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Submission + - Putin's Cyberattacks May Be to Aid Trump's Presidential Campaign

HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that the release on Friday of some 20,000 stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails, released by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and triggered the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention’s first day.

Proving the source of a cyberattack is difficult but all the forensic evidence points toward Russian intelligence agencies as the perpetrators of the theft of the national committee emails, given the close similarities between this attack and previous Russian cyberoperations. It is less clear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks, but the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the leaks were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just designed by apparatchiks who thought it might please him, is anyone’s guess. On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. So why would Putin want to support Donald Trump for President? Mook suggests that the Russians might have good reason to support Trump because of Trump's views on NATO: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the counties had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.

Submission + - SPAM: Putin's Cyberattacks Aid Trump Campaign

HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that the release on Friday of some 20,000 stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democratic leaders, has intensified discussion of the role of Russian intelligence agencies in disrupting the 2016 campaign. The emails, released by WikiLeaks, exposed the degree to which the Democratic apparatus favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and triggered the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party chairwoman, on the eve of the convention’s first day. Proving the source of a cyberattack is difficult. But all the forensic evidence points toward Russian intelligence agencies as the perpetrators of the theft of the national committee emails, given the close similarities between this attack and previous Russian cyberoperations. It is less clear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks, but the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the leaks were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just designed by apparatchiks who thought it might please him, is anyone’s guess. On Sunday morning, the issue erupted, as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s “This Week” that the emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” citing “experts” but offering no other evidence. Mr. Mook also suggested that the Russians might have good reason to support Mr. Trump: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times last week that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the counties had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Wasserman Schultz won't Speak at Dem Convention After Wikileaks Revelations (cnn.com)

HughPickens.com writes: CNN reports that the head of the Democratic National Committee will not speak at the party's convention next week, a decision reached by party officials Saturday after emails surfaced that raised questions about the committee's impartiality during the Democratic primary. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose stewardship of the DNC has been under fire through most of the presidential primary process, will not have a major speaking role in an effort "to keep the peace" in the party, a Democrat familiar with the decision said. The revelation comes following the release of nearly 20,000 emails. One email appears to show DNC staffers asking how they can reference Bernie Sanders' faith to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters. Another seems to depict an attorney advising the committee on how to defend Hillary Clinton against an accusation by the Sanders campaign of not living up to a joint fundraising agreement.

Submission + - Statistics Says Clinton Has 945 Ways to Win the Presidency, Trump 72

HughPickens.com writes: Josh Katz has an interesting statistical analysis of the presidential race at the NYT that concludes that Hillary Clinton has about a 76% chance of winning the presidency, about the same probability that an NBA player will hit a free throw. To forecast each party’s chance of winning the presidency, the model calculates win probabilities for each state using a state’s past election results and national polling. But the most interesting part of the analysis is an interactive tree diagram (at the bottom of the page) that shows the paths to victory for each candidate depending on the results from the most important swing states and what would be required to compensate for a states' loss. Clinton starts out with 186 electoral votes from solidly Democratic states while Trump starts out with 149. What's left are the toss-ups states- states whose electoral votes could potentially be in play.

As it turns out Florida is the big prize. If Clinton wins Florida, Trump's only path to victory involves winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Although Florida is a state that tilted just slightly to the right of the country in previous elections, Republicans might not be able to keep up with Florida’s demographic shift any longer. Here’s the unsurprising reason: Trump has alienated Hispanic voters, making the last decade of demographic shifts even more potent. According to estimates, Trump is losing among Hispanic voters in Florida by a 30-point margin, up from Romney’s 22-point deficit in similar estimates of 2012. Without Florida, the Republican path to the presidency gets very rocky.

Submission + - How the Internet Helps Sex Workers Keep Customers Honest

HughPickens.com writes: Mid-range prostitution is a relatively new market, enabled by technology. Before the internet, it was hard for escorts to find customers: They had to either walk the streets searching for customers, rely on word-of-mouth, or work with agencies. The internet changed all that as Allison Schrager writes at Quartz that if you work at Goldman Sachs in NYC and you want to tie up a woman and then have sex with her, you'll first have to talk to Rita. Rita will "insist on calling your office, speaking to the switchboard operator, and being patched through to your desk. Then she will want to check out your profile on the company website and LinkedIn. She’ll demand you send her message from your work email, and require a scan of either your passport or driver’s license."

