By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rebellious-readers department
An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek:
The American Library Association's yearly Banned Books Week, held this year between Sunday September 24 and Saturday September 30, is both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship. Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, the event spotlights the risk of censorship still present... "While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read," the ALA stated.
"This Banned Books Week, we're asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read," says a coalition supporting the event.
The ALA reports that
half of the most frequently challenged books were in fact actually banned last year, according to the library group's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which calculates there were 17% more attempts to censor books in America in 2016. The five most-challenged books all contained LGBT characters, and the most common phrase used to complain about books is "sexually explicit," the OIF told Publisher's Weekly -- perhaps reflecting a change in targets.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's "accelerating"-mobile-pages department
An anonymous reader writes:
Russian hacktivist group Fancy Bear (also referred to as APT28, Sofacy, and Strontium) has been using a flaw in Google's caching of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to phish targets, Salon reports. To make matters worse, Google has been aware of the bug for almost a year but has refused to fix it... The vulnerability involves how Google delivers google.com URLs for AMP pages to its search users in an effort to speed up mobile browsing. This makes Google products more vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Conservative blogger Matthew Sheffield writes in the article that most of the known targets "appear to have been journalists who were investigating allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing by people affiliated with the Russian government."
One such target was Aric Toler, a researcher and writer for the website Bellingcat who specializes in analyzing Russian media and the country's relationship with far-right groups within Europe and America... another journalist who writes frequently about Russia, David Satter, was taken in by a similar AMP phishing message... Shortly after Satter was tricked into visiting the fake website and entering his password, a program that was hosting the site logged into his Gmail account and downloaded its entire contents. Within three weeks, as the Canadian website Citizen Lab reported, the perpetrators of the hack began posting Satter's documents online, and even altering them to make opponents and critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin look bad.
Google told Salon they've "made a number of changes" to AMP -- without saying what they were. (After contacting Google for a comment, AMP's creator and tech lead blocked public comments on a Github bug report about Google's AMP implementation.) "More things ... will come on Google's side in the future and we are working with browser vendors to eventually get the origin right," AMP's tech lead wrote last February.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's extending-a-welcome department
TechRepublic got different answers about Microsoft's new enthusiasm for Linux from Canonical's founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, and from Richard Stallman. Stallman "believes that Microsoft's decision to build a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) amounts to an attempt to extinguish software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve."
"It certainly looks that way. But it won't be so easy to extinguish us, because our reasons for using and advancing free software are not limited to practical convenience," he said. "We want freedom. As a way to use computers in freedom, Windows is a non-starter..." Stallman remains adamant that the WSL can only help entrench the dominance of proprietary software like Windows, and undermine the use of free software. "That doesn't advance the cause of free software, not one bit," he says... "The aim of the free software movement is to free users from freedom-denying proprietary programs and systems, such as Windows. Making a non-free system, such Windows or MacOS or iOS or ChromeOS or Android, more convenient is a step backward in the campaign for freedom..."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's living-long-and-prospering department
An anonymous reader quotes EW.com:
Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company's regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access -- the company's $6 per month streaming service... CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company's goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020...
But once fans watch Discovery, they'll notice the show's production values aren't like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it's going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.
The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million -- though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode's international broadcast rights. The show's main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.
Space.com asked one of the show's actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. "I mean, Kirk," answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. "That's like, 'Who's your favorite James Bond?', and if you don't say 'Sean Connery,' really? Come on."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's how-now-low-methane-emission-cow department
An anonymous reader quotes Popular Science:
Raising cattle contributes to global warming in a big way. The animals expel large amounts of methane when they burp and fart, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. beef production, in fact, roughly equals the annual emissions of 24 million cars, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That's a lot of methane... Researchers think there may be a better way. Rather than ask people to give up beef, they are trying to design more climate-friendly cattle.
The goal is to breed animals with digestive systems that can create less methane. One approach is to tinker with the microbes that live in the rumen, the main organ in the animals' digestive tract... Scientists in the United Kingdom last year found that a cow's genes influence the makeup of these microbial communities, which include bacteria and also Archaea, the primary producers of methane. This discovery means cattle farmers potentially could selectively breed animals that end up with a lower ratio of Archaea-to-bacteria, thus leading to less methane... "The selection to reduce methane emissions would be permanent, cumulative and sustainable over generations as with any other trait, such as growth rate, milk yield, etc. used in animal breeding." This, over time, "would have a substantial impact on methane emissions from livestock," Roehe said.
