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Social Networks

Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage? 371 371

RedK writes: Connie St-Louis, on June 8th, reported on apparently sexist remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize winning scientist, during an event organised for women in sciences. This led to the man's dismissal from his stations, all in such urgency that he did not even have time to present his side, nor was his side ever offered any weight. A leaked report a few days later suggests that the remarks were taken out of context. Further digging shows that the accuser has distorted the truth in many cases it seems. This is not the first time that people may have jumped the gun too soon on petty issues and ruined great events or careers.
The Media

Journalist Burned Alive In India For Facebook Post Exposing Corruption 219 219

arnott writes: Journalist Jagendra Singh used a Facebook page to expose corruption in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Though he posted under a pseudonym, he was quickly found and burned alive by police, allegedly on the order of the minister accused. He died a week later from his injuries. This is not the first case of a journalist being attacked in this state. Amnesty International had urged the local government to launch an official investigation, and now five policemen and a politician have been brought up on murder charges. What can Facebook or other companies do to help these journalists report on corruption in a safe manner?
Government

Cuba Forms a CS Professional Society -- It's No ACM 43 43

lpress writes: The formation of the Unión de Informáticos de Cuba (UIC) was announced at a Havana conference and a 7,500 person teleconference (no mean feat in Cuba). My first reaction was "cool — like a Cuban ACM," but there are significant differences between ACM and UIC. For example, one must apply to the Ministry of Communication to be accepted into the UIC and the application form asks about membership in political organizations like the Communist Party or Young Communists League along with technical qualifications. A CS degree is required (sorry Bill Gates). UIC members must be Cuban, while ACM has chapters in 57 nations. ACM has student chapters, but they are less needed in Cuba, which has over 600 youth computer clubs where kids take classes and play games and promising students are tracked and channeled into technical schools.
Space

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Urges America To Challenge China To a Space Race 275 275

An anonymous reader writes: According to a Tuesday story in the UK edition of the International Business Times, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist and media personality, advocates a space race between the United States and China. The idea is that such a race would spur innovation and cause industry to grow. The Apollo race to the moon caused a similar explosive period of scientific research and engineering development. You might prefer the Sydney Morning Herald piece on which the IB Times article is based.
The Almighty Buck

Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour 1094 1094

HughPickens.com 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."
Education

Led By Zuckerberg, Billionaires Give $100M To Fund Private Elementary Schools 227 227

theodp writes: AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled private elementary school initiative started by an ex-Googler, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by established VC firms and high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, John Doerr, and Pierre Omidyar. AltSchool uses proprietary software that provides students with a personalized playlist lesson that teachers can keep close tabs on. Currently, a few hundred students in four Bay Area classrooms use AltSchool tech. Three more California classrooms, plus one in Brooklyn, are expected to come online this fall, plus one in Brooklyn. "We believe that every child should have access to an exceptional, personalized education that enables them to be happy and successful in an ever-changing world," reads AltSchool's mission statement. For $28,750-a-year, your kid can be one of them right now. Eventually, the plan is for the billionaire-bankrolled education magic to trickle down. AltSchool's pitch to investors, according to NPR, is that one day, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to its software platform.
Canada

Quebec Plans To Require Website Blocking, Studies New Internet Access Tax 237 237

An anonymous reader writes: Michael Geist reports that the Government of Quebec released its budget (PDF) yesterday featuring two Internet-related measures that are sure to attract attention and possible litigation. First, it is moving forward with plans to study a new tax on residential Internet services in order to provide support for the cultural sector. Second, the government says it will be introducing a new law requiring ISPs to block access to online gambling sites. The list of blocked sites will be developed by Loto-Quebec, a government agency. The government views this as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to channel gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the government's own online gaming site.
Programming

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 522 522

Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.
Earth

Imagining the Future History of Climate Change 495 495

HughPickens.com writes "The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called "The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future," that takes the point of view of a historian in 2393 explaining how "the Great Collapse of 2093" occurred. "Without spoiling the story," Oreskes said in an interview, "I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings" about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.

Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."

Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists.""
Education

Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment 608 608

theodp writes After an NPR podcast fingered the marketing of computers to boys as the culprit behind the declining percentages of women in undergraduate CS curricula since 1984 (a theory seconded by Smithsonian mag), some are concluding that NPR got the wrong guy. Calling 'When Women Stopped Coding' quite engaging, but long on Political Correctness and short on real evidence, UC Davis CS Prof Norm Matloff concedes a sexist element, but largely ascribes the gender lopsidedness to economics. "That women are more practical than men, and that the well-publicized drastic swings in the CS labor market are offputting to women more than men," writes Matloff, and "was confirmed by a 2008 survey in the Communications of the ACM" (related charts of U.S. unemployment rates and Federal R&D spending in the '80s). Looking at the raw numbers of female CS grads instead of percentages, suggests there wasn't a sudden and unexpected disappearance of a generation of women coders, but rather a dilution in their percentages as women's growth in undergrad CS ranks was far outpaced by men, including a boom around the time of the dot-com boom/bust.
Government

Comcast Executives Appear To Share Cozy Relationships With Regulators 63 63

v3rgEz (125380) writes A month before Comcast's announcement of a $45B takeover of rival Time-Warner, Comcast's top lobbyist invited the US government's top antitrust regulators to share the company's VIP box at the Sochi Olympics. A Freedom of Information Act request from Muckrock reveals that the regulators reluctantly declined, saying "it sounds like so much fun" but the pesky "rules folks" would frown on it, instead suggesting a more private dinner later.

Comment: Re:The Cloud is Ruining Home Automation (Score 0) 90 90

An update pipeline, backed by a company with a good development methodology, is the best insurance against long-standing unplugged security holes. Look at all of the terrible, abandoned consumer routers full of security holes, for instance.

That said, before many folks are willing to such companies and their products into our homes, they need to earn our trust.

You *do* have ultimate control. You can elect to not buy the product, go with a competitor, or use an entirely different class of product entirely.

Comment: Property (and Privacy) Rights (Score 1) 90 90

This is why proper privacy and property rights must properly legally extend to data hosted in cloud services.

The private companies that offer cloud-based services are not what worry me. There are a lot of sound economic reasons (see: the devops movement) for why this kind of product architecture (where a physical product, coupled with always-on connectivity and a remote cloud-hosted service) makes a whole lot of sense. There are a lot of market incentives for these companies to clearly delineate what they will and will not use the data (and sensors) for. Moreover, there can be a large degree of diversity between the various single-function cloud services one uses (even if Nest was recently acquired by Google). People care about their privacy, but they also balance it against the utility these kinds of products offer. I have a Nest Protect, and I'm comfortable trusting it a lot more than a regular standalone. Thus, they *consent* to the introduction of such technology into their lives, with the entirely reasonable expectation of benefit.

Another great example is the Tesla Model S, which is so dependent on cloud-services that it comes with a bundled 3G modem and data plan.

However, governments see the concentrated user data in data-centers on their soil as entirely too delicious to ignore. Not only does the immediately visible claim of increased security ("we could have caught the terrorists!") tend to outweigh the more general argument for individual property and privacy rights in the political sphere, but institutional incentives on the part of powerful government agencies and their contractors to grow their mandate mean that they'll heavily lobby for such intrusions.

I think most of us geeks grew up terrified of the very idea of the Orwellian Telescreen. However, it's not the technology that's evil (many of us have plenty of devices with a camera integrated with a display), but the threat of its use without consent.

Google

Google and Facebook: Unelected Superpowers? 243 243

theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google — and to a lesser extent, Facebook — are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"
The Almighty Buck

The Billionaires Privatizing American Science 279 279

An anonymous reader writes "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States. With the unstable economy over the past decade and the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric, basic research money is getting hard to find. Part of the gap is being filled by billionaire philanthropists. Steven Edwards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, 'For better or worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.' Vast amounts of research are now driven by names like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Eric Schmidt. While this helps in some ways, it can hurt in others. 'Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration. ... Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good.'"

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban

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