H-1B program had caused a serious disruption in the flow of talented STEM graduates to U.S. companies. In 2016, another 12-month extension was added after a Federal judge threatened to torpedo the STEM extension program, saying it "appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups." In its Top Ten Tech Issues for 2018, Microsoft expressed "concern that in 2018 the White House will announce a rollback of the extended period of Optional Practical Training for STEM graduates." Pew also took note of allegations that "visa mills" have sprung up in response to demand driven by the OPT program.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-timing department
Tesla's senior vice president of engineering, Doug Field, is taking a leave of absence from the company (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) at a crucial moment when the electric-car maker is struggling to boost production of the Model 3 sedan. While Tesla declined to say when he would come back, one person familiar with the matter described the absence as a "six-week sabbatical." The Wall Street Journal reports: Mr. Field has been a key leader at Silicon Valley auto maker since joining in 2013 from Apple. He oversees the engineering of Tesla's vehicles, and last year he was also given oversight of production to better align the two efforts. That changed this spring when Chief Executive Elon Musk acknowledge he retook control of production. The Silicon Valley auto maker is at a critical juncture as it tries to produce enough Model 3 cars to generate cash to fund the business and instill confidence in investors the company can create its first mass-market vehicle.
Tesla has a history of key executives departing on so-called sabbaticals. Jerome Guillen, Tesla's current vice president of truck and programs, for example, took a sabbatical in 2015 from his role as vice president of worldwide sales and service only to return in the new role. He had led development of the Model S sedan. The hiring of Mr. Field from Apple, where he was vice president of Mac hardware engineering, was touted as a win for Mr. Musk who had big ambitions for the electric-car company. Mr. Field had also worked at Ford and Segway, giving him unique experience in both the tech and autos industry.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's progress-in-the-making department
The Associated Press is reporting North Korea has announced plans to dismantle its nuclear test site between May 23 and 25. The dismantling will occur before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12. NPR reports: Reuters reports that Punggye-ri nuclear test site has been the location of all of North Korea's six known nuclear tests. At the site, there's a system of tunnels under the mountain Mount Mantap. Journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to watch a special ceremony in which all of the tunnels at the testing ground will be destroyed and observation and research facilities and guard units will be taken down. The North Korean government will provide journalists with a charter flight from Beijing to Wosnan, North Korea. From there, a train will take them to the test site in the northeast part of the country.
The AP also reports that at a ruling party meeting last month, North Korea announced the plan to close the nuclear testing ground, along with a commitment to suspend all tests of nuclear devices and ICBMs. At that same meeting, however, North Korea said it has been performing a kind of nuclear test classified as "subcritical." The "subcritical" experiments give scientists an opportunity to test weapons without causing an actual nuclear chain reaction and explosion.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's take-a-hike department
An anonymous reader writes: "An unidentified hacker has breached Bycyklen -- Copenhagen's city bikes network -- and deleted the organization's entire database, disabling the public's access to bicycles over the weekend," reports Bleeping Computer. "The hack took place on the night between Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, the organization said on its website. Bycyklen described the hack as "rather primitive," alluding it may have been carried out "by a person with a great deal of knowledge of its IT infrastructure." Almost 2,000 bikes were affected, and the company's employees have been working for days, searching for bikes docked across the city and installing a manual update to restore functionality. The company is holding a "treasure hunt," asking users to hunt down and identify non-functional bikes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's suspicious-activity department
On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. border agents need some sort of reason to believe a traveler has committed a crime before searching their cellphone. Slashdot reader Wrath0fb0b shares an analysis via Reason, written by Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr: Traditionally, searches at the border don't require any suspicion on the theory that the government has a strong sovereign interest in regulating what enters and exits the country. But there is caselaw indicating that some border searches are so invasive that they do require some kind of suspicion. In the new case, Kolsuz (PDF), the Fourth Circuit agrees with the Ninth Circuit that at least some suspicion is required for a forensic search of a cell phone seized at the border. This is important for three reasons. First, the Fourth Circuit requires suspicion for forensic searches of cell phones seized at the border. Second, it clarifies significantly the forensic/manual distinction, which has always been pretty uncertain to me. Third, it leaves open that some suspicion may be required for manual searches, too.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department
Earlier this week, Carnegie Mellon University announced plans to offer an undergrad degree in artificial intelligence. The news may be especially attractive for students given how much tech giants have been ramping up their AI efforts in the recent years, and how U.S. News & World Report ranked Carnegie Mellon University as the No. 1 graduate school for AI. An anonymous reader shares the announcement with us: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science will offer a new undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence beginning this fall, providing students with in-depth knowledge of how to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions. SCS has created the new AI degree, the first offered by a U.S. university, in response to extraordinary technical breakthroughs in AI and the growing demand by students and employers for training that prepares people for careers in AI.
The bachelor's degree program in computer science teaches students to think broadly about methods that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks across many disciplines, said Reid Simmons, research professor of robotics and computer science and director of the new AI degree program. The bachelor's degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs -- such as vision, language and huge databases -- are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities, he added. AI majors will receive the same solid grounding in computer science and math courses as other computer science students. In addition, they will have additional course work in AI-related subjects such as statistics and probability, computational modeling, machine learning, and symbolic computation. Simmons said the program also would include a strong emphasis on ethics and social responsibility. This will include independent study opportunities in using AI for social good, such as improving transportation, health care or education.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's agenda-following department
chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Kremlin linked news sites like RT and Sputnik figure prominently in an online disinformation campaign portraying Syrian humanitarian workers ("White Helmets") as terrorists and crisis actors, according to an analysis (PDF) by researchers at University of Washington and Harvard. An online "echosystem" of propaganda websites including Russia backed news outlets Sputnik and RT is attacking the credibility of humanitarian workers on the ground in rebel occupied Syria, according to a new analysis by researchers at The University of Washington and Harvard University. Online rumors circulated through so called "alternative" media sites have attacked the Syrian Civil Defense (aka "White Helmets") as "crisis actors" and Western agents working on behalf of the U.S. and NATO. Statistical analysis of the online rumors reveal a tight network of websites sharing nearly identical content via Twitter and other social media platforms, wrote Kate Starbird. Starbird is an Assistant Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at University of Washington and a leading expert on so-called "crisis informatics." In activity reminiscent of the disinformation campaigns that roiled the U.S. Presidential election in 2016, articles by what Starbird describes as "a few prominent journalists and bloggers" writing for self described "alternative" news sites like 21stCenturyWire, GlobalResearch, MintPressNews, and ActivistPost are picked up by other, smaller and more niche websites including both left- and right-leaning partisan news sites, "clickbait sites," and conspiracy theory websites. Government funded media outlets from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia figure prominently in the Syrian disinformation campaign, Starbird's team found. In particular, "Russian government-funded media outlets (i.e. SputnikNews and RT) play a prominent and multi-faceted role within this ecosystem," she wrote.Read Replies (0)