Submission + - Worst-case global warming scenarios not credible, says study in Nature (theguardian.com)

cold fjord writes: The Guardian reports, "Earth’s surface will almost certainly not warm up four or five degrees Celsius by 2100, according to a study which, if correct, voids worst-case UN climate change predictions. A revised calculation of how greenhouse gases drive up the planet’s temperature reduces the range of possible end-of-century outcomes by more than half, researchers said in the report, published in the journal Nature. “Our study all but rules out very low and very high climate sensitivities,” said lead author Peter Cox, a professor at the University of Exeter."

Submission + - Software 'No More Accurate Than Untrained Humans' At Predicting Recidivism (theguardian.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The credibility of a computer program used for bail and sentencing decisions has been called into question after it was found to be no more accurate at predicting the risk of reoffending than people with no criminal justice experience provided with only the defendant’s age, sex and criminal history. The algorithm, called Compas (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions), is used throughout the U.S. to weigh up whether defendants awaiting trial or sentencing are at too much risk of reoffending to be released on bail. Since being developed in 1998, the tool is reported to have been used to assess more than one million defendants. But a new paper has cast doubt on whether the software’s predictions are sufficiently accurate to justify its use in potentially life-changing decisions.

The academics used a database of more than 7,000 pretrial defendants from Broward County, Florida, which included individual demographic information, age, sex, criminal history and arrest record in the two year period following the Compas scoring. The online workers were given short descriptions that included a defendant’s sex, age, and previous criminal history and asked whether they thought they would reoffend. Using far less information than Compas (seven variables versus 137), when the results were pooled the humans were accurate in 67% of cases, compared to the 65% accuracy of Compas. In a second analysis, the paper found that Compas’s accuracy at predicting recidivism could also be matched using a simple calculation involving only an offender’s age and the number of prior convictions.

Submission + - Facebook Is a 'Living, Breathing Crime Scene,' Says Former Tech Insider (nbcnews.com)

An anonymous reader writes: With more than 2 billion users, Facebook's reach now rivals that of Christianity and exceeds that of Islam. However, the network's laser focus on profits and user growth has come at the expense of its users, according to one former Facebook manager who is now speaking out against the social platform. "One of the things that I saw consistently as part of my job was the company just continuously prioritized user growth and making money over protecting users," the ex-manager, Sandy Parakilas, who worked at Facebook for 16 months, starting in 2011, told NBC News. During his tenure at Facebook, Parakilas led third-party advertising, privacy and policy compliance on Facebook's app platform. "Facebook is a living, breathing crime scene for what happened in the 2016 election — and only they have full access to what happened," said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His work centers on how technology can ethically steer the thoughts and actions of the masses on social media and he's been called "the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience" by The Atlantic magazine.

In response to the comments, Facebook issued a statement saying it is a "vastly different company" from when it was founded. "We are taking many steps to protect and improve people’s experience on the platform," the statement said. "In the past year, we've worked to destroy the business model for false news and reduce its spread, stop bad actors from meddling in elections, and bring a new level of transparency to advertising. Last week, we started prioritizing meaningful posts from friends and family in News Feed to help bring people closer together. We have more work to do and we're heads down on getting it done.”

Submission + - A Photo Accidentally Revealed a Password For Hawaii's Emergency Agency (qz.com)

An anonymous reader writes: In the aftermath of an erroneous missile warning that terrified Hawaiians on Saturday (Jan. 13), the state’s emergency management agency has come under increased scrutiny, from the poor design of the software that enables alerts to a particularly slapdash security measure by one of its employees. Old photos from the Associated Press inside the agency’s office appear to show an unspecified password on a yellow Post-It note, stuck to a computer monitor. The image, which shows operations manger Jeffrey Wong standing in front of the computer, was taken in July and appeared in articles published at the time about the agency’s preparedness in the face of a nuclear threat. The agency verified that the password is indeed real but wouldn’t go into specifics on what program the password was supposed to be used for.

Submission + - Google Search Will Start Ranking Faster Mobile Pages Higher In July

An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced a new project to improve its mobile search results: Factoring page speed into its search ranking. As the company notes, page speed “has been used in ranking for some time” but that was largely for desktop searches. Starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches on Google as well. In November 2014, Google started labeling sites as “mobile-friendly” to denote pages optimized for phones. The company then spend the next few years experimenting with using the label as a ranking factor, ultimately pushing those changes in April 2015 and increasing the effect in May 2016. The label was removed in August 2016 as the company noted that most pages had become “mobile-friendly.” Google now plans to wield that power again to make mobile pages load faster.

Submission + - Has the Decades-Old Floating Point Error Problem been Solved? (insidehpc.com) 1

overheardinpdx writes: Has the Decades-Old Floating Point Error Problem been Solved? Today a company called Bounded Floating Point announced a "breakthrough patent in processor design, which allows representation of real numbers accurate to the last digit for the first time in computer history."

"This bounded floating point system is a game changer for the computing industry, particularly for computationally intensive functions such as weather prediction, GPS, and autonomous vehicles," said the inventor, Alan Jorgensen, PhD. “By using this system, it is possible to guarantee that the display of floating point values is accurate to plus or minus one in the last digit.”

Submission + - New California declares 'independence' from California (usatoday.com)

Ayano writes:

The founders of New California took an early step toward statehood Monday with the reading of their own Declaration of Independence from California, a state they describe as "ungovernable." Their solution: Take over most of current-day California — including many rural counties — and leave the coastal urban areas to themselves.


Submission + - New California declares 'independence' in bid to become 51st state (usatoday.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Two men have launched a campaign to divide rural California from the coastal cities, motivated by what they referred to as a “tyrannical form of government,” that doesn’t follow the state or federal constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Unlike the failed 2016 campaign to split California into 6 states, the “New California” movement, founded by Robert Paul Preston and Tom Reed, seeks to consolidate rural California into a distinct economy separate from the coast.

Preston and Reed say the citizens of the state live “under a tyrannical form of government that does not follow the California and U.S. Constitutions.”

The "founders" have evoked Article IV Section 3 of the United States Constitution as justification for establishing a new economy with a new state constitution.

It states that a consensus must be reached by the state legislatures of California as well as congress. The process, according to New California representatives, could take 10 to 18 months.

The New California movement unveiled a “Declaration of Independence,” earlier this week that called for a “free and Independent State” with “full power to establish and maintain law and order, to promote general prosperity.”

Submission + - Google's Project Zero: BitTorrent App Allows Websites To Run Malicious Code (arstechnica.com)

cold fjord writes: arstechnica reports, "There's a critical weakness in the widely used Transmission BitTorrent app that allows websites to execute malicious code on some users' computers . . . other BitTorrent clients are likely similarly susceptible. Researcher Tavis Ormandy published the proof-of-concept attack code last week. . . .Ormandy's proof-of-concept attack exploits a Transmission function that allows users to control the BitTorrent app with their Web browser. . . . most people don't enable password protection because they assume the JSON RPC interface can only be controlled by someone with physical access to the computer . . . Using a hacking technique known as domain name system rebinding, Ormandy devised a way that the Transmission interface can be remotely controlled when a vulnerable user visits a malicious site.

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