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British Police Stop 24/7 Monitoring of Julian Assange At Ecuadorian Embassy ( 312

Ewan Palmer writes with news that police are no longer guarding the Ecuadorian Embassy where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been taking refuge for the past three years. According to IBTImes: "London police has announced it will remove the dedicated officers who have guarded the Ecuadorian Embassy 24 hours a day, seven days a week while WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeks asylum inside. The 44-year-old has been holed up inside the building since 2012 in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. He believes that once he is in Sweden, he will be extradited again to the US where he could face espionage charges following the leaking of thousands of classified documents on his WikiLeaks website. Police has now decided to withdraw the physical presence of officers from outside the embassy as it is 'no longer proportionate to commit officers to a permanent presence'. It is estimated the cost of deploying the officers outside the Embassy in London all day for the past three years has cost the British taxpayer more than $18m."
United States

2016 Election Cycle Led By Billionaire Donors 364

Nicola Hahn writes: The pluralist stance of American politics contends that true power in the United States has been constitutionally vested in "the people" through mechanisms like the electoral process, freedom of speech, and the ability to establish political parties. The traditional view is that these aspects of our political system result in a broad distribution of power that prevents any one faction from gaining an inordinate amount of influence. And today the New York Times has revealed the shortcomings of this narrative by publishing the names of the 158 wealthy families that have donated almost half of the money spent towards the 2016 presidential race. This group of donors is primarily Republican and is dominated by interests in the banking industry. These facts lend credence to the idea that national policy making is influenced heavily by a relatively small group of people. That the American body politic is largely controlled by a deep state.

There Is No .bro In Brotli: Google/Mozilla Engineers Nix File Type As Offensive 767

theodp writes: Several weeks ago, Google launched Brotli, a new open source compression algorithm for the web. Since then, controversy broke out over the choice of 'bro' as the content encoding type. "We are hoping to establish a file ending .bro for brotli compressed files, a command line tool 'bro' for compressing and uncompressing brotli files, and a accept/content encoding type 'bro'," explained Google software engineer Jyrki Alakuijala. "Can I talk you out of it?," replied Mozilla SW engineer Patrick McManus. "'bro' has a gender problem, even though the dual meaning is unintentional. It comes of[f] misogynistic and unprofessional due to the world it lives in." Despite some pushback from commenters, a GitHub commit made by Google's Zoltan Szabadka shows that there will be no '.bro' in Brotli. "I have asked a feminist friend from the North American culture-sphere, and she advised against bro," explained Alakuijala. "We have found a compromise that satisfies us, so we don't need to discuss this further. Even if we don't understand why people are upset from our cultural standpoint, they would be (unnecessarily) upset and this is enough reason not to use it."

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 479

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

What Non-Geeks Hate About the Big Bang Theory 406

v3rgEz writes: It has been said that there is a lot to dislike about the Big Bang Theory, from the typical geek's point of view: It plays in stereotypes of geekdom for cheap laughs, makes non-sensical gags, and has a laugh track in 2015. But what does the rest of America (well, the part of America not making it the number one show on television) think? FCC complaints recently released accuse the show of everything from animal cruelty to subliminal messaging, demanding that the sitcom be ripped from the airwaves lest it ruin America. The full complaints for your reading pleasure.

Majority of EU Nations Seek Opt-Out From Growing GM Crops 330

schwit1 writes: Nineteen EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop, which is authorized to be grown in the European Union, the European Commission said on Sunday. Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified cultivation across the 28-nation EU. The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe. The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of Monsanto's GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially cultivated in the European Union, or for pending applications, of which there are eight so far, the Commission said.

How Steve Jobs Outsmarted Carly Fiorina 328 writes: Carly Fiorina likes to boast about her friendship with Apple founder Steve Jobs but Fortune Magazine reports that it turns out Carly may have outfoxed of by Apple's late leader. In January 2004, Steve Jobs and Carly Fiorina cut a deal where HP could slap its name on Apple's wildly successful iPod and sell it through HP retail channels but HP still managed to botch things up. The MP3 player worked just like a regular iPod, but it had HP's logo on the back and in return HP agreed to continue pre-loading iTunes onto its PCs. According to Steven Levy soon after the deal with HP was inked, Apple upgraded the iPod, making HP's version outdated and because of Fiorina's deal HP was banned from selling its own music player until August 2006. "This was a highly strategic move to block HP/Compaq from installing Windows Media Store on their PCs," says one Apple source. "We wanted iTunes Music store to be a definitive winner. Steve only did this deal because of that."

