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Submission + - Google-Funded ALA Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code

theodp writes: Citing the need to fill "500,000 current job openings in the field of computer science," the American Library Association (ALA) argues in a new whitepaper (pdf) that "all 115,000 of the nation’s school and public libraries are crucial community partners to guarantee youth have skills essential to future employment and civic participation." As such, the ALA's Google-funded Libraries Ready to Code (RtC) project has entered Phase II, which aims to "equip MLIS [Master's in Library Science] students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation’s youth." The RtC Phase II timeline (pdf) calls for a review of “lessons learned for national strategy” in Q4 of this year. "Particular attention will be paid to addressing challenges and opportunities for underrepresented groups in CS and related fields (e.g., Hispanic, Native American, African American, and girls)," explained the ALA. “Libraries play a vital role in our communities, and Google is proud to build on our partnership with ALA," added Hai Hong, who leads US outreach on Google's K-12 Education team. “We're excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1 by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth. Given the ubiquity of technology and the half-a-million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers — and our nation's economy — require.”

Submission + - Parents View New Peanut Guidelines With Guilt and Skepticism (nytimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: When Nicole Lepke’s son was born, she listened to her pediatrician and kept peanuts away until the age of 2, but the toddler still developed a severe peanut allergy when he finally tried them.

Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy.

The about-face on peanuts has stunned parents around the country who are coping with the challenges of severe peanut allergies. Like many parents, Ms. Lepke is now plagued with guilt. By restricting peanuts early, did she inadvertently cause the very allergy she was trying to prevent?

Submission + - Eggs from Skin Cells? Why the Next Fertility Technology Will Open Pandora's Box (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: Imagine you are Brad Pitt. After you stay one night in the Ritz, someone sneaks in and collects some skin cells from your pillow.

But that’s not all. Using a novel fertility technology, your movie star cells are transformed into sperm and used to make a baby. And now someone is suing you for millions in child support.

Such a seemingly bizarre scenario could actually be possible, say three senior medical researchers who today have chosen to alert the public to the social risks of in vitro gametogenesis, a technique they say could allow any type of cell to be reprogrammed into a sperm or egg.

Submission + - Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world’s best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.

Submission + - Is it time to hold police officers accountable for constitutional violations? (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: Recently the Supreme Court issued a summary opinion in the White v. Pauly case.A police officer was sued for killing a man during an armed standoff during which the officers allegedly never identified themselves as police. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the officer had “qualified immunity.” That is, he was immune from a suit for damages, because his conduct — while possibly unconstitutional — was not obviously unconstitutional.

The doctrine of qualified immunity operates as an unwritten defense to civil rights lawsuits brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983. It prevents plaintiffs from recovering damages for violations of their constitutional rights unless the government official violated “clearly established law,” usually requiring a specific precedent on point. This article argues that the doctrine is unlawful and inconsistent with conventional principles of statutory interpretation.

Members of the Supreme Court have offered three different justifications for imposing such an unwritten defense on the text of Section 1983. One is that it derives from a common law “good faith” defense; another is that it compensates for an earlier putative mistake in broadening the statute; the third is that it provides “fair warning” to government officials, akin to the rule of lenity.

But on closer examination, each of these justifications falls apart, for a mix of historical, conceptual, and doctrinal reasons. There was no such defense; there was no such mistake; lenity ought not apply. And even if these things were otherwise, the doctrine of qualified immunity would not be the best response.

The unlawfulness of qualified immunity is of particular importance now. Despite the shoddy foundations, the Supreme Court has been reinforcing the doctrine of immunity in both formal and informal ways. In particular, the Court has given qualified immunity a privileged place on its agenda reserved for few other legal doctrines besides habeas deference. Rather than doubling down, the Court ought to be beating a retreat.

Government officials, especially those with the power that Law Enforcement officers have, should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one.

Submission + - User Trust Fail: Google Chrome and the Tech Support Scams (vortex.com)

Lauren Weinstein writes: It’s not Google’s fault that these criminals exist. However, given Google’s excellent record at detection and blocking of malware, it is beyond puzzling why Google’s Chrome browser is so ineffective at blocking or even warning about these horrific tech support scams when they hit a user’s browser.

These scam pages should not require massive AI power for Google to target.

And critically, it’s difficult to understand why Chrome still permits most of these crooked pages to completely lock up the user’s browser — often making it impossible for the user to close the related tab or browser through any means that most users could reasonably be expected to know about.

Submission + - DHS tags election systems as critical

mikehusky writes: To the consternation of some state government officials, the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 6 moved to make state election systems part of the critical infrastructure sectors under its protection.

