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The Media

Submission + - Could Twitter Have Stopped the Media's Rush To War In Iraq Ten Years Ago?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "On the tenth anniversary of the start of the US invasion of Iraq, Eric Boehlert writes that he wishes that Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003 to provide a forum for critics to badger Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House's march to war. "Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war," writes Boehlert. "And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let's-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press." For example, imagine how Twitter could have been used in real time on February 5, 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell made his infamous attack-Iraq presentation to the United Nations. At the time, Beltway pundits positively swooned over Powell's air-tight case for war. "But Twitter could have swarmed journalists with instant analysis about the obvious shortcoming. That kind of accurate, instant analysis of Powell's presentation was posted on blogs but ignored by a mainstream media enthralled by the White House's march to war." Ten years ago, Twitter could have also performed the task of making sure news stories that raised doubts about the war didn't fall through the cracks, as invariably happened back then. With swarms of users touting the reports, it would have been much more difficult for reporters and pundits to dismiss important events and findings. "Ignoring Twitter, and specifically ignoring what people are saying about your work on Twitter, isn't really an option the way turning a blind eye to anti-war bloggers may have been ten years ago," concludes Boehlert. "In other words, Twitter could have been the megaphone — the media equalizer — that war critics lacked ten years ago,""
The Military

Submission + - Possible Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Mike Hoffman reports that Syria’s Assad regime has accused the rebels of launching a chemical weapons attack in Aleppo that killed 25 people — an accusation the rebel fighters have strongly rebuked. A Reuters photographer said victims he had visited in Aleppo hospitals were suffering breathing problems and that people had said they could smell chlorine after the attack. The Russian foreign ministry says it has enough information to confirm the rebels launched a chemical attack while US government leaders say they have not found any evidence of a chemical attack and White House spokesman Jay Carney says the accusations made by Assad could be an attempt to cover up his own potential attacks. “We’ve seen reports from the Assad regime alleging that the opposition has been responsible for use. Let me just say that we have no reason to believe these allegations represent anything more than the regime’s continued attempts to discredit the legitimate opposition and distract from its own atrocities committed against the Syrian people,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “We don’t have any evidence to substantiate the regime’s charge that the opposition even has CW (chemical weapons) capability.” President Obama has said the “red line” to which the US would send forces to Syria would be the use of chemical weapons. However, it was assumed the Assad regime would be the ones using their chemical weapons stockpile, not the rebels."
Medicine

Submission + - 1 in 3 Seniors Now Dies with Dementia

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Serena Gordon reports that new report finds that one in every three seniors now dies while suffering from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Even more concerning is that the Alzheimer's Association estimates that by 2050, nearly 14 million people will have Alzheimer's disease up from 5 million today. "Alzheimer's disease is a public health crisis that is here," says Beth Kallmyer. "One in three seniors is dying with Alzheimer's or another dementia. For other major diseases, the death rate is going down because the federal government funds and invests in research. We have not seen that same commitment for Alzheimer's disease." The US government currently funds about $500 million in Alzheimer's research, according to Kallmyer. In comparison, heart disease receives about $4 billion in research funding and cancer gets about $6 billion (PDF). Dr. Brian Appleby says while current treatments won't cure or reverse the disease, they can increase the amount of time until someone needs nursing home care. Right now, he says, the focus is on trying to prevent Alzheimer's disease from occurring. Alzheimer's disease is really a chronic illness. It starts decades before we see the symptoms," Appleby says. The best advice to potentially prevent Alzheimer's disease is to keep your heart healthy. That means quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. It also means staying active mentally, Appleby added."

Comment Google Knols (Score 2) 383

Knol was a Google project that aimed to include user-written articles on a range of topics. The project was led by Udi Manber of Google, announced December 13, 2007, and was opened in beta to the public on July 23, 2008 with a few hundred articles mostly in the health and medical field. Some Knol pages were opinion papers of one or more authors, and others described products for sale. Some articles were how-to articles or explained product use. Other people could post comments below an article, such as to refute opinions or reject product claims.

