Medicine

Moving Every Half Hour Could Help Limit Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle, Says Study (theguardian.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed. The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death. Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven U.S. institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the U.S. with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013. Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015. The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes. After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behavior were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time. The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behavior (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

Chrome

Google Details Plan To Distrust Symantec Certificates (tomshardware.com) 140

After deciding to distrust Symantec's certificates in March, Google has decided to release a more detailed plan for how that process will go. Tom's Hardware reports: Starting with Chrome 66 (we're now at version 61), the browser will remove trust in Symantec-issued certificates issued prior to June 1, 2016. Website operators that use Symantec certificates issued before that date should be looking to replace their certificates by April 2018, when Chrome 66 is expected to come out. Starting with Chrome 62 (next version), the built-in DevTools will also warn operators of Symantec certificates that will be distrusted in Chrome 66. After December 1, the new infrastructure managed by DigiCert will go into effect, and any new certificates issued by the old Symantec infrastructure will no longer be valid in Chrome. By November 2018, Chrome 70 will come out and will completely remove trust in all Symantec certificates that have ever been issued. Website operators can replace their old Symantec certificates with certificates from DigiCert from December 1 or from any other CA trusted by Google's Chrome browser.
Businesses

The New Corporate Recruitment Pool: Workers In Dead-End Jobs (msn.com) 207

New submitter cdreimer writes: According a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source), corporations looking to hire new employees are opening offices in cities with high concentration of workers in dead-end jobs who are reluctant to locate but are cheaper to hire than competing locally in tight labor markets. From the report: "Pressed for workers, a New Jersey-based software company went hunting for a U.S. city with a surplus of talented employees stuck in dead-end jobs. Brian Brown, chief operating officer at AvePoint, Inc., struck gold in Richmond. Despite the city's low unemployment rate, the company had no trouble filling 70 jobs there, some at 20% below what it paid in New Jersey. New hires, meanwhile, got more interesting work and healthy raises. Irvine, Calif.-based mortgage lender Network Capital Funding Corp. opened an office in Miami to scoop up an attractive subset of college graduates -- those who settled for tolerable jobs in exchange for living in a city they loved. 'They were not in real careers,' said Tri Nguyen, Network Capital chief executive. He now plans a similar expansion in Philadelphia. Americans have traditionally moved to find jobs. But with a growing reluctance by workers to relocate, some companies have decided to move closer to potential hires. Firms are expanding to cities with a bounty of underemployed, retrieving men and women from freelance gigs, manual labor and part-time jobs with duties that, one worker said, required only a heartbeat to perform. With the national jobless rate near a 16-year low, these pockets of underemployment are a wellspring for companies that recognize most new hires already have jobs but can be poached with better pay and room for advancement. That's preferable to competing for higher-priced workers at home in a tight labor market."
Power

Volkswagen To Build Electric Versions of All 300 Models By 2030 (bloomberg.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group's lineup as the world's largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines and tries to draw a line under the emissions-cheating scandal. Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros ($24 billion) to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars. Volkswagen is throwing the fire power of its 12 brands behind the push, aiming to catch up with the likes of Tesla Inc. and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader. Underscoring the enormity of the shift taking place in the industry, Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production. At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry's history for the procurement of batteries. By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as 3 million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.
Government

ShadowBrokers Releases NSA UNITEDRAKE Manual That Targets Windows Machines (schneier.com) 99

AmiMoJo shares a report from Schneier on Security: The ShadowBrokers released the manual for UNITEDRAKE, a sophisticated NSA Trojan that targets Windows machines: "Able to compromise Windows PCs running on XP, Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Vista, Windows 7 SP 1 and below, as well as Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, the attack tool acts as a service to capture information. UNITEDRAKE, described as a 'fully extensible remote collection system designed for Windows targets,' also gives operators the opportunity to take complete control of a device. The malware's modules -- including FOGGYBOTTOM and GROK -- can perform tasks including listening in and monitoring communication, capturing keystrokes and both webcam and microphone usage, the impersonation users, stealing diagnostics information and self-destructing once tasks are completed."
Medicine

