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The Media

Montana Newspaper Plans To Out Anonymous Commenters Retroactively ( 239 writes: Eugene Volokh reports at the Washington Post that in a stunning policy shift, The Montana Standard, a daily newspaper in Butte, Montana, has decided to replace commenters' pseudonyms with their real names. "The kicker here is that the change is retroactive," writes Paul Alan Levy. "Apparently unwilling to part with the wealth of comments that are already posted on its web site under the old policy, but also, apparently, unwilling to configure its software so that comments posted before the new policy is implemented remain under the chosen screen names, the Standard announces that past comments will suddenly appear using the users' real names unless users contact the paper no later than December 26 to ask that their comments be removed." In a November 12 editorial outlining the new real-name policy, the newspaper said, "We have encountered consistent difficulty with posts that exceed the bounds of civil discourse — as have many sites where comments from anonymous posters are allowed."

The paper's new policy has proven controversial among readers. "This is the end of open and honest comments on this site," wrote one user, who goes by the name BGF. "It is easy to put your name to your comments if you are retired. But it is another thing altogether if you have to worry about upsetting your peers and bosses at work." The newspaper editor, David McCumber, says he has extensively investigated the feasibility of configuring the newspaper's software to keep comments posted before the new policy is implemented under the chosen screen names. He says he was told by his content-management software experts that such a configuration is impossible. "Based on that, I am trying to do what is most equitable to all of our readers," says McCumber. "When a relatively small city is at the center of your market, just about everybody commented about is known, and the anonymous comments sting."


Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software ( 418

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'
The Almighty Buck

All Editors Quit Top Linguistics Journal To Protest Elsevier's Pricing ( 135

An anonymous reader writes: All six editors and all 31 editorial board members of Lingua, one of the top journals in linguistics, have resigned. They quit to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online. As soon as January, they plan to start a new open-access journal to be called Glossa. "Prices quoted on the Elsevier website suggest that an academic library in the United States with a total student and faculty full-time equivalent number of around 10,000 would pay $2,211 for shared online access, and $1,966 for a print copy. ... [Executive editor Johan Rooryck] said Lingua and most journals publish work by professors whose salaries are paid directly or indirectly with public funds. So why, he asked, should access to such research be blocked?"

Technology Colonialism 81

jrepin sends an editorial from Anjuan Simmons on how tech companies are behaving more and more in a manner that evokes colonialism. Quoting: Technology companies are increasingly being treated like sovereign nations. A nation with sovereignty has a right to conduct its internal affairs without interference from other nations. ... When technology companies are feted by foreign ministers and also refuse an invitation from the leader of their own country of origin, they exhibit the characteristics of a group that wants to be treated as a peer to heads of state. Technology companies understand the power they wield in the global economy. ... If Silicon Valley is allowed to become the central repository of information about people around the world, then there is a danger of setting up a form of imperialism based on personal data. Just as the royal powers of old reached far into the lives of distant colonized people, technology companies gain immense control with every terabyte of personal data they store and analyze.

WSJ: We Need the Right To Repair Our Gadgets 345

An anonymous reader writes: An editorial in the Wall Street Journal rings a bell we've been ringing for years: "Who owns the knowledge required to take apart and repair TVs, phones and other electronics? Manufacturers stop us by controlling repair plans and limiting access to parts. Some even employ digital software locks to keep us from making changes or repairs. This may not always be planned obsolescence, but it's certainly intentional obfuscation." The article shows that awareness of this consumer-hostile behavior (and frustration with it) is going mainstream. The author links to several DIY repair sites like iFixit, and concludes, "Repairing stuff isn't as complicated as they want you to think. Skilled gadget owners and independent repair pros deserve access to the information they need to do the best job they can."

Why Patent Law Shouldn't Block the Sale of Used Tech Products 215

An anonymous reader writes: Lexmark is best known for its printers, but even more important to its business is toner. Toner cartridges are Lexmark's lifeblood, and they've been battling hard in court to protect their cashflow. The NY Times has published an editorial arguing that one of their recent strategies is bogus: making patent infringement claims on companies who refill used cartridges. Think about that, for a moment: Lexmark says that by taking one of their old, empty cartridges, refilling it with toner, and then selling it somehow infringes upon their patents to said cartridges. "This case raises important questions about the reach of American patent law and how much control a manufacturer can exert after its products have been lawfully sold. Taken to their logical conclusion, Lexmark's arguments would mean that producers could use patent law to dictate how things like computers, printers and other patented goods are used, changed or resold and place restrictions on international trade. That makes no sense, especially in a world where technology products and components are brought and sold numerous times, which is why the court should rule in favor of Impression." The Times paints it as the latest attack on ownership in the age of DRM.

