United Kingdom

Leaked Document Shows Europe Would Fight UK Plans To Block Porn 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the things-that-are-worth-fighting-for dept.
Mark Wilson writes: Before the UK elections earlier in the month, David Cameron spoke about his desire to clean up the internet. Pulling — as he is wont to do — on parental heartstrings, he suggested that access to porn on computers and mobiles should be blocked by default unless users specifically requested access to it. This opt-in system was mentioned again in the run-up to the election as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid assured peopled that the party "will age restrict online porn". But it's not quite that simple. There is the small problem of Europe. A leaked EU Council document shows that plans are afoot to stop Cameron's plans in its tracks — and with the UK on the verge of trying to debate a better deal for itself within Europe, the Prime Minister is not in a particularly strong position for negotiating on the issue. Cameron has a fight on his hands, it seems, if he wants to deliver on his promise that "we need to protect our children from hardcore pornography". Documents seen by The Sunday Times reveal that the EU could make it illegal for ISPs and mobile companies to automatically block access to obscene material. Rather than implementing a default block on pornography, the Council of the European Union believes that users should opt in to web filtering and be able to opt out again at any time; this is precisely the opposite to the way Cameron would like things to work.
Earth

Galapagos Island Volcano Erupts After 33 Years, Threatening Fragile Ecosystem 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-the-volcano-blows dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Wolf volcano in the Galapagos islands has erupted for the first time in more than 30 years, sending lava flowing down its slopes and potentially threatening the world's only colony of pink iguanas. The Galapagos National Park says that currently there is no risk to tourism operations, but the Environment Ministry is notifying tourist operators to take precautions. A tourist boat passing by took an amazing picture of the eruption.
Programming

Google's Diversity Chief: Mamas Don't Let Their Baby Girls Grow Up To Be Coders 272

Posted by samzenpus
from the starts-at-home dept.
theodp writes: Explaining the reasons for its less-than-diverse tech workforce, Google fingered bad parenting for its lack of women techies. From the interview with Google Director of Diversity and Inclusion Nancy Lee: "Q. What explains the drop [since 1984] in women studying computer science? A. We commissioned original research that revealed it's primarily parents' encouragement, and perception and access. Parents don't see their young girls as wanting to pursue computer science and don't steer them in that direction. There's this perception that coding and computer science is ... a 'brogrammer' culture for boys, for games, for competition. There hasn't been enough emphasis on the power computing has in achieving social impact. That's what girls are interested in. They want to do things that matter." While scant on details, the Google study's charts appear to show that, overall, fathers encourage young women to study CS more than mothers. Google feels that reeducation is necessary. "Outreach programs," advises Google, "should include a parent education component, so that parents learn how to actively encourage their daughters."
Cellphones

Mozilla Drops $25 Smartphone Plans, Will Focus On Higher Quality Devices 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the disposing-of-disposable-technology dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When Mozilla developed Firefox OS, its goal was not to provide the best smartphone experience, but to provide a "good enough" smartphone experience for a very low price. Unfortunately, these cheap handsets failed to make a dent in the overall smartphone market, and the organization is now shifting its strategy to start producing a better experience for better devices. CEO Chris Beard said, "If you are going to try to play in that world, you need to offer something that is so valuable that people are willing to give up access to the broader ecosystem. In the mass market, that's basically impossible." Of course, when moving to the midrange smartphone market, or even the high end, there's still plenty of competition, so the new strategy may not work any better. However, they've hinted at plans to start supporting Android apps, which could help them play catch-up. Beard seems fixated on this new goal: "We won't allow ourselves to be distracted, and we won't expand to new segments until significant traction is demonstrated." He adds, "We will build products that feel like Mozilla."
News

D.C. Police Detonate Man's 'Suspicious' Pressure Cooker 344

Posted by Soulskill
from the dozens-more-suspected-at-local-department-store dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday evening in Washington D.C., police officers on routine patrol spotted an unoccupied car parked near the National Mall. They deemed it "suspicious," and took a look inside, where they found a pressure cooker. They also claimed to smell gasoline. The officers called the bomb squad, and at 7:45pm they initiated a controlled detonation of the car's contents. Afterward, a search of the car found no evidence that it contained explosives or any other hazardous materials. The car's owner was located and arrested for driving on a revoked license.
EU

EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The European Union recently published plans to ban 31 pesticides containing chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility. Those potential regulations have now been dropped after a U.S. business delegation said they would adversely affect trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue 'could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations.'"
Firefox