California Bans Drones From Delivering Marijuana (theverge.com) 82

In what will surely be disappointing news for a host of start-ups promising to deliver marijuana by drone like MDelivers and Eaze, California's Bureau of Cannabis Control has recently unveiled new regulatory rules that will ban drones from delivering marijuana. "The Bureau is currently developing regulation surrounding weed use and sales under the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) after recreational marijuana was legalized in California," reports The Verge. From the report: "Cannabis goods will be required to be transported inside commercial vehicles or trailers," the proposed program description reads. "Transportation may not be done by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drones, human powered vehicles, or unmanned vehicles." Under the rules, deliveries can only be made by licensed retailers, "in person by enclosed motor vehicle," and the vehicles used for deliveries must have a GPS that allows the seller to track the package. The Bureau also specifically states that those delivering the cannabis aren't allowed to consume the substance while out on the delivery. Further reading: Ars Technica
Open Source

Equifax Blames Open-Source Software For Its Record-Breaking Security Breach (zdnet.com) 283

The blame for the record-breaking cybersecurity breach that affects at least 143 million people falls on the open-source server framework, Apache Struts, according to an unsubstantiated report by equity research firm Baird. The firm's source, per one report, is believed to be Equifax. ZDNet reports: Apache Struts is a popular open-source software programming Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for Java. It is not, as some headlines have had it, a vendor software program. It's also not proven that Struts was the source of the hole the hackers drove through. In fact, several headlines -- some of which have since been retracted -- all source a single quote by a non-technical analyst from an Equifax source. Not only is that troubling journalistically, it's problematic from a technical point of view. In case you haven't noticed, Equifax appears to be utterly and completely clueless about their own technology. Equifax's own data breach detector isn't just useless: it's untrustworthy. Adding insult to injury, the credit agency's advice and support site looks, at first glance, to be a bogus, phishing-type site: "equifaxsecurity2017.com." That domain name screams fake. And what does it ask for if you go there? The last six figures of your social security number and last name. In other words, exactly the kind of information a hacker might ask for. Equifax's technical expertise, it has been shown, is less than acceptable. Could the root cause of the hack be a Struts security hole? Two days before the Equifax breach was reported, ZDNet reported a new and significant Struts security problem. While many jumped on this as the security hole, Equifax admitted hackers had broken in between mid-May through July, long before the most recent Struts flaw was revealed. "It's possible that the hackers found the hole on their own, but zero-day exploits aren't that common," reports ZDNet. "It's far more likely that -- if the problem was indeed with Struts -- it was with a separate but equally serious security problem in Struts, first patched in March." The question then becomes: is it the fault of Struts developers or Equifax's developers, system admins, and their management? "The people who ran the code with a known 'total compromise of system integrity' should get the blame," reports ZDNet.
China

China Joins the Growing Movement To Ban Gasoline, Diesel Cars (arstechnica.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: China has become the latest country to publicly discuss plans to ban the production and sale of gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. In July, both France and the UK published plans to phase out sales of conventionally powered vehicles by 2040. China will now add another nail to the coffin of the internal combustion engine. However, unlike the French or British plans, in this case there's no target date -- yet. The news comes from an automotive policy forum in Tianjin. China's vice minister of industry and information technology, Xin Guobin, said that his ministry has begun work on a timetable to phase out fossil fueled vehicles. The Xinhua news agency also reports that Xin told automakers they need to begin to "readjust their strategies" accordingly. For foreign car companies hoping to sell EVs in China, that will mean investing in the country, as imported vehicles come with stiff import duties attached.
Google

Google Accused of Trying To Patent Public Domain Technology (bleepingcomputer.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Polish academic is accusing Google of trying to patent technology he invented and that he purposely released into the public domain so companies like Google couldn't trap it inside restrictive licenses. The technology's name is Asymmetric Numeral Systems (ANS), a family of entropy coding methods that Polish assistant professor Jarosaw (Jarek) Duda developed in the early 2000s, and which is now hot tech at companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, mostly because it can improve data compression from 3 to 30 times. Duda says that Google is now trying to register a patent that includes most of the ANS basic principles. Ironically, most of the technology described in the patent, Duda said he explained to Google engineers in a Google Groups discussion from 2014. The researcher already filed a complaint, to which WIPO ISA responded by calling out Google for not coming up with "an inventive contribution over the prior art, because it is no more than a straightforward application of known coding algorithms." A Google spokesperson refused to comment, and the mystery remains surrounding Google's decision to patent something that's in the public domain since 2014.
Security

