Businesses

'Chiropractors Are Bullshit' (theoutline.com) 308

From an article on The Outline, submitted by two readers: If you're one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who have suffered from back pain, you may have been referred to a chiropractor for medical help. In the modern-day internet landscape, you'll find chiropractic celebrities like Dr. Josh Axe (1.7 million Facebook followers), Dr. Billy DeMoss (20,000 Facebook followers), and Dr. Eric Berg (472,000 YouTube subscribers) giving advice that goes beyond managing spinal issues. Both in their offices and on social media, chiropractors have adapted to a marketplace that's demanding more than just pain management: they extol the virtues of an "alkaline diet," tell you how to manage stress with detoxing, and wax scientific about the adrenal gland. [...] Chiropractic care, I'm sorry to say, is little more than the buffoonery of a 19th-century lunatic who derived most of his medical theory from seances. It has not evolved much since its creation. Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation's practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death. Chiropractors can't replace your doctor, and I'm amazed that they're still even allowed to practice. [...] Though some chiropractors are now making an effort to introduce evidence-based practices into their treatment, chiropractic as a whole hasn't evolved like other areas of medicine -- with hypotheses, experimentation, and peer review. Instead, it was birthed by a strange combination of hocus pocus, guesswork, and strongly held religious beliefs.
Security

What Happens When Software Companies Are Liable For Security Vulnerabilities? (techbeacon.com) 221

mikeatTB shares an article from TechRepublic: Software engineers have largely failed at security. Even with the move toward more agile development and DevOps, vulnerabilities continue to take off... Things have been this way for decades, but the status quo might soon be rocked as software takes an increasingly starring role in an expanding range of products whose failure could result in bodily harm and even death. Anything less than such a threat might not be able to budge software engineers into taking greater security precautions. While agile and DevOps are belatedly taking on the problems of creating secure software, the original Agile Manifesto did not acknowledge the threat of vulnerabilities as a problem, but focused on "working software [as] the primary measure of progress..."

"People are doing exactly what they are being incentivized to do," says Joshua Corman, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council and a founder of the Rugged Manifesto, a riff on the original Agile Manifesto with a skew toward security. "There is no software liability and there is no standard of care or 'building code' for software, so as a result, there are security holes in your [products] that are allowing attackers to compromise you over and over." Instead, almost every software program comes with a disclaimer to dodge liability for issues caused by the software. End-User License Agreements (EULAs) have been the primary way that software makers have escaped liability for vulnerabilities for the past three decades. Experts see that changing, however.

The article suggests incentives for security should be built into the development process -- with one security professional warning that in the future, "legal precedent will likely result in companies absorbing the risk of open source code."
Education

Mathematical Biology Is Our Secret Weapon In the Fight Against Disease (scientificamerican.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares excerpts from a Scientific American article: In recent years, increasingly detailed experimental procedures have lead to a huge influx in the biological data available to scientists. This data is being used to generate hypotheses about the complexity of previously abstruse biological systems. In order to test these hypotheses, they must be written down in the form of a model which can be interrogated to determine whether it correctly mimics the biological observations. Mathematics is the natural language in which to do this. In addition, the advent of, and subsequent increase in, computational ability over the last 60 years has enabled us to suggest and then interrogate complex mathematical models of biological systems. The realisation that biological systems can be treated mathematically, coupled with the computational ability to build and investigate detailed biological models, has led to the dramatic increase in the popularity of mathematical biology. Maths has become a vital weapon in the scientific armoury we have to tackle some of the most pressing questions in medical, biological and ecological science in the 21st century. By describing biological systems mathematically and then using the resulting models, we can gain insights that are impossible to access though experiments and verbal reasoning alone. Mathematical biology is incredibly important if we want to change biology from a descriptive into a predictive science -- giving us power, for example, to avert pandemics or to alter the effects of debilitating diseases.
Facebook

Man Sentenced to Death For Blasphemous Facebook Comments In Pakistan (gizmodo.com) 469

