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The Almighty Buck

Every US Taxpayer Has Effectively Paid Apple At Least $6 in Recent Years (arstechnica.com) 262

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Apple has received at least $6 per American taxpayer over the last five years in the form of interest payments on billions' worth of United States Treasury bonds, according to a report by Bloomberg. Citing Apple's regulatory filings and unnamed sources, the business publication found "the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest." By taking advantage of a provision in the American tax code, Bloomberg says that Apple has "stashed much of its foreign earnings -- tax-free -- right here in the US, in part by purchasing government bonds." As The Wall Street Journal reported in September, American companies are believed to be holding approximately $2 trillion in cash overseas that is shielded from US taxes. Under American law, companies must pay a 35-percent corporate tax rate on global profits when that money is brought home -- so there is an incentive to keep as much of that money overseas as possible.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says Russia-Linked Hackers Are Exploiting Newly Discovered Flaw In Windows OS (reuters.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday that a hacking group previously linked to the Russian government and U.S. political hacks is behind recent cyber attacks that exploit a newly discovered flaw in its Windows operating system. Microsoft said that a patch to defend Windows users against this sort of attack will be released on Nov. 8. The software maker said in an advisory on its website there had been a small number of attacks using "spear phishing" emails from a hacking group known Strontium, which is more widely known as "Fancy Bear" or APT 28. A U.S. intelligence expert on Russian cyber activity said that Fancy Bear primarily works for or on behalf of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, which U.S. intelligence officials have concluded were responsible for hacks of Democratic Party databases and emails. Microsoft said the attacks exploited a vulnerability in Adobe Systems Inc's Flash software and one in the Windows operating system. Adobe released a patch for that vulnerability on Monday as security researchers with Google went public with details on the attack.
Microsoft

FTC: Machinima Took Secret Cash To Shill Xbox One 156

jfruh writes: The Machinima gaming video network took money from a marketing agency hired by Microsoft to pay "influencers" up to $45,000 to promote the Xbox One. Crucially, the video endorsers did not disclose that they'd been paid, which has caused trouble with the FTC. For its part, Machinima notes that this happened in 2013, when the current management was not in charge.

Comment Re:WIRED has it right (Score 1) 1044

Gamergate isn't at all upset about "diversity". Quite the contrary - there are prominent gamergaters who hail from visible minority groups.

What they're really upset about is two different things: a) a lack of integrity in the gaming press (insufficient disclosure of conflicts of interest, collusion, etc.) b) a hard-line form of liberal-left politics that has become thoroughly entrenched in the press business that isn't necessarily in alignment with the readers, a situation to the press declaring video games (and the people who play them) are a deleterious force on culture. All sorts of nuanced argumentation can be made here, but to say the least the press used inflammatory language (sexist, racist, harassers, reactionary, and so on) that quickly shaped outside public opinion of the people making the arguments, leaving them unanswered. Sure, like always happens in controversies like this the thoughtless assholes emerged from the woodwork to send nasty, threatening messages to people, but it's happened to *everyone* involved, on both sides.

Moral of the story: Friends don't let friends read Gawker. They were the epicenter of a lot of this mess.

Social Networks

Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage? 371

RedK writes: Connie St-Louis, on June 8th, reported on apparently sexist remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize winning scientist, during an event organised for women in sciences. This led to the man's dismissal from his stations, all in such urgency that he did not even have time to present his side, nor was his side ever offered any weight. A leaked report a few days later suggests that the remarks were taken out of context. Further digging shows that the accuser has distorted the truth in many cases it seems. This is not the first time that people may have jumped the gun too soon on petty issues and ruined great events or careers.
The Media

Journalist Burned Alive In India For Facebook Post Exposing Corruption 219

arnott writes: Journalist Jagendra Singh used a Facebook page to expose corruption in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. Though he posted under a pseudonym, he was quickly found and burned alive by police, allegedly on the order of the minister accused. He died a week later from his injuries. This is not the first case of a journalist being attacked in this state. Amnesty International had urged the local government to launch an official investigation, and now five policemen and a politician have been brought up on murder charges. What can Facebook or other companies do to help these journalists report on corruption in a safe manner?
Government

Cuba Forms a CS Professional Society -- It's No ACM 43

lpress writes: The formation of the Unión de Informáticos de Cuba (UIC) was announced at a Havana conference and a 7,500 person teleconference (no mean feat in Cuba). My first reaction was "cool — like a Cuban ACM," but there are significant differences between ACM and UIC. For example, one must apply to the Ministry of Communication to be accepted into the UIC and the application form asks about membership in political organizations like the Communist Party or Young Communists League along with technical qualifications. A CS degree is required (sorry Bill Gates). UIC members must be Cuban, while ACM has chapters in 57 nations. ACM has student chapters, but they are less needed in Cuba, which has over 600 youth computer clubs where kids take classes and play games and promising students are tracked and channeled into technical schools.
Space