Torvalds Wants Attackers To Join Linux Before They Turn To the "Dark Side" (eweek.com) 112

darthcamaro writes: People attack Linux everyday and Linus Torvalds is impressed by many of them. Speaking at the Open Source Summit in LA, Torvalds said he wants to seek out those that would attack Linux and get them to help improve Linux, before they turn to the 'dark side.' "There are smart people doing bad things, I wish they were on our side and they could help us," Torvalds said. "Where I want us to go, is to get as many smart people as we can before they turn to the dark side. We would improve security that way and get those that are interested in security to come to us, before they attack us," he added.
AT&T

T-Mobile Named Fastest US Mobile Carrier by New Wirefly Report (phonedog.com) 34

T-Mobile offered the fastest internet speed to subscribers between Q1 and Q2 of 2017 (which ended in June), according to the Wirefly Speed Test, which combed through thousands of test results made using its service. T-Mobile scored highest in overall speed while Verizon ended up with a close second spot, Wirefly, which doesn't require Java or Flash for its tests, added. AT&T and Sprint rounded out the ranking at third and fourth, respectively, the report added, which was done in collaboration with SourceForge. T-Mobile also topped the chart for offering the fastest mobile download speed. An anonymous user writes: T-Mobile offered 22.18 Mbps download speed, while Verizon Wireless ended up with another close second with 21.45 Mbps download. AT&T came in with an average download speed of 17.00 Mbps, and Sprint was trailing all with 15.76 Mbps. Verizon finished with the fastest average upload speed at 16.06 Mbps. You can read the full report here.
Businesses

Apple Suffers 'Major iPhone X Leak' 114

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak. From a report: Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operating system. The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users' expressions onto emojis. One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm. [...] "As best I've been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses]," wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple. "Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee." Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources. However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11's golden master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple's own computer servers. It's a big blow to Apple, which uses surprise as a key element at its events. The leak could take some wind out of its sails as it looks to wow consumers. In 2012, Tim Cook had said the company was planning to "double down on secrecy." At the quarterly earnings call, he blamed the leaks about the upcoming iPhone models as one of the reasons that slowed down the sales of current generation iPhone models. However, an analysis published over the weekend found that Apple itself has been the source of several of these leaks in the years since. Earlier this year, the company held a meeting to boast about its internal progress to curb leaks. The hour-long recording of the meeting ironically got leaked. Nearly all details, except the final press renders of the new iPhone models, have leaked. In a subsequent post, Gruber wrote: The BBC doesn't say definitively that the leak was sent by an Apple employee, but I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty that it was. I also think there's a good chance Apple is going to figure out who it was. [...] That person should be ashamed of themselves, and should be very worried when their phone next rings. Moments ago, 9to5Mac reported about a new tvOS firmware leak, which appeared "to be out in the wild today" that details the upcoming features of the next generation Apple TV streaming device.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Avant-garde Have Turned To LSD in a Bid To Increase Their Productivity (1843magazine.com) 306

Every three days Nathan (not his real name), a 27-year-old venture capitalist in San Francisco, ingests 15 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide (commonly known as LSD or acid). From a story on 1843 Magazine: From the start, a small but significant crossover existed between those who were experimenting with drugs and the burgeoning tech community in San Francisco. "There were a group of engineers who believed there was a causal connection between creativity and LSD," recalls John Markoff, whose 2005 book, "What the Dormouse Said", traces the development of the personal-computer industry through 1960s counterculture. At one research centre in Menlo Park over 350 people -- particularly scientists, engineers and architects -- took part in experiments with psychedelics to see how the drugs affected their work. Tim Scully, a mathematician who, with the chemist Nick Sand, produced 3.6m tabs of LSD in the 1960s, worked at a computer company after being released from his ten-year prison sentence for supplying drugs. "Working in tech, it was more of a plus than a minus that I worked with LSD," he says. No one would turn up to work stoned or high but "people in technology, a lot of them, understood that psychedelics are an extremely good way of teaching you how to think outside the box." San Francisco appears to be at the epicentre of the new trend, just as it was during the original craze five decades ago. Tim Ferriss, an angel investor and author, claimed in 2015 in an interview with CNN that "the billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis." Few billionaires are as open about their usage as Ferriss suggests. Steve Jobs was an exception: he spoke frequently about how "taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life." In Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography, the Apple CEO is quoted as joking that Microsoft would be a more original company if Bill Gates, its founder, had experienced psychedelics. As Silicon Valley is a place full of people whose most fervent desire is to be Steve Jobs, individuals are gradually opening up about their usage -- or talking about trying LSD for the first time.
Google