In what is believed to be "the first time the death penalty had been awarded in a case related to social media," a 30-year-old man in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for blasphemy in comments made on Facebook. Gizmodo reports: The prosecutor told The Times of India that Taimoor Raza was arrested "after playing blasphemous and hate speech material on his phone on a bus stop in Bahawalpur, where a counter-terrorism officer arrested him and confiscated his phone." It was the material on Raza's phone that led to his arrest. The Guardian reports that the accused's brother said Raza "indulged in a sectarian debate on Facebook with a person, who we later come to know, was a [counter-terrorism department] official with the name of Muhammad Usman." Raza's defense attorney told The Guardian the initial charges were limited to "insulting remarks on sectarian grounds," which carries a maximum two-year jail sentence, but that "derogatory acts against prophet Muhammad," which carry a death sentence, were added later. According to The Times of India, Raza will be able to appeal the ruling to the Pakistani High Court and the Supreme Court. Facebook said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened and concerned by the death sentence served in Pakistan for a Facebook post. Facebook uses powerful systems to keep people's information secure and tools to keep their accounts safe, and we do not provide any government with direct access to people's data. We will continue to protect our community from unnecessary or overreaching government intervention."
Crime

Prosectors Say the Kansas Shooting of Garmin Engineers Was a Hate Crime (theverge.com) 227

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Federal prosecutors have filed a hate crime charge against 51-year-old Kansas resident Adam Purinton, according to the Department of Justice. Purinton, who is accused of shooting three people in an Olathe bar, reportedly told a local Garmin engineer to "get out of my country" before opening fire. Purinton is currently being held on first-degree murder charges filed by local prosecutors. Today's indictment accuses Purinton of committing murder "because of Kuchibhotla's actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin," with additional charges for the attempted murder of Madasani and violations of federal firearm statutes. The Justice Department declined to say whether it will pursue the death penalty, although it is authorized by the hate crime statute.
Media

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your View On Sloot Compression? (youtube.com) 418

An anonymous reader writes: A Dutch electronics engineer named Jan Sloot spent 20 years of his life trying to compress broadcast quality video down to kilobytes -- not megabytes or gigabytes (the link in this story contains an 11 minute mini-documentary on Sloot). His CODEC, finalized in the late 1990s, consisted of a massive 370Mb decoder engine that likely contained some kind of clever system for procedurally generating just about any video frame or audio sample desired -- fractals or other generative approaches may have been used by Sloot. The "instruction files" that told this decoder what kind of video frames, video motion and audio samples to generate were supposedly only kilobytes in size -- kind of like small MIDI files being able to generate hugely complex orchestral scores when they instruct a DAW software what to play. Jan Sloot died of a heart attack two days before he was due to sign a technology licensing deal with a major electronics company. The Sloot Video Compression system source code went missing after his death and was never recovered, prompting some to speculate that Jan Sloot was killed because his ultra-efficient video compression and transmission scheme threatened everyone profiting from storing, distributing and transmitting large amounts of digital video data. I found out about Sloot Compression only after watching some internet videos on "invention suppression." So the question is: is it technically possible that Sloot Compression, with its huge decoder file and tiny instruction files, actually worked? According to Reddit user PinGUY, the Sloot Digital Coding System may have been the inspiration for Pied Piper, a fictional data compression algorithm from HBO's Silicon Valley. Here's some more information about the Sloot Digital Coding System for those who are interested.
Facebook

Parents Have No Right To Dead Child's Facebook Account, German Court Rules (reuters.com) 218

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A German court rejected a mother's demand on Wednesday that Facebook grant her access to her deceased daughter's account. In the ruling, which overturned a lower court's decision, the Berlin appeals court said the right to private telecommunications extended to electronic communication that was meant only for the eyes of certain people. In the Facebook case, the mother of a 15-year-old who was hit and killed by a subway train in Berlin in 2012 had sought access to her daughter's account to search for clues as to whether the girl had committed suicide. Facebook had refused access to the account, which had been memorialized, meaning it was effectively locked and served as a message board for friends and family to share memories. A regional court in Berlin had ruled in favor of the mother in late 2015, saying that the daughter's contract with Facebook passed to her parents according to German laws on inheritance. It had also said that the girl's right to privacy was not protected because she was a minor and it was up to her parents to protect her rights. The appeals court said on Wednesday that the right to private telecommunications outweighed the right to inheritance, and that the parents' obligation to protect their daughter's rights expired with her death.
Windows