Though some escorts rely on sex work-specific sites that maintain “bad date” lists of potentially dangerous clients, others make use of more mainstream sources to gather information about and verify the identities of potential johns. Rita is addressing a problem that every business, both legal and illegal, has. Before the internet, more commerce occurred locally—customers knew their merchants or service providers and went back to them repeatedly. As technology has expanded our transactional networks, it must also offer new ways of building trust and reputation. "The lesson here is that, while you’d think all the technological options for finding customers would make Rita’s job as a madam obsolete, it has actually made her services more critical," says Schrager. "One step ahead of the mainstream economy, Rita’s thriving business shows that some jobs won’t disappear. They just need to be recast in a way that capitalizes on what made them valuable in the first place."

Submission + - Clinton Statistically Has 945 Ways to Win the Presidency, Trump 72

HughPickens.com writes: Josh Katz has an interesting statistical analysis of the presidential race at the NYT that concludes that Hillary Clinton has about a 76% chance of winning the presidency, about the same probability that an NBA player will hit a free throw. To forecast each party’s chance of winning the presidency, the model calculates win probabilities for each state using a state’s past election results and national polling. But the most interesting part of the analysis is an interactive tree diagram (at the bottom of the page) that shows the paths to victory for each candidate depending on the results from the most important swing states and what would be required to compensate for a states' loss. Clinton starts out with 186 electoral votes from solidly Democratic states while Trump starts out with 149. What's left are the toss-ups states- states whose electoral votes could potentially be in play.

As it turns out Florida is the big prize. If Clinton wins Florida, Trump's only path to victory involves winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Although Florida is a state that tilted just slightly to the right of the country in previous elections, Republicans might not be able to keep up with Florida’s demographic shift any longer. Here’s the unsurprising reason: Trump has alienated Hispanic voters, making the last decade of demographic shifts even more potent. According to estimates, Trump is losing among Hispanic voters in Florida by a 30-point margin, up from Romney’s 22-point deficit in similar estimates of 2012. Without Florida, the Republican path to the presidency gets very rocky.

Submission + - Consumer Reports Calls For Tesla To Disable Hands-Free Operation

HughPickens.com writes: Consumer Reports says that while the exact cause of Joshua Brown's fatal accident is not yet known, the incident has caused safety advocates, including Consumer Reports, to question whether the name Autopilot, as well as the marketing hype of its roll-out, promoted a dangerously premature assumption that the Model S was capable of truly driving on its own. Tesla’s own press release for the system announced “Your Autopilot has arrived” and promised to relieve drivers “of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel.” But the release also states that the driver “is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.” According to Consumer Reports these two messages—your vehicle can drive itself, but you may need to take over the controls at a moment’s notice—create potential for driver confusion and increases the possibility that drivers using Autopilot may not be engaged enough to to react quickly to emergency situations. "By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," says Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports calls for Telsa to do the following: 1) Disable Autosteer until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel; 2) Stop referring to the system as “Autopilot” as it is misleading and potentially dangerous; 3) Issue clearer guidance to owners on how the system should be used and its limitations, and; 4) Test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases

Submission + - New Study Shows Why Big Pharma Hates Medical Marijuana

HughPickens.com writes: Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post that a new study shows that painkiller abuse and overdose are significantly lower in states with medical marijuana laws and that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. The researchers found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year. As a sanity check, the Bradfords ran a similar analysis on drug categories that pot typically is not recommended for — blood thinners, anti-viral drugs and antibiotics. And on those drugs, they found no changes in prescribing patterns after the passage of marijuana laws.

The tanking numbers for painkiller prescriptions in medical marijuana states are likely to cause some concern among pharmaceutical companies. These painkiller drug companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization. Cost-savings alone are not a sufficient justification for implementing a medical-marijuana program. The bottom line is better health, and the Bradfords' research shows promising evidence that medical-marijuana users are finding plant-based relief for conditions that otherwise would have required a pill to treat. "Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule 1 status of marijuana is outdated."

Submission + - Do You Have a Living Doppelganger?

HughPickens.com writes: Folk wisdom has it that everyone has a doppelganger; somewhere out there there’s a perfect duplicate of you, with your mother’s eyes, your father’s nose and that annoying mole you’ve always meant to have removed. Now BBC reports that last year Teghan Lucas set out to test the hypothesis that everyone has a living double. Armed with a public collection of photographs of U.S. military personnel and the help of colleagues from the University of Adelaide, Lucas painstakingly analysed the faces of nearly four thousand individuals, measuring the distances between key features such as the eyes and ears. Next she calculated the probability that two peoples’ faces would match. What she found was good news for the criminal justice system, but likely to disappoint anyone pining for their long-lost double: the chances of sharing just eight dimensions with someone else are less than one in a trillion. Even with 7.4 billion people on the planet, that’s only a one in 135 chance that there’s a single pair of doppelgangers. Lucas says this study has provided much-needed evidence that facial anthropometric measurements are as accurate as fingerprints and DNA when it comes to identifying a criminal. “The use of video surveillance systems for security purposes is increasing and as a result, there are more and more instances of criminals leaving their ‘faces’ at a scene of a crime,” says Ms Lucas. “At the same time, criminals are getting smarter and are avoiding leaving DNA or fingerprint traces at a crime scene.”