Breeding low-emission cattle would also make it cheaper to raise cattle -- and improve the quality of meat.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's courts-vs-credit-reports department
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post:
Since it announced a massive data breach earlier this month, Equifax has been hit with dozens of lawsuits from shareholders, consumers and now one filed by a small Wisconsin credit union that represents what could be the first by a financial institution attempting to preemptively recoup losses caused by alleged fraud the hack could cause... In the lawsuit, which seeks class action status, Madison-based Summit Credit Union says that financial institutions will have to bear the cost of canceling and reissuing credit cards as well as absorbing the cost of any fraudulent charges. They will also lose "profits because their members or customers were unwilling or unable to use their credit cards following the breach," according to the lawsuit...
"For financial institutions it is important: They bear the financial responsibility for identity theft," said Summit's attorney Stacey Slaughter of the law firm Robins Kaplan. "All of the components that would allow someone to create a new identity" were exposed in the Equifax hack.
Equifax responded that they can't comment on pending litigation, according to the article, though "Equifax has said it did its best to respond to the breach and alerted consumers as quickly as it could..."
"The company's stock price has fallen 27 percent since it announced the hack September 7."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's punished-with-prior-art department
Cloudflare declared war on a group of lawyers that files patent lawsuits against tech firms, by offering bounties for the discovery of patent-invalidating "prior art." Now an anonymous reader writes:
On Thursday, Cloudflare announced it has paid out the first $7,500 to people who discovered documents that could help invalidate Blackbird's patents. The money is part of a $100,000 war chest the company announced this spring... The company said it is ready to launch individual challenges to specific Blackbird patents. The company believes it has enough examples of prior art on US Patent 7,797,448, "GPS-internet Linkage" and US Patent 6,453,335 (the one asserted against Cloudflare) to lodge a challenge.
"We have received more than 230 submissions so far," Cloudflare reports, "and have only just begun to scratch the surface."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's questions-are-a-burden-to-others department
schwit1 quotes the AP:
Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests -- taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.
The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it's becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics. "This practice essentially says to a records requester, 'File a request at your peril,'" said University of Kansas journalism professor Jonathan Peters, who wrote about the issue for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2015, before several more cases were filed. "These lawsuits are an absurd practice and noxious to open government."Read Replies (0)
Are Companies Overhyping AI?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 24 '17 at 04:00 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's buzz-killing department
When it comes to artificial intelligence, "companies have been overselling the concept and otherwise normal people are taking the bait," writes Hackaday:
Not to pick on Amazon, but all of the home assistants like Alexa and Google Now tout themselves as AI. By the most classic definition, that's true. AI techniques include matching natural language to predefined templates. That's really all these devices are doing today. Granted the neural nets that allow for great speech recognition and reproduction are impressive. But they aren't true intelligence nor are they even necessarily direct analogs of a human brain... The danger is that people are now getting spun up that the robot revolution is right around the corner...
[N]othing in the state of the art of AI today is going to wake up and decide to kill the human masters. Despite appearances, the computers are not thinking. You might argue that neural networks could become big enough to emulate a brain. Maybe, but keep in mind that the brain has about 100 billion neurons and almost 10 to the 15th power interconnections. Worse still, there isn't a clear consensus that the neural net made up of the cells in your brain is actually what is responsible for conscious thought. There's some thought that the neurons are just control systems and the real thinking happens in a biological quantum computer... Besides, it seems to me if you build an electronic brain that works like a human brain, it is going to have all the problems a human brain has (years of teaching, distraction, mental illness, and a propensity for error).
Citing the dire predictions of Elon Musk and Bill Gates, the article argues that "We are a relatively small group of people who have a disproportionate influence on what our friends, families, and co-workers think... We need to spread some sense into the conversation."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's consumer-credit-criticisms department
Security researcher Brian Krebs complains that Experian's identity-protecting credit freezes are easily unfrozen online. An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Experian makes it easy to undo a credit freeze, resetting a subject's PIN through an easily accessible account recovery page. That page only asks for a person's name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number...data [that] was compromised in the Equifax breach, as well as other breaches, so we can probably assume hackers possess this information. After entering that data, attackers then just have to enter an email address -- any email -- and answer a few security questions.