Windows XP Computers Were Mostly Immune To WannaCry (theverge.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Windows XP isn't as vulnerable to the WannaCry ransomware as many assumed, according to a new report from Kryptos research. The company's researchers found that XP computers hit with the most common WannaCry attack tended to simply crash without successfully installing or spreading the ransomware. If true, the result would undercut much of the early reporting on Windows XP's role in spreading the globe-spanning ransomware. The core of WannaCry is a vulnerability in a Windows file-sharing system called SMB, which allowed WannaCry to spread quickly across vulnerable systems with no user interaction. But when Kryptos researchers targeted an XP computer with the malware in a lab setting, they found that the computers either failed to install or exhibited a "blue screen of death," requiring a hard reset. It's still possible to manually install WannaCry on XP machines, but the program's particular method of breaking through security simply isn't effective against the older operating system. The worst-case scenario, and likely scenario," the Kryptos report reads, "is that WannaCry caused many unexplained blue-screen-of-death crashes." While they cut against much of the early analysis of WannaCry, Kryptos' findings are consistent with early research from Kaspersky Lab, which found that Windows XP accounted for an "insignificant" percentage of the total infections. Kaspersky found the bulk of infections on machines running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008.
Earth

A Third of the Nation's Honeybee Colonies Died Last Year (usatoday.com) 135

A third of the honeybees in the United States were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply. USA Today reports: The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey's previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation's colonies died. The death of a colony doesn't necessarily mean a loss of bees, explains vanEngelsdorp, a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. A beekeeper can salvage a dead colony, but doing so comes at labor and productivity costs. That causes beekeepers to charge farmers more for pollinating crops and creates a scarcity of bees available for pollination. It's a trend that threatens beekeepers trying to make a living and could lead to a drop-off in fruits and nuts reliant on pollination, vanEngelsdor said. So what's killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a "lethal parasite," which researchers said spreads among colonies.
Businesses

The Gig Economy Workforce Will Double In Four Years (recode.net) 64

The number of workers in the so-called gig economy will grow substantially in the coming years, according to a study by Intuit and Emergent Research. By 2021, the study finds, 9.2 million people are going to be working the frontline jobs at companies like Uber and Lyft. That number is projected to be 4.8 million this year. From a report: The rise in on-demand workers has been fueled largely by startups like Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb. It has also helped companies like Intuit, which makes tax software QuickBooks and TurboTax. The company's stock surged to an all-time high yesterday thanks to the gig economy. For context, there are currently more gig workers than people employed in the entire information sector (which includes publishing, telecommunication and data processing jobs) and IT services combined, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also read: A recent piece on The New Yorker which talks about the lengths to which people are willing to go to survive in such jobs -- a horrifying culture that is often celebrated in those companies.
The Almighty Buck

With Nothing Left To Sell, RadioShack Is Selling Itself To People (theverge.com) 240

RadioShack, an almost 100-year-old American chain of wireless and electronics stores, had a hell of ride at retail. The cradle of building your own electronics at home, and an early participant in the PC revolution, is finally facing the end after a long, slow death at the hands of consumer disinterest, a dysfunctional marriage with Sprint. From a report: Tons of electronics stores have shuttered over the past decade, but few are as tragic as RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015, appeared to be rescued by Sprint in agreement to co-share the stores, then got kicked to the curb and had to file for a second bankruptcy this past March. The new agreement means hundreds of RadioShack shops will officially close down and be replaced by Sprint stores, fizzling out dreams of the Maker movement. So while this is an end to another chapter of our American electronics retail culture, we do have to wonder: how are the folks at RadioShack doing? They have been selling the leftover stocks of electronics for a while, with only mostly store fixtures, ladders, and carpet tiles seemingly left on offer. This is what RadioShack posted earlier this month. The company has since been tweeting about the leftover stuff it has up on sale, though.
AI

