Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Submission Summary: 0 pending, 87 declined, 47 accepted (134 total, 35.07% accepted)

Submission EU - Interpol Hosts "E-waste" Conference During Forced Accra Shanty Evictions->

retroworks writes: On June 25-26, at International INTERPOL headquarters in Lyons, France, a conference called "Countering WEEE Illegal Trade" is taking place. CWIT will brief customs agents and EU policymakers on the crime of exporting "secondhand" electronic devices, which they say will eventually wind up in areas like Agbogbloshie in Ghana or Guiyu in China. Speakers include and its controversial source, Mike Anane (who coined term Sodom and Gomorrah for Agbogbloshie and claimed 80% of imports are dumped there).

A report linked at CWIT's website, however, admits only 7% of used electronics imported to Ghana are dumped, rather than 80-90%: "Nevertheless, 14 % of the imported e-equipment (equalling around 30,000 t) was not functioning in 2009. While half of this volume was reparable, the other half was clearly in a condition beyond repair (see Figure 2)."

New investigations of Agbogbloshie "e-waste dump" have found little or no evidence of the dumping claims. Adam Minter, author of 2014 bestseller Junkyard Planet, wrote "Anatomy of a Myth" this week. African blogger Emmanuel Nyalete also visited Agbogbloshie, and pointed out that African teledensity (per World Bank) could not have grown at double and triple digits per year if imports had not been reused.

Is it too late for CWIT and Interpol to reverse course? While UK imprisons African importers (see slashdot story on Joe Benson (who purchased used tech on behalf of buyers in Africa), African activists in Agbogbloshie are reporting that the real reason for the "dumping story" is a land grab. It will soon be too late to investigate further — Ghana developers began forced evictions, and bulldozed the scrapyard and surrounding shantytown late yesterday. Photos armed police evicting the recyclers appear this AM on Twitter, and at and in this blog

Link to Original Source

Submission Uber's Rise in China May Be Counterfeit->

retroworks writes: Josh Horwitz' story in Quartz today reports both the apparent rapid success of Uber adaptation in China, and a queasy footnote for shareholders applauding the rapid growth. While China is a natural ride-sharing haven, it also has a tradition of gaming the western system.

"Accomplices can sit in their apartments, disable location settings, and specify a pickup not far from the actual location of driver’s vehicle, the report said. The driver then accepts the hail, and goes on a trip without a passenger. After the accomplice approves payment, the driver will – hopefully – pay back the fee and share a cut of the bonus. It’s not the most clever get-rich scheme on the planet. But for drivers, it’s better than waiting for a hail in a parking lot."

Uber's spokeswoman told the Quartz writer that the company has an on-the-ground team who investigate into these various type of fraud, then uses "deep analytics, and new tools developed by our Chinese engineers in our dedicated fraud team to combat against such fraud.” The Uber spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the nature of these tools.

Link to Original Source

Submission Scientists just automated light-based computers ->

retroworks writes: Integrated photonic devices are poised to play a key role in a wide variety of applications, ranging from optical interconnects and sensors to quantum computing. However, only a small library of semi-analytically designed devices is currently known. In the article in Nature Photonics, researchers demonstrate the use of an inverse design method that explores the full design space of fabricable devices and allows them to design devices with previously unattainable functionality, higher performance and robustness, and smaller footprints than conventional devices. The designed a silicon wavelength demultiplexer splits 1,300nm and 1,550nm light from an input waveguide into two output waveguides, and the team has fabricated and characterized several devices. The devices display low insertion loss (2dB), low crosstalk (100nm). The device footprint is 2.8×2.8m2, making this the smallest dielectric wavelength splitter.
Link to Original Source

Submission Africa E-Waste Dump Continues Hyperbole War->

retroworks writes: Two stories appear today which feature close up photos of young African men surrounded by scrap metal in the city of Accra. The headlines state that this is where our computers go to die (Wired). The Daily Mail puts it in even starker terms, alleging "millions of tons" are dumped in Agbogbloshie.

The stories appear the same day as a press release by investigators who returned this week from 3 weeks at the site. The release claims that Agbogbloshie's depiction as the worlds "largest ewaste dump site" to be a hoax. It is a scrap automobile yard which accounts for nothing more than local scrap from Accra. Three Dagbani language speaking electronics technicians, three reporters, Ghana customs officials and yours truly visited the site, interviewed workers about the origins of the material, and assessed volumes. About 27 young men burn wire, mostly from automobile scrap harnesses. The electronics — 20 to 50 items per day — are collected from Accra businesses and households. The majority of Accra (population 5M) have had televisions since the 1990s, according to World Bank metadata (over 80% by 2003).

The investigation did confirm that most of the scrap was originally imported used, and that work conditions were poor. However, the equipment being recycled had been repaired and maintained, typically for a decade (longer than the original OECD owner). It is a fact that used goods will, one day, eventually become e-waste. Does that support a ban on the trade in used goods to Africa? Or, as the World Bank reports, is the affordable used product essential to establish a critical mass of users so that investment in highways, phone towers, and internet cable can find necessary consumers?