In November 2011 Google announced that Knol would be phased out. Content could be exported by owners to the WordPress-based Annotum. Knol was closed on April 30, 2012, and all content was deleted by October 1, 2012. Between these dates the content was not viewable, but was downloadable and exportable
Earth

Submission + - Method Developed to Produce Vastly Cheaper Clean Water 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "David Alexander reports that defense contractor Lockheed Martin has found a way to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue. Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin — just one atom in thickness — it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water. "It's 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger," says John Stetson, who began working on the issue in 2007. "The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less." Stetson adds that if the new filter material, known as Perforene, was compared to the thickness of a piece of paper, the nearest comparable filter for extracting salt from seawater would be the thickness of three reams of paper — more than half a foot thick. Access to clean drinking water is increasingly seen as a major global security issue. Competition for water is likely to lead to instability and potential state failure in countries important to the United States, according to a U.S. intelligence community report last year. According to the report “during the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems — shortages, poor water quality, or floods — that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increase regional tensions (PDF).""
Earth

Submission + - As US Cleans Its Energy Mix, It Ships Coal Problems Overseas

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Thomas K. Grose reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that greenhouse gas emissions in the US have fallen 8 percent from their 2007 peak to 6,703 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, due largely to the drop in coal-fired electricity which in 2012 generated 37.4 percent of US electricity, down from 50 percent in 2005. But don't celebrate just yet. A major side effect of that cleaner air in the US has been the further darkening of skies over Europe and Asia as US coal producers have been shipping the most carbon-intensive fuel to energy-hungry markets overseas. US coal exports to China were on track to double last year and demand for US metallurgical coal, the high-heat content coking coal that is used for steelmaking, is so great in Asia that shipments make a round-the-world journey from Appalachia as they are sent by train to the port of Baltimore, where they steam to sea through the Chesapeake Bay, then south across the Atlantic Ocean and around Africa's Cape of Good Hope to reach Asian ports. The Tyndall Center study estimates that the burning of all that exported coal could erase fully half the gains the United States has made in reducing carbon emissions and if the trend continues, the dramatic changes in energy use in the United States — in particular, the switch from coal to newly abundant natural gas for generating electricity — will have only a modest impact on global warming, observers warn. "Without a meaningful cap on global carbon emissions, the exploitation of shale gas reserves is likely to increase total emissions," write Dr John Broderick and Prof Kevin Anderson. "For this not to be the case, consumption of displaced fuels must be reduced globally and remain suppressed indefinitely; in effect displaced coal must stay in the ground (PDF).""
Security

Submission + - Meet the Men Who Spy on Women Through Their Webcams

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Nate Anderson has an-depth article in Ars Technica about remote administration tools (RAT) and "ratters," young men who invade someone's machine, rifle through their personal files, and silently watch them from behind their own screen. Many operate quite openly online in public forums like "Hack Forum," sharing the best techniques for picking up new "female slaves." "Most of my slaves are boring," writes one aspiring ratter. "Wish I could get some more girls with webcams. It makes it more exciting when you can literally spy on someone. Even if they aren't getting undressed!" RAT tools aren't new; the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow famously released an early one called BackOrifice at the Defcon hacker convention in 1998 but today a cottage industry exists to build sophisticated RAT tools like BlackShades to control dozens or even hundreds of remote computers. Building an army of slaves isn't particularly complicated either; ratters simply need to trick their targets into running a file. This is commonly done by seeding file-sharing networks with infected files and naming them after popular songs or movies. One of the biggest problems ratters face is the increasing prevalence of webcam lights that indicate when the camera is in use. Entire threads are devoted to bypassing the lights, which routinely worry RAT victims and often lead to the loss of slaves. To combat detection, ratters compile lists of laptop models which don't have webcam lights and then taking special pains to verify the make and model of slave laptops to see if they are on the list. RATs aren't going away, despite the occasional intervention of the authorities. Too many exist, plenty of them are entirely legal, and source code is in the wild. If you are unlucky enough to have your computer infected with a RAT, prepare to be sold or traded to the kind of person who enters forums to ask, "Can I get some slaves for my rat please? I got 2 bucks lol I will give it to you :b" At that point, the indignities you will suffer—and the horrific website images you may see—will be limited only by the imagination of that most terrifying person: a 14-year-old boy with an unsupervised Internet connection."
Beer

Submission + - How Beer Gave Us Civilization

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Jeffrey P. Khan writes in the NY Times that recent anthropological research suggests that human's angst of anxiety and depression ultimately results from our transformation, over tens of thousands of years, from biologically shaped, almost herd-like prehistoric tribes, to rational and independent individuals in modern civilization and that the catalyst for suppressing the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive was fermented fruit or grain. "Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer must have become immediately apparent," writes Khan. "With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds." Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era. In time, humans became more expansive in their thinking, as well as more collaborative and creative. A night of modest tippling may have ushered in these feelings of freedom — though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order. Today, many people drink too much because they have more than average social anxiety or panic anxiety to quell — disorders that may result, in fact, from those primeval herd instincts kicking into overdrive. But beer’s place in the development of civilization deserves at least a raising of the glass. As the ever rational Ben Franklin supposedly said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”"
The Internet