When AI Botches Your Medical Diagnosis, Who's To Blame? (qz.com) 200

Robert Hart has posed an interested question in his report on Quartz: When artificial intelligence botches your medical diagnosis, who's to blame? Do you blame the AI, designer or organization? It's just one of many questions popping up and starting to be seriously pondered by experts as artificial intelligence and automation continue to become more entwined into our daily lives. From the report: The prospect of being diagnosed by an AI might feel foreign and impersonal at first, but what if you were told that a robot physician was more likely to give you a correct diagnosis? Medical error is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and as many as one in six patients in the British NHS receive incorrect diagnoses. With statistics like these, it's unsurprising that researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe diagnostic errors to be "the next frontier for patient safety." Of course, there are downsides. AI raises profound questions regarding medical responsibility. Usually when something goes wrong, it is a fairly straightforward matter to determine blame. A misdiagnosis, for instance, would likely be the responsibility of the presiding physician. A faulty machine or medical device that harms a patient would likely see the manufacturer or operator held to account. What would this mean for an AI?
Programming

'Coding Is Not Fun, It's Technically and Ethically Complex' (qz.com) 359

An anonymous reader shares an article: For starters, the profile of a programmer's mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Coding isn't the only job that demands intense focus. But you'd never hear someone say that brain surgery is "fun," or that structural engineering is "easy." When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise? For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is "eating the world" -- and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word "coding" sounds routine and repetitive, as though there's some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem. It doesn't help that Hollywood has cast the "coder" as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. Insisting on the glamor and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don't need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study. It's better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it's up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more "decisions" are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological, or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it's rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what's going on beneath these processes.
Technology

How Fonts Are Fueling the Culture Wars (backchannel.com) 224

Reader mirandakatz writes: Typography is having a bit of a moment: Suddenly, tons of people who don't work in design have all sorts of opinions about it, and are taking every opportunity to point out poor font choices and smaller design elements. But they're missing the bigger picture. As Medium designer Ben Hersh writes at Backchannel, typography isn't just catchy visuals: It can also be dangerous. As Hersh writes, 'Typography can silently influence: It can signify dangerous ideas, normalize dictatorships, and sever broken nations. In some cases it may be a matter of life and death. And it can do this as powerfully as the words it depicts.' Don't believe him? He's got ample visual examples to prove it.
Medicine

The Older the Doctor, the Higher the Patient Mortality Rate, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The age of your doctor may impact the quality of the care you receive -- and even cut your chances of survival -- researchers report in the British Medical Journal. Harvard researchers looked over data on more than 700,000 hospital admissions of elderly patients cared for by nearly 19,000 physicians between 2011 and 2014. They found that mortality rates crept up in step with physician age. Patients with doctors under the age of 40 had a 30-day mortality rate of 10.8 percent. With doctors aged 40 to 49, mortality rates inched up to 11.1 percent, then to 11.3 percent with doctors 50 to 59, and 12.1 percent with doctors aged 60 or above. The stats are adjusted for a variety of variables, such as hospital mortality rates and severity of patients' illnesses. All the patients were aged 65 or older and on Medicare. Though the age-related mortality trend was significant overall, it broke down when researchers sorted doctors by caseloads. Older doctors who saw high volumes of patients didn't see their patients' mortality rates increase.
Power

All Fossil-Fuel Vehicles Will Vanish In 8 Years, Says Stanford Study (financialpost.com) 1058

Stanford University economist Tony Seba forecasts in his new report that petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will no longer be sold anywhere in the world within the next eight years. As a result, the transportation market will transition and switch entirely to electrification, "leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century," reports Financial Post. From the report: Seba's premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are ten times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles. Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2,000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024. Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a "mass stranding of existing vehicles." The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle. It is a twin "death spiral" for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time. The long-term price of crude will fall to $25 a barrel. Most forms of shale and deep-water drilling will no longer be viable. Assets will be stranded. Scotland will forfeit any North Sea bonanza. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela will be in trouble.
Medicine

38,000 People a Year Die Early Because of Diesel Emissions Testing Failures (theverge.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Diesel cars, trucks, and other vehicles in more than 10 countries around the world produce 50 percent more nitrogen oxide emissions than lab tests show, according to a new study. The extra pollution is thought to have contributed to about 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 globally. In the study, published today in Nature, researchers compared emissions from diesel tailpipes on the road with the results of lab tests for nitrogen oxides (NOx). The countries where diesel vehicles were tested are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., where more than 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales occurred in 2015. The researchers found that 5 million more tons of NOx were emitted than the lab-based 9.4 million tons, according to the Associated Press. Nitrogen oxides are released into the air from motor vehicle exhaust or the burning of coal and fossil fuels, producing tiny soot particles and smog. Breathing in all this is linked to heart and lung diseases, including lung cancer, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which took part in the research. Governments routinely test new diesel vehicles to check whether they meet pollution limits. The problem is that these tests fail to mimic real-life driving situations, and so they underestimate actual pollution levels. The researchers estimate that the extra pollution is linked to about 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015 -- mostly in the European Union, China, and India. (The U.S. saw an estimated 1,100 deaths from excess NOx.)
Chrome