New Rules Say UK Video Bloggers Must Be Clearer About Paid Endorsements 36

AmiMoJo writes: New guidelines for video bloggers who enter marketing relationships with brands have been published. Earlier this year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that paid endorsements for Oreo biscuits on YouTube were not marked clearly enough. The new rules outline several scenarios where content must be clearly marked as an advertisement. One note from the linked article: However, the guidelines noted that when free items are sent to vloggers without any editorial or content control over videos exerted by the brand in question, there is no need for them to follow the Cap code.

Plan To Run Anti-Google Smear Campaign Revealed In MPAA Emails 256

vivaoporto writes: Techdirt reports on a plan to run an anti-Google smear campaign via the Today Show and the WSJ discovered in MPAA emails. Despite the resistance of the Hollywood studios to comply with the subpoenas obtained by Google concerning their relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (whose investigation of the company appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves) one of the few emails that Google have been able to get access to so far was revealed this Thursday in a filling. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google.

The lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories. One email reads: "Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed."

As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. This makes it pretty clear that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Berkeley Breathed Revives Bloom County Comic Strip After 25 Years 109

cold fjord writes: Just as it was needed then, it is needed now (more than ever). NPR reports, "Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating ... cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades. Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. ... It's unclear whether Breathed will syndicate his new work in newspapers; he recently recalled how an editorial dispute with a publisher had a direct role in his decision to quit cartooning in 2008. His Facebook postings, Breathed said earlier this month, are "nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web ... and ISIS." When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle." — The Washington Post adds, ""Honestly, I was unprepared for it," Breathed tells me of the public outpouring. "It calls for a bit of introspection about how characters can work with readers and how they're now absent as a unifying element with a society. "There is no media that will allow a Charlie Brown or a Snoopy to become a universal and shared joy each morning at the same moment across the country," Breathed continues. 'Maybe the rather marked response to my character's return is a reflection of that loss. A last gasp of a passing era.'"

What the GNOME Desktop Gets Right and KDE Gets Wrong 267

An anonymous reader writes: Eric Griffith at Phoronix has provided a fresh perspective on the KDE vs. GNOME desktop debate after exclusively using GNOME for the past week while being a longtime KDE user. He concluded his five-page editorial (which raises some valid points throughout) by saying, "Gnome feels like a product. It feels like a singular experience. When you use it, it feels like it is complete and that everything you need is at your fingertips. It feels like the Linux desktop. ... In KDE, it's just some random-looking window popup that any application could have created. ... KDE doesn't feel like cohesive experience. KDE doesn't feel like it has a direction its moving in, it doesn't feel like a full experience. KDE feels like its a bunch of pieces that are moving in a bunch of different directions, that just happen to have a shared toolkit beneath them." However, with the week over and despite his criticism, he's back to using KDE.
United States

France Could Offer Asylum To Assange, Snowden 213 writes: The Intercept reports that in the aftermath of the NSA's sweeping surveillance of three French presidents, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira thinks National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might be allowed to settle in France. Taubira was asked about the NSA's surveillance of three French presidents, disclosed by WikiLeaks this week, and called it an "unspeakable practice." Taubira's comments echoed those in an editorial in France's leftist newspaper Libération that France should respond to the U.S.'s "contempt" for its allies by giving Edward Snowden asylum. France would send "a clear and useful message to Washington, by granting this bold whistleblower the asylum to which he is entitled," wrote editor Laurent Joffrin in an angry editorial titled "Un seul geste" — or "A single gesture." (google translate) If Paris offers Snowden asylum, it will be joining several other nations who have done so in the past, including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. However, Snowden is still waiting in Moscow to hear from almost two dozen other countries where he has requested asylum.

Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned 327

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."
The Almighty Buck

Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour 1094 writes: Jennifer Medina reports at the NY Times that the council of the nation's second-largest city voted by a 14-1 margin to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles and its almost 4 million residents represent one of the biggest victories yet for those pushing wage increases across the country. Proponents hope it will start to reverse the earning gap in the city, where the top 7% of households earn more than the bottom 67%.

Detractors point out the direct cost increase to businesses, which could total as much as a billion dollars per year. If a business can't handle the increased cost, the employees this measure was designed to help will lose their jobs when it folds. An editorial from the LA Times says it's vital for other cities nearby to increase their minimum wage, too, else businesses will gradually migrate to cheaper locations. They add, "While the minimum wage hike will certainly help the lowest-wage workers in the city, it should not be seen as the centerpiece of a meaningful jobs creation strategy. The fact is that far too many jobs in the city are low-wage jobs — some 37% of workers currently earn less than $13.25 an hour, according to the mayor's estimates — and even after the proposed increase, they would still be living on the edge of poverty."
Classic Games (Games)

(Hack) and Slash: Doing the LORD's Work 63

Emmett Plant (former Slashdot editor as well as video interviewee) writes: Legend of the Red Dragon was written by Seth Robinson in 1989, and it remains one of the most popular games of the DOS BBS era. Chris England has been doing his part to keep the game alive for the past twelve years, adapting an installation that runs on Linux. I was only able to play for two days before I was overcome with curiosity -- I wrote to Chris, politely inquiring as to how it all came together. Read on below for a look into Chris's motivations, the state of the project, and just how deeply nested it can all get, when bringing games from early BBS days into the modern era.

Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer 434

An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at Tom's Hardware makes the case that Google's Android fragmentation problem has gotten too big to ignore any longer. Android 5.0 Lollipop and its successor 5.1 have seen very low adoption rates — 9.0% and 0.7% respectively. Almost 40% of users are still on KitKat. 6% lag far behind on Gingerbread and Froyo. The article points out that even Microsoft is now making efforts to both streamline Windows upgrades and adapt Android (and iOS) apps to run on Windows.

If Google doesn't adapt, "it risks having users (slowly but surely) switch to more secure platforms that do give them updates in a timely manner. And if users want those platforms, OEMs will have no choice but to switch to them too, leaving Google with less and less Android adoption." The author also says OEMs and carriers can no longer be trusted to handle operating system updates, because they've proven themselves quite incapable of doing so in a reasonable manner.

Scientists Have Paper On Gender Bias Rejected Because They're Both Women 301 writes: A paper co-authored by researcher fellow Dr. Fiona Ingleby and evolutionary biologist Dr. Megan Head — on how gender differences affect the experiences that PhD students have when moving into post-doctoral work — was rejected by peer-reviewed PLoS Onebecause they didn't ask a man for help.

A (male) peer reviewer for the journal suggested that the scientists find male co-authors, to prevent "ideologically biased assumptions." The same reviewer also provided his own ironically biased advice, when explaining that women may have fewer articles published because men's papers "are indeed of a better quality, on average," "just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile race a bit faster."
PLoS One has apologized, saying, "We have formally removed the review from the record, and have sent the manuscript out to a new editor for re-review. We have also asked the Academic Editor who handled the manuscript to step down from the Editorial Board and we have removed the referee from our reviewer database."

Study Confirms No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism 341

An anonymous reader sends word of a new study (abstract) into the relationship between the MMR vaccine and kids who develop autism. In short: there is no relationship, even for kids at high risk of developing autism. From the article: [Researchers] examined records from a large health insurer to search for such an association. They checked the status of children continuously enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years old during 2001 to 2012. The children also had an older brother or sister continuously enrolled for at least six months between 1997 and 2012. "Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk among privately insured children.We also found no evidence that receipt of either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD." ... [An accompanying editorial said,] "Taken together, some dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the severity or course of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and now the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children."

Social Science Journal 'Bans' Use of p-values 208

sandbagger writes: Editors of Basic and Applied Social Psychology announced in a February editorial that researchers who submit studies for publication would not be allowed to use common statistical methods, including p-values. While p-values are routinely misused in scientific literature, many researchers who understand its proper role are upset about the ban. Biostatistician Steven Goodman said, "This might be a case in which the cure is worse than the disease. The goal should be the intelligent use of statistics. If the journal is going to take away a tool, however misused, they need to substitute it with something more meaningful."
The Media

NY Times: "All the News That Mark Zuckerberg Sees Fit To Print"? 79

theodp writes Two years ago, Politico caught Mark Zuckerberg's soon-to-be launched PAC boasting how its wealthy tech exec backers would use their companies to 'control the avenues of distribution' for a political message in support of their efforts. Now, the NY Times is reporting that Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook, citing a source who said the Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal. Facebook declined to comment on specific discussions with publishers, but noted it had provided features to help publishers get better traction on Facebook, including tools unveiled in December that let them target their articles to specific groups of Facebook users. The new plan, notes the Times, is championed by Chris Cox, the top lieutenant to Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and a "major supporter" of Exploring Facebook's wooing of the media giants, the Christian Science Monitor asks if social media will control the future of news, citing concerns expressed by Fusion's Felix Salmon, who warns that as news sites sacrifice their brands to reach a wider audience, their incentives for accuracy and editorial judgment will disappear.

Why Is the Grand Theft Auto CEO Also Chairman of the ESRB? 128

donniebaseball23 writes In an editorial at, Brendan Sinclair asks an important question about the game ratings board in America. Should Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two, which owns the Grand Theft Auto franchise and has been at the heart of the ESRB's biggest controversies of the last decade, really be serving as its chairman? "No matter how removed from the day-to-day running of the ESRB Zelnick might be, his current role invites accusations of impropriety," he writes. "It's the sort of thing any critic of the games industry can point to as a clear conflict of interest, and many reasonable outsiders would probably look at that as a valid complaint. At least when titans of industry in the U.S. become the head of the regulatory agencies that oversee their former companies, they actually have to leave those companies."