Democrats

Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping 385

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-makes-you-safer-because-reasons dept.
mi writes: President Obama has asked the Senate to renew key Patriot Act provisions before their expiration on May 31. This includes surveillance powers that let the government collect Americans' phone records. Obama said, "It's necessary to keep the American people safe and secure." The call came despite recent revelations that the FBI is unable to name a single terror case in which the snooping provisions were of much help. "Obama noted that the controversial bulk phone collections program, which was exposed by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, is reformed in the House bill, which does away with it over six months and instead gives phone companies the responsibility of maintaining phone records that the government can search." Obama criticized the Senate for not acting on that legislation, saying they have necessitated a renewal of the Patriot Act provisions.
Education

Clinton Foundation: Kids' Lack of CS Savvy Threatens the US Economy 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the money's-in-the-code dept.
theodp writes: As the press digs for details on Clinton Foundation donations, including a reported $26+ million from Microsoft and Bill Gates, it's probably worth noting the interest the Clintons have developed in computer science and the role they have played — and continue to play — in the national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis that materialized after Microsoft proposed creating such a crisis to advance its 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy, which aims to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Next thing you know, Bill is the face of CS at the launch of Code.org. Then Hillary uses the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference to launch a Facebook, Microsoft, and Google initiative to boost the ranks of female and students of color in CS, and starts decrying woeful CS enrollment. Not to be left out, Chelsea keynotes the NCWIT Summit and launches Google's $50M girls-only Made With Code initiative with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith. And last December, the Clinton Foundation touted its initiatives to engage middle school girls in CS, revamp the nation's AP CS program, and retrain out-of-work Americans as coders. At next month's CGI America 2015, the conference will kick off with a Beer Bust that CGI says "will also provide an opportunity to learn about Tech Girls Rock, a CGI Commitment to Action launched by CA Technologies in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that helps girls discover an interest in tech-related educational opportunities and careers." On the following days, CGI sessions will discuss tech's need for a strong and diverse talent pipeline for computer and information technology jobs, which it says is threatened by "the persistent poor performance of American students in science, technology, engineering, and math," presenting "serious implications for the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. economy." So what's the long-term solution? Expanding CS education, of course!
Iphone

A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the easy-way-to-get-your-kids-to-put-the-phone-down dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes with news that a bug in iOS has made it so anyone can crash an iPhone by simply sending it a text message containing certain characters. "When the text message is displayed by a banner alert or notification on the lockscreen, the system attempts to abbreviate the text with an ellipsis. If the ellipsis is placed in the middle of a set of non-Latin script characters, including Arabic, Marathi and Chinese, it causes the system to crash and the phone to reboot." The text string is specific enough that it's unlikely to happen by accident, and users can disable text notification banners to protect themselves from being affected. However, if a user receives the crash-inducing text, they won't be able to access the Messages app without causing another crash. A similar bug crashed applications in OS X a few years ago.
Transportation

Volvo Self-Parking Car Hits People Because Owner Didn't Pay For Extra Feature 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the problem-exists-between-keyboard-and-car dept.
schwit1 writes: A video that recently went viral shows a demonstration of a Volvo XC60's self-parking feature. It reverses itself, waits, and then confidently drives into a group of people at a non-negligible speed. (Two were hit, and while both were bruised, they were otherwise OK.) The situation was presumed to have resulted from a malfunction with the car — but the car might not have had the ability to recognize a human at all. A Volvo representative said the car was not equipped with the "Pedestrian detection" feature. That feature is sold as a separate package.
Mars

How To Die On Mars 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-coffin-to-mars dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Many space-related projects are currently focusing on Mars. SpaceX wants to build a colony there, NASA is looking into base design, and Mars One is supposedly picking astronauts for a mission. Because of this, we've been reading a lot about how we could live on Mars. An article at Popular Science reminds us of all the easy ways to die there. "Barring any complications with the spacecraft's hardware or any unintended run-ins with space debris, there's still a big killer lurking out in space that can't be easily avoided: radiation. ... [And] with so little atmosphere surrounding Mars, gently landing a large amount of weight on the planet will be tough. Heavy objects will pick up too much speed during the descent, making for one deep impact. ... Mars One's plan is to grow crops indoors under artificial lighting. According to the project's website, 80 square meters of space will be dedicated to plant growth within the habitat; the vegetation will be sustained using suspected water in Mars' soil, as well as carbon dioxide produced by the initial four-member crew. However, analysis conducted by MIT researchers last year (PDF) shows that those numbers just don't add up."
Google

Creationists Manipulating Search Results 441

Posted by Soulskill
from the pi-is-exactly-3 dept.
reallocate writes: It looks like some Creationists are manipulating search results to ensure websites pushing religion are appearing in response to queries about science. Ask Google "What happened to the dinosaurs?" and you'll see links to Creationist sites right at the top. (And, right now, several hits to sites taking note of it.) Google has a feedback link waiting for you to use it.
Software

Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the hang-on-my-clicker-isn't-working dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at the Washington Post argues that Microsoft PowerPoint is being relied upon by too many to do too much, and we should start working to get rid of it. "Its slides are oversimplified, and bullet points omit the complexities of nearly any issue. The slides are designed to skip the learning process, which — when it works — involves dialogue, eye-to-eye contact and discussions. Of course PowerPoint has merits — it can help businesses with their sales pitches or let teachers introduce technology into the classroom. But instead of being used as a means for a dynamic engagement, it has become a poor substitute for longer, well-thought-out briefings and technical reports. It has become a crutch."
Transportation

Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the call-it-amtraking dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In the aftermath of the derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, the company has caved to demands that it install video cameras to monitor and record the actions of the engineers driving their trains. The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending such cameras for the past five years. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman says the cameras will improve train safety, though the engineers' union disagrees. In 2013, the union's president said, "Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security. More than a century of research establishes that monitoring workers actually reduces the ability to perform complex tasks, such as operating a train, because of the distractive effect."
Education

Elon Musk Establishes a Grade School 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the recruiting-early-for-spacex dept.
HughPickens.com writes with news that Elon Musk has established "Ad Astra," a small, private school for grade-school-age kids. His goal for the school is to eliminate actual differences between the grades. The school had only 14 students for the past year, but will likely expand to 20 next September. Musk says, "It's important to teach problem solving, or teach to the problem and not the tools." As an example, he says teaching kids about tools should be more about taking an engine apart and learning about neccessary tools as the need arises, rather than just dumping information on them about a bunch of tools in an abstract way. "Musk's approach to delete grade level numbers and focus on aptitude may take the pressure off non-linear students and creates a more balanced assessment of ingenuity."
Transportation

Court Orders UberPop Use To Be Banned In All of Italy 201

Posted by timothy
from the fiat-accompli dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A judicial court in Italy has ordered the UberPop app to cease offering its services [original source, in Italian], as it constitutes "unfair competition" again the taxi sector (taxi licenses in Italy are numbered, each can cost more than $100k to obtain). This sentence should be valid at the national level and comes after an injunction from taxi drivers in Milan, where a Universal Exhibition is incidentally bringing in thousands visitors from all over the world on a daily basis. Sources mention a judicial request to "block" the app, though no one is sure how this sentence has to be enforced and what the fines would be in case of violations.
Science

Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed? 397

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-in-it-for-me? dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Richard Horton writes that a recent symposium on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research discussed one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with science (PDF), one of our greatest human creations. The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. According to Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal, the apparent endemicity of bad research behavior is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world or retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.

Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivized to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivized to be productive and innovative. Tony Weidberg says that the particle physics community now invests great effort into intensive checking and rechecking of data prior to publication following several high-profile errors. By filtering results through independent working groups, physicists are encouraged to criticize. Good criticism is rewarded. The goal is a reliable result, and the incentives for scientists are aligned around this goal. "The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously," says Horton. "The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system."
United Kingdom

Leaked Document Shows Europe Would Fight UK Plans To Block Porn 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the things-that-are-worth-fighting-for dept.
Mark Wilson writes: Before the UK elections earlier in the month, David Cameron spoke about his desire to clean up the internet. Pulling — as he is wont to do — on parental heartstrings, he suggested that access to porn on computers and mobiles should be blocked by default unless users specifically requested access to it. This opt-in system was mentioned again in the run-up to the election as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid assured peopled that the party "will age restrict online porn". But it's not quite that simple. There is the small problem of Europe. A leaked EU Council document shows that plans are afoot to stop Cameron's plans in its tracks — and with the UK on the verge of trying to debate a better deal for itself within Europe, the Prime Minister is not in a particularly strong position for negotiating on the issue. Cameron has a fight on his hands, it seems, if he wants to deliver on his promise that "we need to protect our children from hardcore pornography". Documents seen by The Sunday Times reveal that the EU could make it illegal for ISPs and mobile companies to automatically block access to obscene material. Rather than implementing a default block on pornography, the Council of the European Union believes that users should opt in to web filtering and be able to opt out again at any time; this is precisely the opposite to the way Cameron would like things to work.
Programming

Google's Diversity Chief: Mamas Don't Let Their Baby Girls Grow Up To Be Coders 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the starts-at-home dept.
theodp writes: Explaining the reasons for its less-than-diverse tech workforce, Google fingered bad parenting for its lack of women techies. From the interview with Google Director of Diversity and Inclusion Nancy Lee: "Q. What explains the drop [since 1984] in women studying computer science? A. We commissioned original research that revealed it's primarily parents' encouragement, and perception and access. Parents don't see their young girls as wanting to pursue computer science and don't steer them in that direction. There's this perception that coding and computer science is ... a 'brogrammer' culture for boys, for games, for competition. There hasn't been enough emphasis on the power computing has in achieving social impact. That's what girls are interested in. They want to do things that matter." While scant on details, the Google study's charts appear to show that, overall, fathers encourage young women to study CS more than mothers. Google feels that reeducation is necessary. "Outreach programs," advises Google, "should include a parent education component, so that parents learn how to actively encourage their daughters."
News

D.C. Police Detonate Man's 'Suspicious' Pressure Cooker 460

Posted by Soulskill
from the dozens-more-suspected-at-local-department-store dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday evening in Washington D.C., police officers on routine patrol spotted an unoccupied car parked near the National Mall. They deemed it "suspicious," and took a look inside, where they found a pressure cooker. They also claimed to smell gasoline. The officers called the bomb squad, and at 7:45pm they initiated a controlled detonation of the car's contents. Afterward, a search of the car found no evidence that it contained explosives or any other hazardous materials. The car's owner was located and arrested for driving on a revoked license.
GUI

Microsoft Tries Another Icon Theme For Windows 10 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-solid-color-rectangles dept.
jones_supa writes: Back in February, users decried the new icon look in Windows 10. In response to that feedback, Microsoft has implemented a new icon pack in build 10125, which was leaked early but expected to arrive soon for Technical Preview testers. Screenshots show what the final version of the OS could look like when it goes live this summer. The new icons go all-in on a flat approach, following the same design cues as the rest of the operating system, but the "pixel art" style has been abandoned. Once again, Softpedia asked for user experiences, and this time the comments have been mostly positive.