Should You Leave Google Chrome For the Opera Browser? (vice.com) 303

mspohr shares a report written by Jason Koebler via Motherboard who makes the case for why you should break up with Chrome and switch to the Opera browser: Over the last few years, I have grown endlessly frustrated with Chrome's resource management, especially on MacOS. Admittedly, I open too many tabs, but I'd wager that a lot of you do, too. With Chrome, my computer crawls to complete unusability multiple times a day. After one too many times of having to go into Activity Monitor to find that one single Chrome tab is using several gigs of RAM, I decided enough was enough. I switched to Opera, a browser I had previously thought was only for contrarians. This, after previous dalliances with Safari and Firefox left me frustrated. Because Opera is also based on Blink, I almost never run into a website, plugin, script, or video that doesn't work flawlessly on it. In fact, Opera works almost exactly like Chrome, except without the resource hogging that makes me want to throw my computer against a brick wall. This is exactly the point, according to Opera spokesperson Jan Standal: "What we're doing is an optimized version of Chrome," he said. "Web developers optimize most for the browser with the biggest market share, which happens to be Chrome. We benefit from the work of that optimization."

Slashdot reader mspohr adds: "I should note that this has also been my experience. I have a 2010 MacBook, which I was ready to trash since it had become essentially useless, coming to a grinding halt daily. I tried Opera and it's like I have a new computer. I never get the spinning wheel of death. (Also, the built-in ad blocker and VPN are nice.)" What has been your experience with Google Chrome and/or Opera? Do you prefer one over the other?

Software

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 1.3 Million Ram Pickups For Fatal Software Problem (cnn.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Fiat Chrysler is recalling 1.3 million pickup trucks because of a software problem that may be tied to at least one death and two injuries. The problem could disable side airbags from deploying and seat belts from tightening in a rollover accident. If there is a significant impact on the truck's underbody, Fiat Chrysler says the truck's safety system could incorrectly conclude that a sensor underneath the truck has failed. If a sensor does fail, the truck's safety system is designed to suppress the airbags from deploying and seat belts from tightening when they are not supposed to. That's why there is a risk if there is a subsequent rollover. The good news is the driver should be alerted to this problem by a instrument cluster warning light. If the light comes on, drivers should then turn the truck off, and then turn the key back into the on/run position to verify that the light is no longer on. They should also follow instructions on their recall notice. The report notes that the affected vehicles include the 2013-16 Ram 1500 and 2500 pickups, and 2014-2016 Ram 3500 pickups.
EU

'Weaponized' Twitter Bots Spread Info From French Campaign Hack (recode.net) 255

"The French media and public have been warned not to spread details about a hacking attack on presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron," writes Slashdot reader schwit1, with the election commission threatening criminal charges. But meanwhile, "the leaked documents have since spread like wildfire across social media, particularly on Twitter," reports Recode. Nicole Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter with the New York Times, pointed out that an overwhelming amount of the tweets shared about the Macron campaign hack appear to come from automated accounts, commonly referred to as bots. About 40% of the tweets using the hashtag #MacronGate, Perlroth noted, are actually coming from only 5% of accounts using the hashtag. One account tweeted 1,668 times in 24 hours, which is more than one tweet per minute with no sleep... Twitter appears not to have done anything to combat what is obviously a bot attack, despite the fact the social media company is well aware of the problem of bot accounts being used to falsely popularize political issues during high-profile campaigns to give the impression of a groundswell of grassroots support.
The Times reporter later tweeted "This could be @twitter's death knell. Algorithms exist to deal with this. Why aren't you using them?" And one Sunlight Foundation official called the discovery "statistics from the front lines of the disinformation wars," cc-ing both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. In other news, the BBC reports France's president has promised to "respond" to the hacking incident, giving no further details, but saying he was aware of the risks because they'd "happened elsewhere"."

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