Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

+ - Extreme secrecy eroding support for Obama's trade pact->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Classified briefings and bill-readings in basement rooms are making members queasy.

f you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you've got to be a member of Congress, and you've got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.

If you're a member who wants to read the text, you've got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving.

And no matter what, you can't discuss the details of what you've read.

"It's like being in kindergarten," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who's become the leader of the opposition to President Barack Obama's trade agenda. "You give back the toys at the end."

For those out to sink Obama's free trade push, highlighting the lack of public information is becoming central to their opposition strategy: The White House isn't even telling Congress what it's asking for, they say, or what it's already promised foreign governments.

Link to Original Source

+ - French version of "Patriot Act" becomes law->

Submitted by Taco Cowboy
Taco Cowboy writes: Thanks to the cold blooded massacres of the Charlie Hebdo (and other) incidents at the hand of the bloody Islamist savages, where many innocent people were slaughtered, the French legislature passed, by a vote of 438 to 86, in the National Assembly with, 42 abstentions, the "Intelligence Service Bill", a French version of the Patriot Act, which awards the French intelligence a sweeping power to tap and intercept any kind of correspondence, including phone conversations, emails, social media, amongst others

The bill would decree that hosting providers and Internet service providers (from now on referred to as ISP) in France must get equipped with a “black box” that could retain all digital communication of the citizens, at any time

Slashdot carried an article ( http://it.slashdot.org/story/1... ) about the possibilities that ISPs may leave France if the bill is passed. Now that the bill has passed, we will know in a short while if those ISP really pull out of France or not

Link to Original Source

+ - The World's Most Wasteful Megacity

Submitted by merbs
merbs writes: The world’s most wasteful megacity is a densely populated, steadily aging, consumerist utopia where we buy, and throw away, a staggering amount of stuff. Where some faucet, toilet, or pipe, is constantly leaking in our apartments. Where an armada of commerce-beckoning lights are always on. Where a fleet of gas-guzzling cars still clog the roadways. I, along with my twenty million or so neighbors, help New York City use more energy, suck down more water, and spew out more solid waste than any other mega-metropolitan area.

+ - The Medical Bill Mystery

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the NYT that she has spent the past six months trying to figure out a medical bill for $225 that includes "Test codes: 105, 127, 164, to name a few. CPT codes: 87481, 87491, 87798 and others" and she really doesn't want to pay it until she understands what it’s for. "At first, I left messages on the lab’s billing office voice mail asking for an explanation. A few months ago, when someone finally called back, she said she could not tell me what the codes were for because that would violate patient privacy. After I pointed out that I was the patient in question, she said, politely: “I’m sorry, this is what I’m told, and I don’t want to lose my job.”" Bills variously use CPT, HCPCS or ICD-9 codes. Some have abbreviations and scientific terms that you need a medical dictionary or a graduate degree to comprehend. Some have no information at all. Heather Pearce of Seattle told me how she’d recently received a $45,000 hospital bill with the explanation “miscellaneous.”

So what's the problem? “Medical bills and explanation of benefits are undecipherable and incomprehensible even for experts to understand, and the law is very forgiving about that,” says Mark Hall. “We’ve not seen a lot of pressure to standardize medical billing, but there’s certainly a need.” Hospitals and medical clinics say that detailed bills are simply too complicated for patients and that they provide the information required by insurers but with rising copays and deductibles, patients are shouldering an increasing burden. One recent study found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors and an audit by Equifax found that hospital bills that totaled more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300. “There are no industry standards with regards to what information a patient should receive regarding their bill,” says Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. “The software industry has pretty much decided what information patients should receive, and to my knowledge, they have not had any stakeholder input. That would certainly be a worthwhile project for our industry.”

+ - Cyberlock lawyers threaten security researcher over vulnerability disclosure

Submitted by qubezz
qubezz writes: Security researcher Phar (Mike Davis/IOActive) gave his 30 days of disclosure notice to Cyberlock (apparently a company that makes electronic lock cylinders) that he would release a public advisory on vulnerabilities he found with the company's security devices. On day 29, their lawyers responded with a request to refrain, feigning ignorance of the previous notice, and invoking mention of the DMCA (this is not actually a DMCA takedown notice, as the law firm is attempting to suppress initial disclosure through legal wrangling). Mike's blog states:


The previous DMCA threats are from a company called Cyberlock, I had planned to do a fun little blog post (cause i .. hate blog posts) on the fun of how I obtained one, extracted the firmware bypassing the code protection and figured out its "encryption" and did various other fun things a lock shouldn't do for what its marketed as.. But before I could write that post I needed to let them know what issues we have deemed weaknesses in their gear.. the below axe grinderery is the results.