The move comes in the wake of allegations of Russian hacking into political targets during the recent election period, and specific complaints of attempts to penetrate state election and voter data systems..Source

Submission + - Are Social Media's "Ads For Eyeballs" Valuations About To Be Eviscerated? (zerohedge.com)

alternative_right writes: There’s a peculiar tone emanating from the social media space. It’s a little hard to hear, but if you listen closely, it’s there none the less. That sound is the sudden gasp of realization that the most dominating reasoning and defense that encompassed the entire social media space may in fact being laid-to-waste right before their screens. That horror?

The eyeballs for ads model doesn’t work.

Submission + - Abrupt product termination consequences for Google?

managerialslime writes: I wonder how many good Google products never get adopted because IT executives (like me) are now too anxious about application abandonment?

When I was the CIO at a mid-size company, I rejected adoption of Google Voice, Google Wave, and Google Hangouts after seeing them abandon Google Desktop Search.

I reasoned that if Google could not give multi-year sunsetting like Microsoft, then they were not a partner I could rely on.

At what point will Google's advantage due to the flexibility of abrupt terminations be outweighed by resistance to adopting their products?

Hmm....

Submission + - CES 2017: Talk to the Fridge (but will Alexa or Google answer back?) (ieee.org)

Tekla Perry writes: CES 2017 is turning into the battle of the intelligent agents: Alexa, with a head start, is everywhere; Google Assistant isn't out of the game though. Siri, however, stayed home. As to where these chatty agents will be hanging out in your home it turns out that they are no different than most people you invite to your parties--you'll find them in the kitchen.

Submission + - This is your aging brain on the Mediterranean diet (latimes.com)

schwit1 writes: In a group of 562 Scots in their 70s, those whose consumption patterns more closely followed the Mediterranean diet experienced, on average, half the brain shrinkage that was normal for the group as a whole over a three-year period.

To glean how diet might influence brain aging, researchers tapped into a large group of Scottish people who were all born in 1936 and had many measures of health status and lifestyle tracked from an early age.

Around the time they reached age 70, 843 members of the “Lothian Birth Cohort” filled out a dietary frequency form that gave researchers a broad look at what foods they ate, which they avoided, and how often they consumed them. At about age 73 and again around age 76, their brains were scanned to gauge the volume of the overall organ and a few of its key components.

The researchers used the food-frequency surveys to divide the group into two — those who at least approximated a Mediterranean-style diet and those who came nowhere close. Even though many in the Med-diet group were far from perfect in their adherence, the average brain-volume loss differed significantly between the two groups.

Submission + - Sears to sell Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker (stltoday.com)

OutOnARock writes: After controlling the Craftsman name for 90 years, troubled department store operator Sears said it will sell the famous tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

Stanley, which makes and sells tools under the DeWalt and Black & Decker names, wants to grow the Craftsman brand by selling its products in more stores outside of Sears. Today, only 10 percent of Craftsman products are sold in other stores. Sears said it will continue to sell Craftsman, including at its Kmart and Sears Hometown stores. The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company first took control of Craftsman in 1927 when it bought the trademark for $500.

When I crack open a computer, more than likely I'm using a Craftsman screwdriver. Am I the only one that sees this as the end of an era?

Submission + - 'Vampire' Burials Have Been Uncovered in Poland (seeker.com) 1

schwit1 writes: The skeletons have holes in the spine, most likely from someone nailing the bodies into the ground.

Polish archaeologists have uncovered the medieval remains of three "vampires" — individuals whose bodies were mutilated before interment to physically prevent any attempts to rise from the grave.

Dating to the 13th and 14th centuries, the deviant burials were unearthed in the village Górzyca in western Poland.

Digging these bones up is not the beginning of a scary movie, right guys? Right? Guys?

Submission + - Blockly Everywhere: MIT's Scratch Changing From Flash to Google's Blockly

theodp writes: In a blog post last month, Google engineer Neil Fraser noted that Blockly, Google's client-side JavaScript library for creating visual block programming editors, "is set to grow even bigger next year, as the next version of MIT's Scratch switches to use Blockly as its rendering library (their current version is based on Flash)." Explaining the Scratch + Google partnership, the MIT Scratch team wrote, "Scratch and Google share a common vision of coding, seeing it as more than just a set of technical skills but rather a valuable tool for everyone, empowering kids (and adults) to imagine, invent, and explore." Blockly is currently used by Google-backed Code.org to introduce programing to millions of students (and President Obama) in its Hour of Code program. Blockly is also used by MIT's App Inventor for Android, which is being used to teach high-schooler students Mobile CSP, a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles offering endorsed by The College Board, who partnered with Google in 2012 to boost AP CS enrollment. After being dumped in 2011 by Google, which had touted its software as a game-changer for introductory computer science, App Inventor quickly found a home at MIT's new Google-funded Center for Mobile Learning.

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