In short, Fiorina's "good friend" Steve Jobs blithely mugged her and HP's shareholders. By getting Fiorina to adopt the iPod as HP's music player, Jobs had effectively gotten his software installed on millions of computers for free, stifled his main competitor, and gotten a company that prided itself on invention to declare that Apple was a superior inventor.
The Courts

East Texas Judge Throws Out 168 Patent Cases 153

Earthquake Retrofit writes: Ars Technica is reporting that an East Texas judge has thrown out 168 patent cases in one fell swoop. The judge's order puts the most litigious patent troll of 2014, eDekka LLC, out of business. The ruling comes from a surprising source: U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other U.S. judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.

Google and Microsoft Agree To Stand Down In Patent Wars 43

_0x783czar writes: Today Google and Microsoft have announced an end to litigious hostilities between themselves; signaling another step on the road to peace as the "global smartphone wars" wind down. This moves settles 18 lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany, including those involving Motorola Mobility's patents, which Google retained after selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo. Both companies hope this move will help settle the smartphone wars and refocus their efforts on consumers. Reuters reports: "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers."

Foam-Eating Worms May Offer Solution To Mounting Waste 90

ckwu writes: Polystyrene foams—including products like Styrofoam—are rarely recycled, and the materials biodegrade so slowly that they can sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. But a pair of new studies shows that mealworms will dine on polystyrene foam when they can't get a better meal, converting almost half of what they eat into carbon dioxide. In one study, the researchers fed mealworms polystyrene foam and found that the critters converted about 48% of the carbon they ate into carbon dioxide and excreted 49% in their feces. In the second study, the researchers showed that bacteria in the mealworms' guts were responsible for breaking down the polystyrene--suggesting that engineering bacteria might be a strategy for boosting the reported biodegradation.

Houston's Gifted Education Program Biased Against Blacks and Latinos 445

tiberus sends an NPR report investigating the fairness of gifted and talented programs in Houston schools. Analysts believe black and hispanic students are at put at a disadvantage because of the way in which the program is run. Quoting: Donna Ford, at Vanderbilt University, thinks that put Isaac at a disadvantage. She's been researching gifted education for decades, and when it comes to Houston's program she says, "I think it's a clear case of segregation, gifted education being segregated by race and income." Houston school leaders asked Ford to take a close look at their enrollment in the program, and she gave it a failing grade. "Racial bias has to be operating, inequities are rampant. Discrimination does exist whether intentional or unintentional," she told the school board in May of this year. Ford found that both Hispanic and black students are underrepresented in gifted programs and that black students are missing out the most. She also found that about half the seats in those programs go to higher-income students, even though the majority of the district is poor.

Uber Raided By Dutch Authorities, Seen As 'Criminal Organization' 471

An anonymous reader writes: Uber offices in Amsterdam have been raided by Dutch authorities, as reported by several local media sources (Google translation of original in Dutch). This follows intimidatory deterrence practices earlier in The Netherlands, with Uber drivers being fined in the past months, and fresh allegations that the company would act as a "criminal organization" by offering a platform for taxi rides without license (read: without the authorities earning money from the practice). Time for tech companies to consider moving their European offices elsewhere? Uber's lawyers must be incredibly busy. Proposed regulations in London would effectively end the company's service there, while the mayor of Rio de Janeiro said he would ban Uber's operations outright. They're receiving mixed messages from Australia — just a day after running afoul of regulations in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory is moving to legalize it.

Snowden Joins Twitter, Follows NSA 206

wiredmikey writes: Edward Snowden joined Twitter Tuesday, picking up more than a quarter of a million followers on the social network in just over two hours. Snowden followed a single Twitter account: the U.S. National Security Agency, from which he stole electronic documents revealing the agency's secret surveillance programs. "Can you hear me now?" he asked in his first tweet, which was quickly resent by Twitter users tens of thousands of times. In his second, Snowden noted the recent news about the planet Mars and then quipped about the difficulty he had finding asylum after the U.S. government fingered him as the source of the NSA leaks. "And now we have water on Mars!" he wrote. "Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend."

New Nanoparticle Sunblock Is Stronger and Safer, Scientists Say 114

sciencehabit writes: What's the best sunscreen? It's a question that troubles beachgoers, athletes, and scientists alike. Mark Saltzman, who falls into the last category, was so concerned by the time his third child was born that he wanted to engineer a better sunblock. "The initial goal was to make a sunblock that lasted longer," says Saltzman, a biomedical engineer at Yale University. "But as I read more about sunscreen, I became aware of people's concerns about safety." Now, he and his colleagues have unveiled the results of their research: a nanoparticle-based sunblock, which they say is longer lasting and less likely to leak into the body than traditional sunscreen.

Edward Snowden Promotes Global Treaty To Curtail Surveillance 110

An anonymous reader writes: In a video appearance, Edward Snowden said domestic digital spying on ordinary citizens is an international threat that will only be slowed with measures like a proposed international treaty declaring privacy a basic human right. "This is not a problem exclusive to the United States.... This is a global problem that affects all of us. What's happening here happens in France, it happens in the U.K., it happens in every country, every place, to every person," he said.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen