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Is Computer Science Education Racist and Sexist? 612

theodp writes "What's wrong with this picture?" asked Code.org at its launch earlier this year, lamenting the lack of Computer Science students in a race and gender reference-free infographic. But as the organization has grown via public/private partnerships and inked agreements to drive the CS curriculum for the Chicago and NYC school systems, the same stats webpage has adopted a new gender and racial equity focus, positioning Computer Science education as "a chance to level the playing field" for women, Hispanic and African American students. The new message is consistent with the recently-forged Code.org partnership with the NSF-funded Exploring Computer Science (ECS, "a K-12/university partnership committed to democratizing computer science") and Computer Science Principles (CSP, "a new course under development that seeks to broaden participation in computing and computer science"). According to The Research Behind ECS, an "insidious 'virtual segregation' that maintains inequality" is to blame for keeping the number of African Americans and Latino/as CS students disproportionately low. So, what might the future of Code.org's proposed equity-based U.S. K-12 CS education look like? "Including culturally relevant instructional materials represented a driving focus of our course development," explained ECS Team members who now advise Code.org. "Cultural design tools encourage students to artistically express computing design concepts from Latino/a, African American, or Native American history as well as cultural activities in dance, skateboarding, graffiti art, and more. These types of lessons are important for students to build personal relationships with computer science concepts and applications – an important process for discovering the relevance of computer science for their own life." And — ironically for Code.org — it could mean less coding."

Science Museum Declines To Show Climate Change Film 398

sciencehabit writes "A premier science museum in North Carolina has sparked controversy by refusing to show an hour long film about climate change and rising sea levels. The museum may be in a bit of a delicate position. It is part of a state agency, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The state government has been perceived as hostile to action on climate change; last year, the legislature passed a bill forbidding the state coastal commission from defining rates of sea-level rise for regulation before 2016."

Boy Scouts Bully Hacker Scouts Into Submission 289

b1tbkt writes "Youth-focused Maker organization 'Hacker Scouts' has announced their decision to surrender their name due to bullying by the Boy Scouts of America. It appears that BSA has interpreted their federal charter to include a claim on any and all use of the term 'Scout' in an organization's name. The litmus test for such a claim, so far as I'm aware, is the likelihood of causing confusion. The term 'Scout' is sufficiently generic, though, and by this reasoning most every airline in the world would need to eliminate 'Airlines' from their name."

Dentist Who Used Copyright To Silence Her Patients Drops Out of Sight 260

According to a report at Ars Technica, a dentist named Stacy Makhnevich, who billed herself as "the Classical Singer Dentist of New York," threatened patients who wrote bad Yelp reviews with lawsuits, along the same lines as the online dental damage-control outlined in a different Ars story in 2011. This time, though, there's something even stranger than bargaining with patients to forgo criticism: when a patient defied that demand by describing his experience in negative terms on Yelp, Makhnevich followed up on the threat by seeking a takedown order based on copyright (putatively signed over to her for any criticism that patients might write, post-visit) — then disappeared entirely when lawyers for patient Robert Lee filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the validity of the agreement.

How I Got Fired From the Job I Invented 252

New submitter frost_knight writes "Travel blogger Turner Barr discovered that his entire brand, image, and web personality has been hijacked by a multi-billion dollar company for use in a marketing campaign. 'The video for their marketing campaign was particularly creepy for me, as even my age and personality didn’t escape the level of detail spent on creating this doppelganger (they used a paid actor of course). ... I’m no longer even the first thing that comes up when you Google my brand name. I’ve turned down work opportunities and put on hold any future travel job plans to deal with lawyers, long distance phone calls, corporate executives and other such nonsense — all along feeling misled and patronized. This situation has been extremely confusing for not only myself, but also for participants in company’s marketing campaign who message me thinking that I am am part of the company.'"

Ask Slashdot: Is the Bar Being Lowered At Universities? 605

An anonymous reader writes "I am in my late 20s, live in the U.S., work in the IT industry, and am going to school to upgrade from an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree. One of my classes is a web-based course that requires students to write blogs. I am not attending one of those questionable for-profit schools. This is a large, state-funded, public university. In this course I have noticed poor writing skills are the norm rather than the exception. It is a 3rd year course, so students should have successfully completed some sort of writing course prior to this one. Blog posts, which students are graded on, tend to be very poorly written. They are not organized into paragraphs, have multiple run-on sentences, and sometimes don't make sense. I do not know what grades they are receiving for these posts. Slashdot, is what I am seeing the exception, or the norm? Is the bar being lowered for university students, or am I just expecting too much?"

The Top Paying Tech Companies For Interns 133

theodp writes "For those students for whom it's all about the Benjamins, BusinessInsider's Alyson Shontell has compiled a nice list of 20 Tech Companies That Pay Interns Boatloads Of Money. 'If you intern for a high-profile tech company,' notes Shontell, 'you can make more money than the average US citizen. Facebook, for example, pays its average intern $6,056 per month. That ends up being a base salary of about $72,000 per year.' Sure beats making a 'measly' $5,808 per month at LinkedIn, where you might find yourself having to participate in embarrassing sing-a-longs and Flash Mobs!"

Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles 686

Hugh Pickens writes "Facing a $10 billion revenue shortfall for transportation financing, the Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a bill to require drivers with a vehicle getting at least 55 miles per gallon of gasoline to pay a per-mile tax after 2015 to offset the loss in tax revenue for fuel efficient cars at the gas pump, where the government has traditionally collected money to build and fix roads. Oregonians currently pay 30 cents per gallon, a tax that is automatically added at the pump, but as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel sources are identified, state officials project gas tax revenue will decline. 'Everybody uses the road, and if some pay and some don't, then that's an unfair situation that's got to be resolved,' says Jim Whitty of the Department of Transportation. Opponents of the Oregon proposal say it will hurt a new industry. 'It will be one more obstacle that the industry and auto dealers will face in convincing consumers to buy these new cars,' says Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Other states, such as Nevada and Washington, are also looking at a per-mile charge and a Washington law that would charge electric car owners an annual fee goes into effect in February. Oregon did a pilot study of the mileage tax (PDF) where participants paid 1.56 cents per mile and got a credit for any gasoline tax they paid at the pump. Although initial media portrayals of the system were almost uniformly negative, 91% of test participants preferred the mileage tax to paying gas taxes."

Congressional Committee Casts a Harsh Eye On Vaccination Science 858

The Bad Astronomer writes "A recent hearing of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform became a bully pulpit for antivaccination rhetoric when Representatives Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) made speeches connecting vaccines to autism — a connection that medical experts have shown does not exist. Although there were actual medical researchers there as witnesses, they were mostly berated by the Congressmen on the panel. Vaccines are one of the most successful medical advancements in human history, having saved hundreds of millions of lives, and after copious studies have been shown to have no connection with autism. Despite this, a vocal antivax lobby exists, including, clearly, members of Congress. In part this is why preventable and potentially fatal diseases like pertussis and measles are once again on the rise."

Sweet Times For Cows As Gummy Worms Replace Corn Feed 432

PolygamousRanchKid writes "As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year's U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed. In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn. Operators must be careful to follow detailed nutritional analyses for their animals to make sure they are getting a healthy mix of nutrients, animal nutritionists caution. But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can't. The candy and cookies are only a small part of a broad mix of alternative feed offerings for cattle. Many operators use distillers grains, a byproduct that comes from the manufacture of ethanol."

NASA's Own Video of Curiosity Landing Crashes Into a DMCA Takedown 597

derekmead writes "NASA's livestream coverage of the Curiosity rover's landing on Mars was practically as flawless as the landing itself. But NASA couldn't prepare for everything. An hour or so after Curiosity's 1.31 a.m. EST landing in Gale Crater,the space agency's main YouTube channel had posted a 13-minute excerpt of the stream. Ten minutes later, the video was gone, replaced with the message: 'This video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.' That is to say, a NASA-made video posted on NASA's official YouTube channel, documenting the landing of a $2.5 billion Mars rover mission paid for with public taxpayer money, was blocked by YouTube because of a copyright claim by a private news service."

Zimmerman Charged With 2nd-Degree Murder 995

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin, was charged with second-degree murder. He faces up to life in prison if convicted in the shooting. From the article: "Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges but would not discuss how she arrived at them or disclose other details of her investigation, saying: 'That's why we try cases in court.' Second-degree murder is typically brought in cases when there is a fight or other confrontation that results in death and but does [not] involve a premeditated plan to kill. Corey would not disclose Zimmerman's whereabouts for his safety but said that he will be in court within 24 hours."
United States

Submission + - "Russians hacking our water pumps" was false alarm (bbc.co.uk)

fantomas writes: Remember the news that foreign hackers had disrupted US infrastructure, hacking into a water pump and overriding its controls? The Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (ISTIC) claimed cyber attackers had obtained access using stolen login names and passwords. Well the BBC reports that it was a false alarm..Turns out the pumps were reset by the water engineer responsible for the pumps, who was on holiday in Russia at the time. "A quick and simple phone call to me right away would have defused the whole thing immediately," said the engineer, Jim Mimlitz. However, security experts warn that a real attack might happen some time in the future.

Hybrids Safer In Crashes — Except For Pedestrians 392

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Hybrid vehicles are safer than their conventional counterparts when it comes to shielding their occupants from injuries in crashes with the odds of being injured in a crash 25 percent lower for people in hybrids than people traveling in comparable non-hybrid vehicles. "Weight is a big factor," says Matt Moore, of the Highway Loss Data Institute. 'Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don't have.' The study's findings are good news for green-minded drivers who are also looking for safety in their cars, but it's worth noting that hybrid vehicles are much quieter than gas-powered cars, posing a risk to pedestrians. "When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can't hear them approaching," says Moore. Earlier this year, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to come up with a requirement for equipping hybrids and electric models with sounds to alert unsuspecting pedestrians."

Is There an Institutional Bias Against Black Tech Entrepreneurs? 645

An anonymous reader writes sends this excerpt from CNN: "The vast majority of top executives at the leading Silicon Valley tech firms are white men. Women and Asians have made some inroads, but African-American and Latino tech leaders remain a rarity. About 1% of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of last year are black, according to a study by research firm CB Insights. ... 'The tech industry is pretty clubby,' said Hank Williams, an African-American entrepreneur in the NewMe program who had success in the Internet boom of the 1990s. 'There are really no people of color in Silicon Valley.' Others say the issue could be rooted deep within the black community. The NewMe co-founders said African-American families don't typically encourage business leaders or programmers to pursue interests in tech."

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982