Google Challenges Record EU Antitrust Fine in Court (reuters.com) 52

Google appealed on Monday against a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9 billion) EU antitrust fine, with its chances of success boosted by Intel's partial victory last week against another EU sanction. From a report: The world's most popular Internet search engine, a unit of the U.S. firm Alphabet, launched its appeal two months after it was fined by the European Commission for abusing its dominance in Europe by giving prominent placement in searches to its comparison shopping service and demoting rival offerings.
Businesses

How Techies Rescued Food Stamps (wired.com) 292

New submitter rgh02 writes: There is an endless variety of apps designed to manage life for the upper middle class, but most low-income Americans don't benefit from the same time-saving hacks. Thanks to new trends in civic technology, that's beginning to change. The 43 million Americans depending on food stamps are seeing the introduction of apps like Propel's Fresh EBT, which allows users to check balances, track deals, and organize budgets accordingly. And Propel is only one of several companies looking to disrupt outdated social programs, Tonya Riley reports at Backchannel. But the Trump administration, with its hiring freezes and budget cuts, poses threats to these advancements. Riley dives deep into the progress that's been made and how companies are navigating these obstacles.
AT&T

Hundreds of AT&T Wireless Workers and Supporters Plan To Protest at iPhone 8 Launch at Apple HQ 103

Hundreds of AT&T wireless workers and members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) will protest outside the launch of the iPhone 8 at Apple HQ on Tuesday, we were told. "Marking the start of a critical sales period that's expected to bring in billions for the telecom giant, workers are calling out AT&T's pay cuts for its retail employees and the company's rampant outsourcing and offshoring that undermine their job security and ability to provide quality customer service," the Communications Workers of America said in a press statement. Over the years, AT&T has increasingly handed over the operations of its retail operations to third-party dealers that now represent over 60 percent of all AT&T branded stores. On top of this, AT&T retail employees allege that they are seeing their pay decline by thousands of dollars because the company manipulates their commission structure.
Facebook

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (gizmodo.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes -- not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything. In our age of information overload that might seem like a bad idea, but RSS also cuts out everything you don't want to hear about. You're in full control of what's in your feed and what isn't, so you don't get friends and colleagues throwing links into your feeds that you've got no interest in reading. Perhaps most importantly, you don't need to be constantly online and constantly refreshing your feeds to make sure you don't miss anything. It's like putting a recording schedule in place for the shows you know you definitely want to catch rather than flicking through the channels hoping you land on something interesting. There's no rush with RSS -- you don't miss out on a day's worth of news, or TV recaps, or game reviews if you're offline for 24 hours. It's all waiting for you when you get back. And if you're on holiday and the unread article count starts to get scarily high, just hit the mark all as read button and you're back to a clean slate.
Android

I Downloaded an App. Suddenly, I was a Rescue Dispatcher. (houstonchronicle.com) 172

Holly Hartman, a journalism teacher for 22 years, writes an incredible story: After watching nonstop coverage of the hurricane and the incredible rescues that were taking place, I got in bed at 10:30 on Tuesday night. I had been glued to the TV for days. I read an article about the Cajun Navy and the thousands of selfless volunteers who have shown up to this city en masse. The article explained they were using a walkie-talkie-type app called Zello to communicate with each other, locate victims, get directions, etc. I downloaded the app, found the Cajun Navy channel and started listening. I was completely enthralled. Voice after voice after voice coming though my phone in the dark, some asking for help, some saying they were on their way. Most of the transmissions I was hearing when I first tuned in were from Houston, but within 30 minutes or so, calls started coming in from Port Arthur and Orange. Harvey had moved east from Houston and was pummeling East Texas. Call after call from citizens saying they were trapped in their houses and needed boat rescue. None of the volunteer rescuers had made it to that area from Houston, but as soon as the calls started coming in, they were moving out, driving as fast as they could into the middle of Harvey.
China

Bitcoin Price Falls Again On Reports that China is Shutting Down Local Exchanges (cnbc.com) 115