What should researchers do when companies make baseless legal threats to maintain their security-through-obscurity?

+ - Leaked Files Contradict CBP Polygraph Chief->

Submitted by George Maschke
George Maschke writes: In January 2014, the chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit claimed that a criminal investigation he led, dubbed Operation Lie Busters, had revealed that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely detected. However, an archive of CBP "confirmed countermeasure" case files leaked to AntiPolygraph.org contradicts this claim. In the representative sample of 65 such cases, none can be considered "sophisticated." Instead, as with the 18 DIA cases published earlier, they constituted crude efforts by people who didn't know what they were doing.

Jury selection in the trial of Doug Williams, who has been indicted for teaching two undercover federal agents how to pass a polygraph test begins on Wednesday, May 6th. It appears the government will seek to exclude jurors with polygraph experience or concerns.

Link to Original Source

+ - Why Was Linux The Kernel That Succeeded?-> 2

Submitted by jones_supa
jones_supa writes: One of the most puzzling questions about the history of free and open source software is this: Why did Linux succeed so spectacularly, whereas similar attempts to build a free or open source, Unix-like operating system kernel met with considerably less success? Christopher Tozzi has rounded up some theories, focusing specifically on kernels, not complete operating systems. These theories take a detailed look at the decentralized development structure, pragmatic approach to things, and the rich developer community, all of which worked in favor of Linux.
Link to Original Source

+ - How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

Submitted by Presto Vivace
Presto Vivace writes: Dan Froomkin reports:

Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community’s “holy grail,” the Snowden documents describe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and “extract” the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest.

I am torn between admiration of the technical brilliance of building software like this and horror as to how it is being used.

Comment: The 1st version of Windows was a toy, (Score 2) 297

"GEM ... was pig awful, but better then Windows at the time."

GEM worked. It ran Ventura Publisher. I had investigated previous typesetting platforms; they cost $1.4 million.

The 1st version of Windows was just a toy, a dishonest suggestion that Microsoft should get respect, in my opinion. The second version of Windows had problems with fonts.

Far later, Windows 98 had an unstable file system.

MIcrosoft makes more money if its products have flaws.

+ - Did dinosaur-killing asteroid trigger largest lava flows on Earth?->

Submitted by Taco Cowboy
Taco Cowboy writes: What is known is that dinosaurs were killed off about 66 million years ago when an asteroid slammed into the ocean off Mexico

What is still unknown is the actual process

A team of geophysicists from the University of California, Berkeley think they have the answer

When that asteroid slammed into planet earth it probably rang the Earth like a bell, triggering volcanic eruptions around the globe which in turn contributed to massive scale of devastation everywhere on Earth

The timeline of the most immense eruptions of lava in India which is known as the Deccan Traps fell "uncomfortably close" to when the impact happened

"If you try to explain why the largest impact we know of in the last billion years happened within 100,000 years of these massive lava flows at Deccan ... the chances of that occurring at random are minuscule," said team leader Mark Richards, UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science. "It's not a very credible coincidence"

While the Deccan lava flows, which started before the impact but erupted for several hundred thousand years after re-ignition, probably spewed enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other noxious, climate-modifying gases into the atmosphere

Richards proposed in 1989 that plumes of hot rock, called "plume heads," rise through Earth's mantle every 20-30 million years and generate huge lava flows, called flood basalts, like the Deccan Traps. It struck him as more than coincidence that the last four of the six known mass extinctions of life occurred at the same time as one of these massive eruptions

"Paul Renne's group at Berkeley showed years ago that the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province is associated with the mass extinction at the Triassic/Jurassic boundary 200 million years ago, and the Siberian Traps are associated with the end Permian extinction 250 million years ago, and now we also know that a big volcanic eruption in China called the Emeishan Traps is associated with the end-Guadalupian extinction 260 million years ago," Richards said

"It's inconceivable that the impact could have melted a whole lot of rock away from the impact site itself, but if you had a system that already had magma and you gave it a little extra kick, it could produce a big eruption," said Michael Manga, a professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Earth and Planetary Science

Similarly, Deccan lava from before the impact is chemically different from that after the impact, indicating a faster rise to the surface after the impact, while the pattern of dikes from which the supercharged lava flowed

"There is a profound break in the style of eruptions and the volume and composition of the eruptions," said Paul Renne, a professor in residence in the UC Berkeley Department of Earth and Planetary Science and director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center. "The whole question is, 'Is that discontinuity synchronous with the impact?'

Richards, Renne and graduate student Courtney Sprain, along with Deccan volcanology experts Steven Self and Loyc Vanderkluysen, visited India in April 2014 to obtain lava samples for dating, and noticed that there are pronounced weathering surfaces, or terraces, marking the onset of the huge Wai subgroup flows

Geological evidence suggests that these terraces may signal a period of quiescence in Deccan volcanism prior to the Chicxulub impact. Apparently never before noticed, these terraces are part of the western Ghats, a mountain chain named after the Hindu word for "Steps"

"This was an existing massive volcanic system that had been there probably several million years, and the impact gave this thing a shake and it mobilized a huge amount of magma over a short amount of time," Richards said

"The beauty of this theory is that it is very testable, because it predicts that you should have the impact and the beginning of the extinction, and within 100,000 years or so you should have these massive eruptions coming out, which is about how long it might take for the magma to reach the surface"


Link to Original Source

+ - Former CEO Fiorina announces bid for White House->

Submitted by seven of five
seven of five writes: "Former Hewlett-Packard Co Chief Executive Carly Fiorina announced on Monday she is running for president, becoming the only woman in the pack of Republican candidates for the White House in 2016.

Once one of the most powerful women in the American corporate world, Fiorina announced her bid on ABC News' "Good Morning America" show.

"Yes, I am running for president. I think I'm the best person for the job because I understand how the economy actually works. I understand the world, who's in it, how the world works," she said.

Fiorina registers near the bottom of polls of the dozen or so Republican hopefuls and has never held public office.

But she has already attracted warm receptions at events in the early voting state of Iowa where she is positioning herself as a conservative, pro-business Republican highly critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina was forced by HP to resign in 2005 as the tech company struggled to digest Compaq after a $19 billion merger."

Cue all HP employees, current and former, who have nothing but love for Carly F.

Link to Original Source

+ - SurveyMonkey's CEO dies while vacationing with wife Susan Sanberg->

Submitted by McGruber
McGruber writes: Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com) and spouse of Facebook COO Sheryl K. Sandberg, died on Friday night. He was 47.

“We are heartbroken by this news,” Facebook said in a statement. Mark Zuckerberg, a friend of the family, said that Mr. Goldberg died while on vacation abroad with Ms. Sandberg.

Goldberg built Surveymonkey into a provider of web surveys on almost every topic imaginable, with 500 employees and 25 million surveys created. News reports said it was valued at nearly $2 billion when it raised a round of funding last year.

Link to Original Source

+ - Microsoft's AI Insults People By Telling Them How Old They Are->

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk writes: A Microsoft Research project that lets users upload photos and estimates their age and gender has attracted more attention than expected — not all of it complimentary.
The How-Old.net site demonstrates of some of the capabilities of the Face API included in Microsoft's Project Oxford that was announced at Build.
It may have been expected to be a source of amusement but instead it backfired when people started to upload their own photos and discovered just how wrong its estimates could be. It demonstrates not only that machine learning has a long way to go before it's good at estimating age, but also that machine learning may not be the most politically correct way to go about answering the question "How Old Do I look". It might be better to employ and algorithm that built in all the rules of how to make a polite answer to that request — such as always knock a decade off the age of anyone over 28.
Perhaps this particular neural network needs to learn some social skills before pronouncing how old people look.
However it is capable of telling some truths — a photo of Barak Obama in 2005 gives an estimated age of 46, close to his real age of 44, but just 9 years later in 2014 the age guessing robot places him at 65. It seems that Mr President aged 20 years in less than 10 years of office.
Any one want to be President?

Link to Original Source

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov

Working...