Link to Original Source

Submission #EWastegate: Nigerian ExPat TV repairman still in UK jail despite retraction->

retroworks writes: What could possibly be worse than dumping 75%-80% of obsolete used "e-waste" in African dumps to be burned by children scavenging wires? What could be worse than violating international law?

How about lying that the crimes occurred in the first place?

Ghanain Emmanuel Nyaletey, an electronics repair technician who grew up a few blocks away from Agbogbloshie, has published an editorial questioning why the press has failed to correct its false reporting on the "e-waste export crisis". In April, Nyaletey will fly back to Ghana, with reporters, working on a documentary of the "e-waste hoax".

Seven months after the prison sentence for UK-based, Nigerian born TV repairman Joe Benson, the original source (Basel Action Network) of the "world's largest e-waste dump" story (Agbogbloshie scrapyard in Accra, Ghana) denies ever, ever stating that it has knowledge of foreign dumping in Africa. After the Guardian and the Independent and BBC ran stories claiming to follow "cut wires", UNEP studies of the "seized containerloads" found a range of 85%-93% of used electronics imported to Ghana and Nigeria were repaired or reused. The UN funded study found that the used electronics were more likely to be used than brand new product (raising questions of how much ESD "waste" is being resold after warranty return), that cities in Emerging Markets were generating up to 1/3 per capita as much electronic scrap as OECD nations (which would make them a larger net source than the West). Further, the study found that "geeks of color" like Nyaletey who repair and repurpose western imports earn six times more than the national average wages for their home nation (Nigeria, Ghana studies). Nyaletey painstakingly documents the findings from the 2011 and 2012 UN funded studies, and questions why white environmentalists are still trying to "save Africa" from reuse and repair.

2012 Study of Nigeria "E-Waste Assessment"
2011 Study of Ghana "E-Waste Assessment"

While the environmental organization BAN now denies being the source of the "80% waste" statistic, Memorial University researcher Josh Lepawsky has tracked the organizations orphaned statistic through peer-reviewed reports on "e-waste exports" over the past 15 years, and found it to be one of the most frequent citations in scholarly research on the topic.

If not from western "waste ships", what IS the source of the electronics shown at the African dumps? Cities like Accra and Lagos have millions of households with television (and refrigerators, and computers, etc.). World Bank estimated in 2003 that Nigeria had over 6 million households with television. Twenty six percent of Ghana households had televisions 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, 3 separate documentaries are in the works based on interviews with "Hurricane" Joe Benson. Benson has provided documentation that his cost of shipping, per unit, was much greater than scrap value, and has documented how he returned unrepairable appliances back to UK recycling centers free of charge, saying there is no earthly motive to ship waste. A petition to #freejoebenson will be circulated by Nyaletey in Ghana, and is now available online

Link to Original Source

Submission Instant Powdered Acohol: Approved for Sale->

retroworks writes: From Motherboard.vice:

"The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has given the greenlight to Palcohol, a powdered alcohol that you mix with water to make, well, liquid alcohol. The TTB had already approved the product for sale last year but almost immediately backtracked on that decision, saying the approval had been “issued in error.”

"TTB spokesperson Tom Hogue today said the approval is only based on whether or not the label on the product matches what’s actually inside, according to the Associated Press. Palcohol sorted out the labelling issues since last year and so four flavors of Palcohol are now approved for legal sale."

Link to Original Source

Submission Craig Brittain (Revenge Porn King) Sues for Use of Image->

retroworks writes: Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey leads with "Revenge-porn impresario Craig Brittain is learning the hard way that karma is a real witch."

The report states that the Federal Trade Commission has settled a complaint against Brittain, whose defunct site, "Is Anybody Down" was accused of unfair business practices. TFA: "The site paid its bills by soliciting women’s nude photos on Craigslist and/or from their exes, publishing the photos without the women’s permission (and often with their names and phone numbers attached), and then charging fees of $200 to $500 to take the photos down."

Brittain agreed to destroy the image and never operate a revenge porn site again. However, On Feb. 9, "Brittain filed a takedown request to Google, demanding that the search engine stop linking to nearly two dozen URLs — including a number of news articles, and files on the case from the FTC — because they used photos of him and information about him without his permission."

Ars Technica explains. “In this instance,” writes David Kravets, “fair use and general First Amendment principles are on Google’s and the media’s side.”

Link to Original Source

Submission World Commerce Shifting East to Dubai->

retroworks writes: Hans Rosling, one of the most influential speakers at TED talks during the past 2 years, presented to the UAE Government Summit 2015 in Dubai. Rosling, Co-Founder of Gapminder [], said that population growth in Africa and Asia would push the center of focus from Europe to Dubai.

Using raw data from the UN to base his predictions, Dr Rosling said of the world’s current population of seven billion, one billion live in the Americas, one billion live in Africa, one billion live in Europe, and four billion live in Asia. By the year 2050, the European population will decline through a dip in new births but the African population will double to two billion, and Asia’s population will climb to over five billion people.

"By year 2100, America would have less than 10 per cent of the world’s population while 80 per cent of the population would be in Africa and Asia. The surge in population growth in Africa and Asia would make Dubai the centre of the world by 2100," Dr Rosling predicted.