Firefox's Optional Tracking Protection Reduces Load Time For News Sites By 44% 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the definition-of-a-win-win dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Former Mozilla software engineer Monica Chew and Computer Science researcher Georgios Kontaxis recently released a paper (PDF) that examines Firefox's optional Tracking Protection feature. The duo found that with Tracking Protection enabled, the Alexa top 200 news sites saw a 67.5 percent reduction in the number of HTTP cookies set. Furthermore, performance benefits included a 44 percent median reduction in page load time and 39 percent reduction in data usage.
Businesses

Tech Bubble? What Tech Bubble? 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the shiny-bubbles dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Conor Dougherty writes in the NYT that the tech industry's venture capitalists — the financiers who bet on companies when they are little more than an idea — are going out of their way to avoid the one word that could describe what is happening around them: Bubble. "I guess it is a scary word because in some sense no one wants it to stop," says Tomasz Tunguz. "And so if you utter it, do you pop it?" In 2000, tech stocks crashed, venture capital dried up and many young companies were vaporized. Today, people see shades of 2000 in the enormous valuations assigned to private companies like Uber, with a valuation of $41 billion, and Slack, the corporate messaging service that is about a year old and valued at $2.8 billion in its latest funding round. A few years ago private companies worth more than $1 billion were rare enough that venture capitalists called them "unicorns." Today, there are 107 unicorns and while nobody doubts that many of tech's unicorns are indeed real businesses, valuations are inflating, leading some people to worry that investment decisions are being guided by something venture capitalists call FOMO — the fear of missing out.

With interest rates at historic lows, excess capital causes investment bubbles. The result is too much money chasing too few great deals. Unfortunately, overcapitalizing startups with easy money results in superfluous spending and dangerously high burn rates and investors are happy to admit that this torrid pace of investment has started to worry them. "Do I think companies are overvalued as a whole? No," says Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. "Do I think too much money can kill good companies? Yes. And that is an important difference."
EU

Greece Is Running Out of Money, Cannot Make June IMF Repayment 637

Posted by samzenpus
from the broker-than-broke dept.
jones_supa writes: Greece, the country which has been in extreme financial trouble and high debt for years, cannot make debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month, unless it achieves a deal with creditors. 'The four installments for the IMF in June are €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion). This money will not be given and is not there to be given,' Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis told Greek Mega TV's weekend show. Shut out of bond markets and with bailout aid locked, cash-strapped Athens has been scraping state coffers to meet debt obligations and to pay wages and pensions. With its future as a member of the 19-nation eurozone potentially at stake, a second government minister accused its international lenders of subjecting it to slow and calculated torture.
News

Al-Qaeda's Job Application Form Revealed 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-a-job dept.
HughPickens.com writes: ABC News reports that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released a list of English-language material recovered during the raid the killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 including one document dubbed "Instructions to Applicants," that would not be entirely out of place for an entry-level position at any American company – except for questions like the one about the applicant's willingness to blow themselves up. The questionnaire includes basic personal details, family history, marital status, and education level. It asks that applicants "answer the required information accurately and truthfully" and, "Please write clearly and legibly." Questions include: Is the applicant expert in chemistry, communications or any other field? Do they have a family member in the government who would cooperate with al Qaeda? Have they received any military training? Finally, it asks what the would-be jihadist would like to accomplish and, "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?" For the final question, the application asks would-be killers that if they were to become martyrs, who should al Qaeda contact?

The corporate tone of the application is jarringly amusing, writes Amanda Taub, but it also hints at a larger truth: a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda is a large bureaucratic organization, albeit one in the "business" of mass-murdering innocent people. Jon Sopel, the North American editor from BBC News, joked that the application "looks like it has been written by someone who has spent too long working for Deloitte or Accenture, but bureaucracy exists in every walk of life – so why not on the path to violent jihad?"
Education

Google and Gates-Backed Khan Academy Introduces "Grit"-Based Classroom Funding 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the effort-counts dept.
theodp writes: Their intentions are no doubt good, but some will be troubled by Google and Khan Academy's recently-concluded LearnStorm initiative, which pitted kids-against-kids, schools-against-schools, and cities-against-cities in a 3-month learning challenge for prizes based not only on students' mastery of math skills on Khan Academy, but also their perceived 'hustle' (aka 'grit'). "Points are earned by mastering math skills and also for taking on challenging new concepts and persevering," explained a Khan Academy FAQ. A blog entry further explained, "They've earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing 'hustle,' a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Google.org, DonorsChoose.org, and Comcast's Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy." Apparently funded by a $2 million Google grant, the Google, Khan Academy, and DonorsChoose grit-based classroom funding comes on the heels of the same organizations' gender-based classroom funding initiative. Supported by some of the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, Khan Academy's Board members include a Google Board member (Diane Green), spouse of a Google Board member (Ann Doerr), and the Managing Partner of Bill Gates' bgC3 (Larry Cohen); former Board members include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Math