That might not jump out as insecure; security questions exist for a reason. But the questions themselves are easy to answer, particularly if you know how to use the internet and a search bar. Krebs says sample questions include asking users to identify cities where they've previously lived and the people that resided with them. Much of that information is available through a person's own social media accounts, search engines, or Yellow Pages-like databases, including Spokeo and Zillow... In response to Krebs' report, Experian claims that it goes beyond the measures identified to authenticate users. "While we do not disclose those additional processes," said the company in a statement, "they include a broad array of checks that are not visible to the consumer."
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Experian is also advertising a "free scan of the dark Web" which actually binds anyone who accepts it to their 17,600-word terms of service, as well as acceptance of "advertisements or offers" from financial products companies -- plus "an arbitration clause preventing you from suing the company" which a spokesperson acknowledges could remain in effect for several years.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's looking-inside department
Amazon aggressively recruited thousands of retirees living in mobile homes to migrate to Amazon's warehouses for seasonal work, according to a story shared by nightcats. Wired reports:From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a "taillight parade." They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing -- not an obvious fit for older bodies -- recruiters came to see CamperForce workers' maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent. "We've had folks in their eighties who do a phenomenal job for us," noted Kelly Calmes, a CamperForce representative, in one online recruiting seminar... In a company presentation, one slide read, "Jeff Bezos has predicted that, by the year 2020, one out of every four workampers in the United States will have worked for Amazon."
The article is adapted from a new book called "Nomadland," which also describes seniors in mobile homes being recruited for sugar beet harvesting and jobs at an Iowa amusement park, as well as work as campground hsots at various national parks. Many of them "could no longer afford traditional housing," especially after the financial downturn of 2008.
But at least they got to hear stories from their trainers at Amazon about the occasional "unruly" shelf-toting "Kiva" robot:
They told us how one robot had tried to drag a worker's stepladder away. Occasionally, I was told, two Kivas -- each carrying a tower of merchandise -- collided like drunken European soccer fans bumping chests. And in April of that year, the Haslet fire department responded to an accident at the warehouse involving a can of "bear repellent" (basically industrial-grade pepper spray). According to fire department records, the can of repellent was run over by a Kiva and the warehouse had to be evacuated.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tinkering-with-tetrominoes department
In 1970 mathematician John Conway created rules for the "Game of Life," a now famous "zero-player game" where a grid of cells evolves (following Conway's rules) from an initial state proposed by the player. In 2013 someone challenged readers of StackExchange's "Programming Puzzles & Code Golf" section to devise an initial state "that will allow for the playing of a game of Tetris."
An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that "This challenge sat around, gathering upvotes but no answer, for four years. Then, it was answered." Citing the work of seven contributors, a massive six-part response says their solution took one and a half years to create, and "began as a quest but ended as an odyssey." The team created their own assembly language, known as QFTASM (Quest for Tetris Assembly) for use within Conway's mathematical universe, and then also designed their own processor architecture, and eventually even a higher-level language that they named COGOL. Their StackExchange response includes a link to all of their code on GitHub, as well as to a page where you can run the code online.
One StackExchange reader hailed the achievement as "the single greatest thing I've ever scrolled through while understanding very little."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's voyage-to-the-bottom-of-the-sea department
An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics:
Microsoft, Facebook and global telecommunication infrastructure company Telxius have completed the Marea subsea cable, the world's most technologically advanced undersea cable. The Marea crosses the Atlantic Ocean over 17,000 feet below the ocean's surface, connecting Virginia Beach with Bilbao, Spain. Over 4,000 miles (6,600 kilometers) long and weighing nearly 10.25 million pounds (4.65 million kilograms), the Marea can transmit up to 160 terabits of data per second, which Microsoft notes is "more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously."
The undersea cable -- about 1.5 times the diameter of a garden hose -- contains eight pairs of fiber optic cables encircled by copper, a protective layer of hard plastic, and then waterproof coating. Its 4,000-mile route had to avoid everything from earthquake zones to active volcanoes.
Cables under the Atlantic Ocean carry 55% more data than cables under the Pacific, Microsoft writes, adding that "the project highlights the increasing role of private companies in building the infrastructure of the future."Read Replies (0)