But that's not the whole story. The study relied on exact measurements; if your doppelganger’s ears are 59 mm but yours are 60, your likeness wouldn’t count. “It depends whether we mean ‘lookalike to a human’ or ‘lookalike to facial recognition software’,” says David Aldous. If fine details aren’t important, suddenly the possibility of having a lookalike looks a lot more realistic. It depends on the way faces are stored in the brain: more like a map than an image. To ensure that friends and acquaintances can be recognized in any context, the brain employs an area known as the fusiform gyrus to tie all the pieces together. This holistic ‘sum of the parts’ perception is thought to make recognizing friends a lot more accurate than it would be if their features were assessed in isolation. Using this type of analysis, and judging by the number of celebrity look-alikes out there, unless you have particularly rare features, you may have literally thousands of doppelgangers. “I think most people have somebody who is a facial lookalike unless they have a truly exceptional and unusual face,” says Francois Brunelle has photographed more than 200 pairs of doppelgangers for his I'm Not a Look-Alike project. “I think in the digital age which we are entering, at some point we will know because there will be pictures of almost everyone online

Submission + - FDA Finally Approves Cavity-Fighting Liquid That Lets Kids Avoid Dentists' Drill

HughPickens.com writes: Catherine Saint Louis writes in the NYT that silver diamine fluoride, available in Japan for decades, has now arrived in the United States after Food and Drug Administration cleared SDF for use as a tooth desensitizer for adults 21 and older. Studies show SDF can halt the progression of cavities and prevent them, and dentists are increasingly using it off-label for those purposes. “The upside, the great one, is you don’t need to drill and you don’t need an injection,” says Dr. Margherita Fontana. SDF is already used in hundreds of dental offices and and at least 18 dental schools have started teaching the next generation of pediatric dentists how to use it. “Being able to paint it on in 30 seconds with no noise, no drilling, is better, faster, cheaper," says Dr. Richard Niederman. "I would encourage parents to ask for it. It’s less trauma for the kid.” In Japan, Australia, Argentina and other nations, dentists have been placing SDF on caries lesions for more than 80 years. The value of silver ions to treat tooth decay has been known in this country for well over a century. Silver nitrate was commonly used by the forefathers of modern dentistry. When applied every six months, silver diamine fluoride arrests more than 90% of caries. In children, applying silver diamine fluoride on active lesions once per year prevents caries in other teeth better than fluoride varnish placed four times per year on all surfaces. Fillings, by contrast, do not cure an oral infection. Bacterial infections also cause acne, but a “dermatologist doesn’t take a scalpel and cut off your pimples,” says Dr. Jason Hirsch. Yet “that’s how dentistry has approached cavities.”

Submission + - 15 Year Old Bug in fMRI Software Could Invalidate 40,000 Brain Research Studies

HughPickens.com writes: Bec Crew reports at Science Alert that a new study suggests that a bug in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) software that has been in the system for the past 15 years could invalidate the results of some 40,000 papers. Since fMRI is one of the best tools scientists have to measure brain activity, and if it’s flawed, it means all those conclusions about what our brains look like during things like exercise, gaming, love, and drug addiction are wrong. "Despite the popularity of fMRI as a tool for studying brain function, the statistical methods used have rarely been validated using real data," say researchers led by Anders Eklund from Linköping University in Sweden. Scientists use fMRI scans to find sparks of activity in certain regions of the brain. During an experiment, a participant will be asked to perform a certain task, while a massive magnetic field pulsates through their body, picking up tiny changes in the blood flow of the brain. The trouble is that when scientists are interpreting data from an fMRI machine, they’re not looking at the actual brain. What they're looking at is an image of the brain divided into tiny 'voxels', then interpreted by a computer program. In their paper the researchers write: “the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%. These results question the validity of some 40,000 fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of neuroimaging results.” A bug that's been sitting in a package called 3dClustSim for 15 years, fixed in May 2015, produced the bad results. The researchers also criticize the fMRI community for their “lamentable archiving and data-sharing practices” that prevent most of the discipline's body of work from ever being re-analysed.

