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Contractors or Not, Seattle Uber Drivers Might Get Collective Bargaining 120

The Seattle Times reports on a development in Seattle that might have implications for other cities with contentious relationships with transportation coordinating services like Uber. Seattle councilman Mike O'Brien has proposed a system under which drivers for Lyft, Uber, and similar companies would be represented in collective bargaining agreements with the companies they do work for. The proposal would require taxi companies, for-hire vehicle companies and app-based ride-dispatch companies, including Uber and Lyft, to negotiate agreements with drivers on issues such as payment and working conditions. The approach would be novel because of the drivers’ employment status. The National Labor Relations Act gives employees, but not independent contractors, the right to bargain as a union. ... Under O’Brien’s plan, a nonprofit organization would need to show support from a majority of a company’s drivers to be designated by the city as their bargaining representative. The organization would use a list of drivers provided by the company.

Tesla's NOx Problem: Model X Delay Explained? (dailykanban.com) 42

An anonymous reader writes: It may not have come as a surprise that the NOx emissions violations discovered in some of Volkswagen's diesel engines have led to similar findings in cars from several other manufacturers. However, Daily Kanban's Edward Niedermeyer has discovered that a seemingly unlikely car maker has also received a Notice of Violation for NOx emissions: a thermal oxidizer used in Tesla's Fremont, CA plant produces far more of the reactive gases than the permit allows. According to Niedermeyer, the device is located at the paint shop destined for the Model X production and this environmental problem could well be the leading cause for the delay.

Pressure From Uber Forces London Taxis To Finally Accept Cards (thestack.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: Following a public consultation that compared the service unfavorably with Uber, London's 21,000 black cabs will finally accept card payment from October of 2016, with a possible option to pay via PayPal. London Mayor Boris Johnson continues to support and defend the legendarily expensive and iconic taxi service, saying 'This move will boost business for cabbies and bring the trade into the 21st century by enabling quicker and more convenient journeys for customers'. Most Londoners feel that the move should have been made in the 1980s, and the consultation report indicates that Uber's increasing share of London fares has forced the innovation.

Google Scours 1.2 Million URLs To Conform With EU's "Right To Be Forgotten" Law (engadget.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: According to a Google report the company has evaluated 1,234,092 URLs from 348,085 requests since the EU's May 2014 "right to be forgotten" ruling, and has removed 42% of those URLs. Engadget reports: "To show how it comes to its decisions, the company shared some of the requests it received and its decisions. For example: a private citizen that was convicted of a serious crime, but had that conviction overturned during appeal, had search results about the crime removed. Meanwhile a high ranking public official in Hungary failed to get the results squelched of a decades-old criminal conviction. Of course, that doesn't mean the system is perfect and the company has already been accused of making mistakes."

Disney IT Workers Prepare To Sue Over Foreign Replacements (computerworld.com) 262

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: At least 23 former Disney IT workers have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the loss of their jobs to foreign replacements. This federal filing is a first step to filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination. These employees are arguing that they are victims of national origin discrimination, a complaint increasingly raised by U.S. workers who have lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B and other temporary visas. Disney's layoff last January followed agreements with IT services contractors that use foreign labor, mostly from India. Some former Disney workers have begun to go public (video) over the displacement process

FDA Signs Off On Genetically Modified Salmon Without Labeling (consumerist.com) 514

kheldan writes: Today, in a historic decision, the FDA approved the marketing of genetically-engineered salmon for sale to the general public, without any sort of labeling to indicate to consumers they've been genetically altered. According to the article: "Though the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) gives the FDA the authority to require mandatory labeling of foods if there is a material difference between a GE product and its conventional counterpart, the agency says it is not requiring labeling of these GE fish 'Because the data and information evaluated show that AquAdvantage Salmon is not materially different from other Atlantic salmon.' In this case, the GE salmon use an rDNA construct composed of the growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon under the control of a promoter from another type of fish called an 'ocean pout.' According to the FDA, this tweak to the DNA allows the salmon to grow to market size faster than non-GE farm-raised salmon."

Manhattan DA Pressures Google and Apple To Kill Zero Knowledge Encryption (thestack.com) 291

An anonymous reader writes: In a speech to the 6th Annual Financial Crimes and Cybersecurity Symposium, New York County District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance Jr. has appealed to the tech community — specifically citing Google and Apple — to "do the right thing" and end zero-knowledge encryption in mobile operating systems. Vance Jr. praised FBI director James Comey for his 'outspoken' and 'fearless' advocacy against zero knowledge encryption, and uses the recent attacks on Paris as further justification for returning encryption keys to the cloud, so that communications providers can once again comply with court orders.

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 89

HughPickens.com writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."

FCC Clarifies: It's Legal To Hack Your Router (betanews.com) 85

Mark Wilson writes with an update to an earlier report that the wording of new FCC regulations could mean that it would be illegal to modfiy the software running on wireless routers by installing alternative firmwares. Instead, The commission has now acknowledged that there was more than a little confusion from people who believed that manufacturers would be encouraged to prevent router modifications. The FCC wants to make it clear that most router hacking is fine and will remain fine. With a few exceptions, that is. In a blog post entitled Clearing the Air on Wi-Fi Software Updates, Julius Knapp from the FCC tries to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.

Laser Strikes On Aircraft Increasing In Frequency (usatoday.com) 161

puddingebola writes: The FAA is reporting a record number of laser strikes on aircraft for 2015. From the article: "The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 5,352 laser strikes through Oct. 16, up from 2,837 for all of 2010. ... Some airports have reported more than 100 laser strikes this year: Los Angeles had 197; Phoenix had 183; Houston had 151; Las Vegas had 132, and Dallas-Fort Worth had 115. On July 15, during a 90-minute period, 11 airliners and one military aircraft reported laser strikes near New York City-area airports. Those incidents remain under investigation by the FAA, FBI and New Jersey state police."

UK May Blacklist Homeopathy (bbc.co.uk) 287

New submitter Maritz writes: Vindication may be on the horizon for people who defer to reality in matters of health — UK ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like," but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016. The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m.

In Ireland, All RC and Drones Over 1kg To Be Registered (suasnews.com) 108

New submitter charliehotel writes: The Irish Aviation Authority announced that it will have its drone registry up and running by December 21st this year. This registry will be the first of its kind in Europe, and the Irish Aviation Authority will require all RPA / drones that weigh over 1kg to be registered; this includes model aircraft. I hope that the U.S.'s gathering storm of regulation doesn't start quite that small.

The Neuroscientist Who Tested a Brain Implant On Himself (technologyreview.com) 58

An anonymous reader writes: Our understanding of the brain has come a long way in the past thirty years, but most brain-related medical procedures remain incredibly complicated and dangerous. Neurologist Phil Kennedy has been working on brain-computer interfaces since the 1980s. He was most notably involved in letting a patient with "locked in" syndrome interact with the outside world through a brain-controlled computer cursor. But the FDA has gradually ramped up its safety demands, and in the past decade they've shut down Kennedy's research. So he did what any determined inventor would do: he went to a hospital in Belize and had surgeons there implant electrodes on his own brain so he could continue his research.

"After returning home to Duluth, Georgia, Kennedy began to toil largely alone in his speech lab, recording his neurons as he repeated 29 phonemes (such as e, eh, a, o, u, and consonants like ch and j) out loud, and then silently imagined saying them. ... Kennedy says his early findings are 'extremely encouraging.' He says he determined that different combinations of the 65 neurons he was recording from consistently fired every time he spoke certain sounds aloud, and also fired when he imagined speaking them—a relationship that is potentially key to developing a thought decoder for speech." Eventually, Kennedy had to have the implants removed, but he hopes the data he gathered will help push the FDA toward supporting this research once more.


Controversial Company Offers a New Way To Make a Baby (sciencemag.org) 80

sciencehabit writes: A controversial fertility company called OvaScience is preoccupied by an enduring mystery in human biology--why eggs fail--and the palpable hope that we can do something about it. The company offers a new treatment, called AUGMENT, based on what it considers to be egg precursor cells found in a woman's ovaries. AUGMENT, which costs UP TO $25,000, along with thousands more in clinic fees and roughly $25,000 for the IVF cycle that must accompany it, relies on mitochondria from putative egg precursor cells to boost the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Seventeen babies have been born so far. The company, which has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, is poised to introduce a second treatment. But many scientists doubt that egg precursor cells actually exist.

New vs. Old: a Comparison of 23andMe's Health Reports and the Raw Data (enlis.com) 96

"With much fanfare," writes an anonymous reader, "last month 23andMe returned to reporting health information to their genetic service customers. How does their new service stack up?" According to the Enlis Genomics Blog, it's a good move but not perfect. The linked post explains that "the raw data from 23andMe contains significantly more health information than they are reporting in their health reports," and says "23andme has a long way to go to get back to reporting the same number of variants they were before the FDA ban. However – both the previous and new 23andMe reports pale in comparison to an analysis of the raw data. 23andMe’s new reports tell you about less that 1% of the health-related variants that are in their raw data." It's an interesting statistical blow-by-blow; the company making the comparison has a vested interest in you letting them run the numbers, but is not the only option.

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