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Comment Re:2012 strikes again (Score 5, Interesting) 404

One big cause of plagues in the Middle Ages was therefore situations that caused huge increases in the rodent population. This happened whenever there were food shortages, because people would stop being able to spare food to feed dogs and cats. When you stop feeding your dog, pretty soon you have to kill it (and then you may as well eat it). Without dogs and cats around, the rat population would take off. That's why in famines, as soon as people get done eating dogs and cats they start to eat rats. But of course the combination of lots of rats with underfed, weakened people means that plague can kill a lot of people. Indeed, the worse food security you had in your town, the more people tended to die of plague.

Comment Re:Oh come on... (Score 1) 697

There is a shortage of women in IT, and it is hurting for women. Half the people in the world are women. Some of them are pretty smart. By creating an atmosphere that seems hostile to women, IT companies are depriving themselves of a large pool of smart people who would, if they were in IT, be inventing things, fixing things, and generally moving the field along. Would you just randomly decide not to hire anyone with brown eyes, no matter how smart they were, or how easy to work with? Not hiring women has the same effect on your company. I was the only woman in my first college programming class. I was so nervous about it that my mother came and sat in on all the classes with me.

Submission + - Archaeology: Digging up the Donner Party Campsite (archaeology.org)

Kidipede writes: "In the winter of 1846-7, the Donner Party was famously caught by an early blizzard in the Rocky Mountains and ended up eating their dead to survive. Now an archaeology team has excavated their campsite and found physical evidence of the settlers' troubles — and the stories of the Washoe who tried to help them."

Submission + - New biography of Caligula - not such a bad dude? (brynmawr.edu)

Kidipede writes: "Caligula, yeah, he slept with his sister, he thought his horse was a god — a nutter, right? Not so fast, says Winterling in this new biography. Winterling tries hard to give Caligula the benefit of the doubt, and that's only fair — he was a young man in a difficult job with a lot of dangerous enemies."

Submission + - Cellphone Radiation Detector App Banned by Apple (naturalsociety.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The app was created by an Israeli company named Tawkon, and while not necessarily brand new, is relatively unknown. The lack of popularity probably has much to do with Apple’s banning of the app from their online app store since Apple rules the smartphone market. The company instituted the ban because it felt the app would be confusing to customers, though the ban was likely due to the fact that the app could only decrease sales for Apple’s iPhone. Whether Apple’s decision was driven by profit or not, there are some valid questions and concerns regarding the app’s accuracy.

Submission + - The Dead Past: The Biggest Threat to Privacy Is Us

An anonymous reader writes: Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals candidly discusses the future of privacy law in an essay published today in the Stanford Law Review. Referencing an Isaac Asimov short story, Kozinski acknowledges a serious threat to our privacy--but not from corporations, courts, or Congress: 'Judges, legislators and law enforcement officials live in the real world. The opinions they write, the legislation they pass, the intrusions they dare engage in—all of these reflect an explicit or implicit judgment about the degree of privacy we can reasonably expect by living in our society. In a world where employers monitor the computer communications of their employees, law enforcement officers find it easy to demand that internet service providers give up information on the web-browsing habits of their subscribers. In a world where people post up-to-the-minute location information through Facebook Places or Foursquare, the police may feel justified in attaching a GPS to your car. In a world where people tweet about their sexual experiences and eager thousands read about them the morning after, it may well be reasonable for law enforcement, in pursuit of terrorists and criminals, to spy with high-powered binoculars through people’s bedroom windows or put concealed cameras in public restrooms. In a world where you can listen to people shouting lurid descriptions of their gall-bladder operations into their cell phones, it may well be reasonable to ask telephone companies or even doctors for access to their customer records. If we the people don’t consider our own privacy terribly valuable, we cannot count on government—with its many legitimate worries about law-breaking and security—to guard it for us.' He concludes: '[C]oncerns that have been raised about the erosion of our right to privacy are, indeed, legitimate, but misdirected. The danger here is not Big Brother; the government, and especially Congress, have been commendably restrained, all things considered. The danger comes from a different source altogether. In the immortal words of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us."'

Submission + - Niceness May Largely Be Determined by DNA

An anonymous reader writes: Human kindness has traditionally been regarded as something people learn through experience, but scientists have discovered that some people are actually born with genes that predispose them towards niceness. Past research found that levels of oxytocin and vasopressin hormones influence how people treat one another, especially in close relationships.

Submission + - Etsy Hacker Grants Support Female Programmers (etsy.com)

samazon writes: Online retail shop Etsy announced a living-expenses grant program for women interested in attending the free Hacker School 3-month programming course. The program is hosted in various New York locations (NYU and Spotify have both hosted sessions) and not only is Etsy offering $5,000 grants to ten women who are accepted into the program, they're also hosting the summer course, and have offered enough space to double the class size to 40 students.

Submission + - Assessing Media Bias: Microsoft Vs. Apple Vs. Google Vs. Facebook (infoworld.com)

snydeq writes: "J. Peter Bruzzese questions whether Microsoft receives unfair criticism in the media, while Apple, Facebook, and Google seem to get away from missteps unscathed. 'I've noticed an unfair, ongoing trend: If Microsoft does something a little off, it gets bashed into the ground for it. But if Google, Facebook, or Apple (all three of which can be categorized, like Microsoft, as The Man in their own rights) missteps, it generally gets mild reprimands and even support from the media and those drinking the Kool-Aid.' Do you feel any inherent media bias in its coverage of the tech industry?"
The Internet

Submission + - Texting Can Heal Broken Hearts, Raspy Lungs (itworld.com)

itwbennett writes: "Texting (and other forms of Internet communication — email, skype, chat, IM, etc) are often dismissed by communications, etiquette and process-improvement gurus for being too short, too impersonal and too random to be effective as a way to communicate important ideas or maintain close professional relationships. HAH, sez the medical literature. One study (PDF) showed daily updates and reminders via txt improves the mood of patients suffering clinical depression AND that a daily text (even an automated one) made them feel well cared for. It also helped asthma patients stick to their medication and treatment routine, understand their long-term outlook more clearly and improve their confidence in their treatment."