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Urges America To Challenge China To a Space Race 275

An anonymous reader writes: According to a Tuesday story in the UK edition of the International Business Times, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist and media personality, advocates a space race between the United States and China. The idea is that such a race would spur innovation and cause industry to grow. The Apollo race to the moon caused a similar explosive period of scientific research and engineering development. You might prefer the Sydney Morning Herald piece on which the IB Times article is based.
The Almighty Buck

Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour 1094

HughPickens.com writes: Jennifer Medina reports at the NY Times that the council of the nation's second-largest city voted by a 14-1 margin to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles and its almost 4 million residents represent one of the biggest victories yet for those pushing wage increases across the country. Proponents hope it will start to reverse the earning gap in the city, where the top 7% of households earn more than the bottom 67%.

Detractors point out the direct cost increase to businesses, which could total as much as a billion dollars per year. If a business can't handle the increased cost, the employees this measure was designed to help will lose their jobs when it folds. An editorial from the LA Times says it's vital for other cities nearby to increase their minimum wage, too, else businesses will gradually migrate to cheaper locations. They add, "While the minimum wage hike will certainly help the lowest-wage workers in the city, it should not be seen as the centerpiece of a meaningful jobs creation strategy. The fact is that far too many jobs in the city are low-wage jobs — some 37% of workers currently earn less than $13.25 an hour, according to the mayor's estimates — and even after the proposed increase, they would still be living on the edge of poverty."
Education

Led By Zuckerberg, Billionaires Give $100M To Fund Private Elementary Schools 227

theodp writes: AltSchool, a 2-year-old software-fueled private elementary school initiative started by an ex-Googler, announced Monday a $100 million Series B round led by established VC firms and high-profile tech investors including Mark Zuckerberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, John Doerr, and Pierre Omidyar. AltSchool uses proprietary software that provides students with a personalized playlist lesson that teachers can keep close tabs on. Currently, a few hundred students in four Bay Area classrooms use AltSchool tech. Three more California classrooms, plus one in Brooklyn, are expected to come online this fall, plus one in Brooklyn. "We believe that every child should have access to an exceptional, personalized education that enables them to be happy and successful in an ever-changing world," reads AltSchool's mission statement. For $28,750-a-year, your kid can be one of them right now. Eventually, the plan is for the billionaire-bankrolled education magic to trickle down. AltSchool's pitch to investors, according to NPR, is that one day, charter schools or even regular public schools could outsource many basic functions to its software platform.
Canada

Quebec Plans To Require Website Blocking, Studies New Internet Access Tax 237

An anonymous reader writes: Michael Geist reports that the Government of Quebec released its budget (PDF) yesterday featuring two Internet-related measures that are sure to attract attention and possible litigation. First, it is moving forward with plans to study a new tax on residential Internet services in order to provide support for the cultural sector. Second, the government says it will be introducing a new law requiring ISPs to block access to online gambling sites. The list of blocked sites will be developed by Loto-Quebec, a government agency. The government views this as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to channel gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the government's own online gaming site.
Programming

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 522

Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.
Earth

Imagining the Future History of Climate Change 495

HughPickens.com writes "The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called "The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future," that takes the point of view of a historian in 2393 explaining how "the Great Collapse of 2093" occurred. "Without spoiling the story," Oreskes said in an interview, "I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings" about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.

Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."

Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists.""
Education

Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment 608

theodp writes After an NPR podcast fingered the marketing of computers to boys as the culprit behind the declining percentages of women in undergraduate CS curricula since 1984 (a theory seconded by Smithsonian mag), some are concluding that NPR got the wrong guy. Calling 'When Women Stopped Coding' quite engaging, but long on Political Correctness and short on real evidence, UC Davis CS Prof Norm Matloff concedes a sexist element, but largely ascribes the gender lopsidedness to economics. "That women are more practical than men, and that the well-publicized drastic swings in the CS labor market are offputting to women more than men," writes Matloff, and "was confirmed by a 2008 survey in the Communications of the ACM" (related charts of U.S. unemployment rates and Federal R&D spending in the '80s). Looking at the raw numbers of female CS grads instead of percentages, suggests there wasn't a sudden and unexpected disappearance of a generation of women coders, but rather a dilution in their percentages as women's growth in undergrad CS ranks was far outpaced by men, including a boom around the time of the dot-com boom/bust.

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