Submission + - Study Shows Thumb-Sucking and Nail-Biting Can Be Good for Kids

HughPickens.com writes: Perri Klass M.D. writes in the NYT that according to a new study of children aged 5 to 11, thumb-suckers and nail-biters were less likely to have positive allergic skin tests later in life. In the study, parents were asked about their children’s nail-biting and thumb-sucking habits when the children were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Skin testing for allergic sensitization to a range of common allergens including dust mites, grass, cats, dogs, horses and common molds was done when the children were 13 years old, and then later when they were 32. The study found that children who frequently sucked a thumb or bit their nails were significantly less likely to have positive allergic skin tests both at 13 and again at 32. Children with both habits were even less likely to have a positive skin test than those with only one of the habits.

The question of such a connection arose because of the so-called hygiene hypothesis, an idea originally formulated in 1989, that there may be a link between atopic disease — the revved-up action of the immune system responsible for eczema, asthma and allergy — and a lack of exposure to various microbes early in life. Some exposure to germs, the argument goes, may help program a child’s immune system to fight disease, rather than develop allergies. “The hygiene hypothesis is interesting because it suggests that lifestyle factors may be responsible for the rise in allergic diseases in recent decades," says Robert J. Hancox. "Obviously hygiene has very many benefits, but perhaps this is a downside. The hygiene hypothesis is still unproven and controversial, but this is another piece of evidence that it could be true.” Although the results do not suggest that kids should take up these habits, the findings do suggest the habits help protect against allergies that persists into adulthood.

Submission + - New Bat Houses on Long Island Await Their Guests

HughPickens.com writes: Arielle Dollinger writes at the NYT that the town of North Hempstead on Long Island has approved the construction of bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area because despite their less-than-desirable reputation, bats possess a remarkable ability to control insects especially disease-carrying mosquitoes. “Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour,” says Judi Bosworth. “That’s extraordinary. A pesticide couldn’t do that.” As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, the bats make very welcome neighbors. Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting and as of October, 490 cases of West Nile and 37 deaths resulting from it have been recorded in New York since 2000. "If you minimize the mosquito population you minimize the possible incidence of the Zika virus," says Larry Schultz. "If you reduce the mosquito population, you make parks more accessible." The myths surrounding bats have long shaped public perception of the night creatures. “I grew up and I always heard, you know, these old wives’ tales, that bats will swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair,” says Bosworth. “Bats really have been very maligned.”

Submission + - Carrying a Gun-Shaped iPhone Makes It Much Less Likely You 'll Catch Your Plane

HughPickens.com writes: Cnet reports that a passenger at London Stansted Airport seemed to think it was a good idea to have a gun-shaped iPhone case in his back pocket as he prepared to board a plane. It's unclear whether the man was detained or may be charged. However the police speculated on Twitter that they could proceed with charges against him for either a public order offense or for possession of an imitation firearm in a public place tweeting with the hashtag #dontbedaft that "Bringing this to an airport makes it much less likely you'll catch your plane." The gun case, available since 2015, isn't enjoying universal admiration on this side of the Atlantic either. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey offered this warning on Facebook to potential users: "Please folks — this cell phone case is not a cool product or a good idea. A police officers job is hard enough, without having to make a split second decision in the dark of night when someone decides without thinking to pull this out while stopped for a motor vehicle violation. What do you think?"

Submission + - George Takei Opposes Gay Sulu in 'Star Trek Beyond'

HughPickens.com writes: Seth Abramovitch reports in the Hollywood Reporter that actor and LGBT activist George Takei says Paramount's plans to have Sulu's character in the upcoming 'Star Trek Beyond' the first LGBTQ lead character in Star Trek history is out of step with what creator Gene Roddenberry would have wanted. [Roddenberry] "was a strong supporter of LGBT equality," says Takei, now 79. "But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air." Takei says he'd much prefer that Sulu stay straight. "I’m delighted that there’s a gay character," says Takei. "Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate." The timeline logic of the new revelation is enough to befuddle even the most diehard of Trek enthusiasts, as the rebooted trilogy takes place before the action of the original series. In other words, assuming canon orthodoxy, this storyline suggest Sulu would have had to have first been gay and married, only to then go into the closet years later.

Simon Pegg, who has co-written the latest Star Trek movie, as well as starring as Scotty, has responded to criticism by the actor George Takei at the film-makers’ decision to make the character he used to play openly gay. “He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?” says Pegg. “Our Trek is an alternate timeline with alternate details. Whatever magic ingredient determines our sexuality was different for Sulu in our timeline. I like this idea because it suggests that in a hypothetical multiverse, across an infinite matrix of alternate realities, we are all LGBT somewhere."

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