Submission + - Why humans have pretty much stopped evolving (npr.org) 2

Kidipede writes: "Never thought of this before, but Ian Tattersall explains that organisms can evolve quickly only in small isolated groups with a limited gene pool, so that a mutation can really take hold. In huge gene pools like modern cities, mutations are quickly muted by the dominance of the older DNA and evolutionary change becomes nearly impossible. It's not the main point of the story, but it's a good point."

Submission + - Interview With TSA Screener Reveals 'Fatal Flaws' (wordpress.com)

OverTheGeicoE writes: Jonathan Corbett, creator of the video showing that TSA's body scanners can't see metal objects on our sides, has a new video out. This time he's interviewing an experienced TSA screener identified only as 'Jennifer,' and her allegations point to 'fatal flaws' in TSA and its procedures. Worse, TSA's screeners are well aware of these flaws. According to 'Jennifer,' body scanners frequently fail to detect objects on passengers, and this flaw is well known to the screeners on the job. People with visible items in their pockets can pass through scanners without detection, even when the items are simulated weapons or explosives. 'Jennifer' also alleges that training for screeners is severely lacking. Screeners are directed to operate body scanners, even the X-ray scanners, without any training whatsoever. The manual of standard operating procedures often can't be found at the checkpoints, let alone read. 'Jennifer' was so alarmed by what she experienced that she wrote her congressional representative to complain. She was ultimately fired as a result, effective today.

Feed Techdirt: Google Maps Exodus Continues As Wikipedia Mobile Apps Switch To OpenStreetMap (techdirt.com)

Last year, Google announced that it would begin charging high-volume users for access to its previously free Maps API. It seemed like an odd move. Jacking up the price on something, without actually offering anything new to entice customers to stay, only works if you have a total monopoly—and free competitor OpenStreetMap was already growing rapidly at the time.

Not long after the Google announcement, we reported that property search engine Nestoria was jumping ship to OpenStreetMap. Then, in March, news began to spread that Apple was making a strong push to move away from Google Maps data on the iOS platform. FourSquare also abruptly switched. Now the exodus is continuing, with Wikipedia announcing that the latest versions of its mobile apps for iOS and Android have also ditched Google Maps for OpenStreetMap:

Previous versions of our application used Google Maps for the nearby view. This has now been replaced with OpenStreetMap - an open and free source of Map Data that has been referred to as Wikipedia for Maps. This closely aligns with our goal of making knowledge available in a free and open manner to everyone. This also means we no longer have to use proprietary Google APIs in our code, which helps it run on the millions of cheap Android handsets that are purely open source and do not have the proprietary Google applications.

One wonders how Google didn't see this coming—or if they did, what exactly their strategy is here. OpenStreetMap is gaining a lot of momentum, and in some areas even features much better data. The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service—especially if they make an anti-customer decision like Google when it put a price tag on Maps. The situation also points to the long-term strength of open solutions: while a crowdsourced system like OpenStreetMap never could have put together a global mapping product as quickly as Google did, over time it has become a serious competitor in terms of both quality and convenience. Indeed, none of the companies that have switched pointed to the price as their number one reason—potentially superior quality, and the desire to support open data, are generally listed as significant factors. Location-based tools are a rapidly growing field, and by failing to stay ahead of their more open competitors (while becoming less open themselves), Google may have sacrificed their role as a crucial engine driving such services.

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Submission + - Megaupload Points Out That The Feds Want To Destroy Evidence In Its Case (techdirt.com)

SolKeshNaranek writes: Summary: Megauplload says US Government wants to destroy critical evidence it needs to defend itself. This evidence is on the servers seized by the feds.

Excerpt from the long article:

There are all sorts of problems with the federal government's arguments against Megaupload. Even if the site and its founders are guilty of breaking the law, it's amazingly troubling to look at the details of how the government has gone about proving this. The most immediate situation, as we've been discussing, involves the handling of the data on Megaupload's servers.

Very soon after the raids, the feds told the hosting company that Megaupload used, Carpathia, that it no longer needed the data and that it could be destroyed. As we pointed out at the time, this made no sense at all. After all, the government is alleging that this content is at the center of a criminal conspiracy ring. So why would it want the evidence destroyed? Furthermore, it seems likely that there could be plenty of evidence on those servers that support Megaupload's case (ah, perhaps that's why the government wants it destoryed!).

Of course, since then, a bunch of parties, including Megaupload, EFF, Megaupload users and (oddly) the MPAA have gotten involved in trying to preserve the data, while the hosting firm, Carpathia has asked the court for permission to delete it, get paid for it, or have someone take it off their hands. Megaupload has specifically offered to pay Carpathia to get the servers, but since the government seized all its assets, it can't do that. Plus, the government has objected to this plan. Furthermore, the MPAA — which still wants the data preserved — has claimed that if the content goes to any third party it's infringement — and could lead to the revival of Megaupload.

Remainder of article in link.

Additional related information links:


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