Submission + - Seniors Search for Virtual Immortality

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Most ancestors from the distant past are, at best, names in the family Bible leaving behind a few grainy photos, a death certificate or a record from Ellis Island. But J. Peder Zane writes that retirees today have the ability to leave a cradle-to-grave record of their lives so that 50, 100, even 500 years hence people will be able to see how their forebears looked and moved, hear them speak, and learn about their aspirations and achievements. A growing number of gerontologists also recommend that persons in that ultimate stage should engage in the healthy and productive exercise of composing a Life Review. In response, a growing number of businesses and organizations have arisen to help people preserve and shape their legacy — a shift is helping to redefine the concept of history, as people suddenly have the tools and the desire to record the lives of almost everybody. The ancient problem that bedeviled historians — a lack of information about people's everyday lives — has been overcome. Stefani Twyford, who creates video biographies through her company, Legacy Multimedia says many of her clients are baby boomers who wanted to record their own parents’ lives. “There is a real sense that we can finally get these stories down and they want to act before it’s too late." One of John Butterfield’s daughters hired Twyford to make a DVD about his life for his 80th birthday. “They videotaped me and they talked to relatives and friends,” recalled Mr. Butterfield, who is now 87. “Now, everyone they taped except my brother is dead. It told me to hurry up.” New devices and technologies are certain to further this immortality revolution as futurists are already imagining the day when people can have a virtual conversation with holograms of their ancestors that draw on digital legacies to reflect how the dead would have responded. “People have always wanted to connect with other people and see that they have touched others, and made a difference,” Twyford says. “What’s changed is that we now have the tools to record and share their legacy, forever.”"
The Internet

Submission + - This Story Stinks: Researchers Explain Why Trolls Win With Toxic Comments 2

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Web is a place for unlimited exchange of ideas but NPR reports that researchers have found that rude comments on articles can change the way we interpret the news. "It's a little bit like the Wild West. The trolls are winning," says Dominique Brossard, co-author of the study on the so-called "Nasty Effect." Researchers worked with a science writer to construct a balanced news story on the pros and cons of nanotechnology, a topic chosen so that readers would have to make sense of a complicated issue with low familiarity then asked 1,183 subjects to review the blog post from a Canadian newspaper that discussed the water contamination risks of nanosilver particles and the antibacterial benefits. Half saw the story with polite comments, and the other half saw rude comments like, "If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot." People that were exposed to the polite comments didn't change their views really about the issue covering the story, while the people that did see the rude comments became polarized — they became more against the technology that was covered in the story. We need to have an anchor to make sense of complicated issues says Brossard. "And it seems that rudeness and incivility is used as a mental shortcut to make sense of those complicated issues." Brossard says there's no quick fix for this issue (PDF) and while she thinks it's important to foster conversation through comments sections, every media organization has to figure out where to draw the line when comments get out of control. "It’s possible that the social norms in this brave new domain will change once more — with users shunning meanspirited attacks from posters hiding behind pseudonyms and cultivating civil debate instead," writes Broussard. "Until then, beware the nasty effect.""
Cellphones

Submission + - Scientists Study Why Overheard Cell Phone Conversations Are So Annoying 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "With people spending an estimated 2.30 trillion minutes on their collective cell phones in the past year, it’s no wonder that you’ve probably been party to an unwanted conversation or two. You know one ones — the loud exchange in the checkout line over the previous night’s festivities, or the keep-in-the-bedroom sweet nothings that, inexplicably, just have to be expressed in a restaurant within earshot of nearby diners. Now Alexandra Sifferlin reports that researchers are studying why overhearing one-sided exchanges is more distracting than eavesdropping on a conversation between two people. Researchers recruited 164 undergraduate students to complete an assignment involving anagrams. While they were concentrating on the task, the scientists held a scripted conversation that the participants were meant to overhear. Half of the students overheard the only half of the conversation, as a researcher conducted it over the phone, while the other half heard both sides as it happened between two of the team members in an adjacent room. The results: Even though the conversation was irrelevant to the anagram task and contained less words and noise, one-sided conversations impacted participants’ self-reported distractibility and memory, thus showing people are more attentive to cell phone conversations than two-sided conversations. The researchers theorize that one-sided conversations are more annoying because hearing only one side of the conversation makes it more uncertain and unpredictable, so our brains are naturally drawn to filling out the missing parts, even if we aren’t consciously trying to eavesdrop. Study author Veronica Galván suggests that her findings could shed light on multi-tasking behaviors in general.. "“And that may have implications for open work settings, where people can’t help but overhear colleagues’ conversations, whether they are personal or work-related.""
Google