Rosling's analysis is based on a very positive prognosis for world growth. "The world over, in all countries, two-child families has become the norm. "Families and governments are today keen on supporting the young population with education and better facilities. The emerging market of the world is the young couple in any country with their ambitions and dreams. These young couples are the driving force behind the changes in the world," Dr. Rosling said. In his TED talk, Rosling pokes fun of the stereotypes of "third world" countries, which he associates with the press' obsession with leading with bad news.

Link to Original Source

Submission Why Farmers Can't Repair Tractors->

retroworks writes: First we had "planned obsolescence", the term coined by Vance Packard in 1960's bestseller "The Waste Makers". Next we had EULA agreements. Today, even farm tractor owners are not allowed to fix their agricultural equipment with wire and duct tape. Maker/Fixer Kyle Wiens of IFIXIT writes about trying to hack a neighbor's harvester, without success, in Wired News.
Link to Original Source

Submission Google vs. Cablevision: Rush to turn Wireless Industry "On its head"->

retroworks writes: WSJ reports on a race between Google (partnered with Sprint and T-Moble) and Cablevision to offer monthly "wifi only" cell phone service plans which would dramatically decrease the costs of monthly data and phone services for people living in cities with strong wifi infrastructure. The report emphasizes Google's caution in not creating enemies out of the cell phone companies (whom they need to support Android OS).

I remember the idea pitched in Burlington, VT over ten years ago. FTA

"Both efforts face substantial challenges—from stitching individual Wi-Fi hot spots into a reliable network to handling new customer-relations issues. And there is no guarantee the services would catch on with subscribers. Still, Google and Cablevision are throwing their weight behind an idea that up to this point has been pursued only by a handful of startups with names like FreedomPop, Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless."

Link to Original Source

Submission Patriots "Deflate-gate" Could be Done Legally->

retroworks writes: The American football (NFL) rules were not written by physicists. They prescribe the rules that teams must follow to inflate the football. Some quarterbacks like the footballs tight, others softer for easier grip, but the rules define 12.5-13.5 pounds. During their winning game against the Baltimore Colts, the New England Patriots were accused of supplying a football or footballs which were under-inflated, potentially (?) giving their quarterback (Tom Brady) an advantage during the game.

Dr. Allen Sanderson, a research scientist at the University of Utah, told USA TODAY, "We think this is naturally occurring." A good cheater (like the Patriots are accused of being) could inflate the ball to NFL standards — inside a hot room. While defenders of the Patriots have suggested cold climate could explain the de-flation, it would have affected all of the footballs... unless (as Sanderson explains) the Patriots thought of filling the ball — legally — inside a hotter room.

Link to Original Source

Submission First Baby Galapogos Tortoises Sighted in 150 Years->

retroworks writes: The Guardian, Nature, and other periodicals cover a report by Dr. James Gibbs of the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF) on the recent Pinzon Island population survey of giant tortoises. The survey of Galapogos (which means "tortoise" in Spanish) turned up the first reported sightings of baby tortoises in 150 years. Gibbs attributes the hopeful signs to a 2012 program to exterminate or control invasive rats, which are blamed for the low fertility rates, along with a 1982 repatriation of fertile tortoises from zoos. However, it's also possible, according to the article, that the researchers are just looking harder. The rare sightings may simply correlate with more frequent population surveys.

Link to Original Source

Submission Ocean Floor Mining May Lead to Mass Extinction->

retroworks writes: There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, according to research published in the journal Science.
Overharvesting, warming, and large-scale habitat loss are likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint. Ocean floor mining contracts, the paper says, could be the last straw.

Link to Original Source

Submission FBI Recruits Hackers, But Cannot Hire Them If They Inhaled-> 1

retroworks writes: Motherboard reports on how US Congress directives against hiring pot users collides with FBI's need to recruit cyber security experts. The FBI now says that its drug-testing policies are keeping experts off the payroll.

“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” says FBI Director James Coney.

"[We have] the government hiring practices of the 1940s and 50s in the 21st century," Gregory Wilshusen, director of information at the General Accountability Office, is quoted from a linked article at InformationWeek.

Link to Original Source

Submission Thunderstrike Malware Crushes any MacIntosh Into Apple-Sauce->

retroworks writes: Matthew Braga of Motherboard writes an article on a new "proof-of-concept" virus developed in Germany to demonstrate how Apple computers can be given an undetectible, uncleanable case of keylogging.

"Thunderstrike is a new proof-of-concept attack on Mac computers that was unveiled by programmer and hardware hacker Trammell Hudson at the annual Chaos Communication Congress last month—a well-known conference in Germany attended by hackers and digital activists worldwide. What makes Thunderstrike so different from your typical malware infection isn't how it's installed, but where. Rather than infect a computer's operating system, Thunderstrike targets the software that sits underneath—the firmware or BIOS."

The virus is similar to NSA reverse-engineered firmware-malware, such as StuccoMontana. (described

Link to Original Source

"Confound these ancestors.... They've stolen our best ideas!" - Ben Jonson