China's clampdown on cryptocurrencies has reportedly taken a new direction -- to close down local bitcoin exchanges. From a report: Initial reports from Chinese media that the government plans to close down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges have seen the virtual coin shed more than $100 since Friday. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal also reported Monday that that the country is planning to shut down digital currency exchanges. Bitcoin sunk to a low of $4,241 in late trading in the U.K. Friday, and reached a low of $4,108 on Monday, according to Coindesk data. It climbed to a record high of $5,000 dollars a little over a week ago, and has shot up by nearly 350 percent since the start of the year. The latest reported crackdown follows a decision by Chinese regulators -- including the People's Bank of China (PBOC) -- to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs are a means of raising funds by selling off new digital tokens. A crackdown on ICOs would not affect the original cryptocurrency directly, but bitcoin still dropped more than $1,000 over a period of three days. China's latest move to shut down local exchanges would mark a new direction for the country in its efforts to regulate the market.
Government

Government Officials Begin Investigating Equifax Breach (thehill.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes the Hill: The massive breach of credit rating firm Equifax is attracting scrutiny from government officials across the country. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concern over the hack, which could have left vulnerable sensitive personal information for as many as 143 million people. The New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois attorneys general have announced formal investigations into the hack...

The Senate Commerce Committee announced on Thursday that it sent a letter to Equifax seeking answers about the extent of the breach and what Equifax is doing to mitigate its impact. In the House, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said that his committee would hold a hearing on the hacks at a to-be-determined date. Hensarling noted in a statement that such breaches are becoming "too common" and that consumers "deserve answers." House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said that his committee would hold a separate hearing on the matter as well.

Robotics

As Robots Move Into Amazon's Warehouses, What's Happening To Its Human Workers? (brisbanetimes.com.au) 237

An anonymous reader writes: A 21-year-old Amazon warehouse worker has been replaced by "a giant, bright yellow mechanical arm" that stacks 25-pound bins. "Her new job at Amazon is to baby-sit several robots at a time," reports the New York Times, "troubleshooting them when necessary and making sure they have bins to load... [T]he company's eye-popping growth has turned it into a hiring machine, with an unquenchable need for entry-level warehouse workers to satisfy customer orders." Even though Amazon now has over 100,000 robots, they still plan to create 50,000 new jobs when they open their second headquarters. "It's certainly true that Amazon would not be able to operate at the costs they have and the costs they provide customers without this automation," said Martin Ford, author of the futurist book Rise of the Robots. "Maybe we wouldn't be getting two-day shipping."

Amazon's top operations executive says they're saving less-tedious jobs for the humans who work as "pickers" and "stowers" for the robots. "It's a new item each time," Mr. Clark said. "You're finding something, you're inspecting things, you're engaging your mind in a way that I think is important." The Times reports that the robots "also cut down on the walking required of workers, making Amazon pickers more efficient and less tired. The robots also allow Amazon to pack shelves together like cars in rush-hour traffic, because they no longer need aisle space for humans, [meaning] more inventory under one roof, which means better selection for customers."

"When Amazon installed the robots, some people who had stacked bins before took courses at the company to become robot operators. Many others moved to receiving stations, where they manually sort big boxes of merchandise into bins. No people were laid off when the robots were installed, and Amazon found new roles for the displaced workers, Clark said... The question going forward is: What happens when the future generations of robots arrive?"

Education

The Washington Post Pans Apple-Sponsored School Reform TV Special (washingtonpost.com) 162

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: On Friday night, the Big Four Networks simultaneously aired EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live [YouTube], a commercial-free, one-hour TV special that championed Laurene Powell Jobs' mission to rethink the American high school. The closing credits listed Jobs as an Executive Producer, and noted that the chock-full-of-celebrities special was sponsored in part by her Emerson Collective and Apple.

"Surely Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali, Justin Timberlake, Cate Blanchett and a bevy of other celebrities have nothing but laudable intentions by appearing on Friday night's live televised high school reform spectacular on four -- count them, four -- major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox)," writes the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "But when an hour of prime time on four networks is purchased, it's fair to ask whether that is a public service or propaganda."

The Post points out gently that "not everyone believes" in the need to "transform" high schools, while theodp notes "viewers were pitched XQ Super School Board Program kits, which XQ's website explains are designed to prepare individuals for a school board candidacy."

If this seems suspiciously political -- or at least a way to ensure schools are friendly to Laurene Powell Jobs' specific proposals -- the nonprofit's web site adds reassuringly that "XQ won't be endorsing or supporting particular candidates; we'll be supporting all candidates who stand with us in a shared commitment to rethink high school, so all young people can be educated as they deserve."

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