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: What's the Best RSS Reader Not Named Google Reader? 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The news that that Google is killing off Google Reader in their annual spring cleaning means hordes of abandoned RSS users will need a new home to get their news fix before July 1, 2013. Sure, Google Reader may not have been the most beautifully designed product to come out of Mountain View, Calif., but it sure was convenient. And now that it's going away, it's evident just how valuable it has been. "It's a tough question that's not unlike asking what's the best planet to live on not named Earth or the best thing to breathe not named air," writes Casey Chan. "Google Reader was that obvious a choice." So what's the best RSS reader not named Google Reader? Is it Reeder? Or NetNewsWire? Maybe Feedly? Or should we all just ditch RSS and get with Twitter?"
The Military

Submission + - Ukrainian Attack Dolphins Are on the Loose

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Ukrainian Navy has a small problem on their hands as the Atlantic reports that after rebooting the Soviet Union's marine mammal program last year with the goal of teaching dolphins to find underwater mines and kill enemy divers, three of the Ukrainian military's new recruits have gone AWOL. Apparently they swam away from their trainers ostensibly in search of a "mate" out in open waters. It might not be such a big deal except that these dolphins have been trained to "attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads." Dolphins were trained at Sevastopol for the Soviet Navy as far back as 1973 to find military equipment such as sea mines on the seabed as well as attacking divers and even carrying explosives on their heads to plant on enemy ships. The US has its own dolphin program in San Diego with 40 trained dolphins and sea lions and another 50 in training. US Navy dolphins were deployed in Bahrain in 1987 during a period when Iran was laying down mines in the Persian Gulf to disrupt oil shipments. No word yet on whether "sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached” have been added to the US arsenal."
IT

Submission + - High Tech Vending Machines Transform IT Support at Facebook

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "While getting power cords, replacement keyboards, and other sundry computer accessories to employees who need them sounds easy enough, at many companies the process requires filling out order forms that can take IT departments days to fulfill. That's why Facebook CIO Tim Campos decided to take a more user-friendly approach to this common problem.- installing custom-made vending machines around the Facebook campus that dispense computer accessories instead of snacks and sodas. When Facebook engineers spill coffee on their keyboard (a common mishap) they head to a nearby vending machine instead of hitting up their IT guy or just grabbing a replacement from a nearby cabinet. They swipe their badge, key in their selection and voila—a brand new keyboard drops down for them to take. According to Campos, they've reduced the cost of managing replacement accessories by about 35%. While products found in the vending machines are free, items are clearly marked with price tags so employees can see the retail value of each accessory they take. The new vending machines also require all employees to swipe their badge before making a selection. That means each and every power cord, keyboard and screen wipe they take can be traced back to their name, ensuring that the system won't be abused. "I like the assumption that employees will do the right thing," writes Alexis Madrigal. "The swipe means that everyone's requests are tracked and I'm sure some algorithm somewhere is constantly sorting the data to see if anyone has pulled 10 sets of headphones out of the system.""
Science

Submission + - Physicists Measure Einstein's "Spooky Action at a Distance"

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Sebastian Anthony reports that a team of Chinese physicists have clocked the speed of spooky action at a distance — the seemingly instantaneous interaction between entangled quantum particles — at more than four orders of magnitude faster than light (PDF) — around 3 trillion meters per second. Spooky action at a distance is the term coined by Einstein to describe how entangled quantum particles seem to interact with each other instantaneously, over any distance, breaking the speed of light and thus relativity. "As of our current understanding of quantum mechanics, though, it is impossible to send data using quantum entanglement, preserving the theory of relativity," writes Anthony adding that "a lot of work is being done in this area, though, and some physicists believe that faster-than-light communication might be possible with some clever manipulation of entangled particles.""

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