A Beautiful Mind Mathematician John F. Nash Jr. Dies 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
Rick Zeman writes: John F. Nash Jr. revolutionized the mathematical field of game theory and was given a mind that was unique and deeply troubled. He became known to most people by the movie about his life, A Beautiful Mind. Dr. Nash died, along with his wife, May 24 in a two-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Washington Post reports: "In 1994, when Dr. Nash received the Nobel Prize in economics, the award marked not only an intellectual triumph but also a personal one. More than four decades earlier, as a Princeton University graduate student, he had produced a 27-page thesis on game theory — in essence, the applied mathematical study of decision-making in situations of conflict — that would become one of the most celebrated works in the field. Before the academic world could fully recognize his achievement, Dr. Nash descended into a condition eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. For the better part of 20 years, his once supremely rational mind was beset by delusions and hallucinations. By the time Dr. Nash emerged from his disturbed state, his ideas had influenced economics, foreign affairs, politics, biology — virtually every sphere of life fueled by competition. But he been absent from professional life for so long that some scholars assumed he was dead."
Businesses

Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-kind-of-them dept.
Mark Wilson sends word that Amazon will begin paying corporate taxes on profits made in the UK. The company had previously been recording most of its UK sales as being in Luxembourg, which let them avoid the higher taxes in the UK. But at the end of last year, UK regulators decided they were losing too much tax revenue because of this practice, so they began implementing legislation that would impose a 25% tax on corporations routing their profits elsewhere. Amazon is the first large corporation to make the change, and it's expected to put pressure on Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others to do the same.
News

Ireland Votes Yes To Same-Sex Marriage 576

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-it-your-way dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: Reuters is reporting that the citizens of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriages. While it's also legal in 19 other countries, Ireland was the first to decide this by putting the question to the citizens. "This has really touched a nerve in Ireland," Equality Minister Aodhan O'Riordain said at the main count center in Dublin. "It's a very strong message to every LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) young person in Ireland and every LGBT young person in the world." Observers say the loss of moral authority of the Catholic church after a series of sex scandals was a strong contributing factor, with priests limiting their appeals to the people sitting in their pews. In contrast, the "Yes" side dominated social media.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Can SaaS Be Both Open Source and Economically Viable? 48

Posted by timothy
from the no-that-is-impossible dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The CTO behind Lucidchart, an online diagramming app, recently cited the open source rbush project as an invaluable tool for helping implement an "in-memory spatial index" that "increased spatial search performance by a factor of over 1,000 for large documents." My question is this: what risks does a SaaS company like Lucidchart face in making most of their own code public, like Google's recent move with Chrome for Android, and what benefits might be gained by doing so? Wouldn't sharing the code just generate more users and interest? Even if competitors did copy it, they'd always be a step behind the latest developments.
The Media

Death In the Browser Tab 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-about-chrome's-memory-management dept.
theodp writes: "There you are watching another death on video," writes the NY Times' Teju Cole. "In the course of ordinary life — at lunch or in bed, in a car or in the park — you are suddenly plunged into someone else's crisis, someone else's horror. It arrives, absurdly, in the midst of banal things. That is how, late one afternoon in April, I watched Walter Scott die. The footage of his death, taken by a passer-by, had just been published online on the front page of The New York Times. I watched it, sitting at my desk in Brooklyn, and was stunned by it." Cole continues, "For most of human history, to see someone die, you had to be there. Depictions of death, if there were any, came later, at a certain remove of time and space." Disturbing as they may be (Cole notes he couldn't bear to watch the ISIS beheading videos), such images may ultimately change things for the better. Is it better to publish them than sweep them under the carpet?
United States

TPP Fast Track Passes Key Vote In the Senate, Moves On To the House 98

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
onproton writes: The Senate voted yesterday to reauthorize the controversial Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expedites, or 'Fast Tracks,' the passage of trade agreements through Congress. If also approved by the House, it will grant the authority to decide and negotiate the terms of agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the executive branch, significantly limiting congressional involvement and leaving little room for debate. Proponents of the bill, namely the USTR, claim that Fast Tracking the TPP is critical to successfully negotiating its terms internationally, and will "ensure that Congress, stakeholders and the public are closely involved before, during and after the conclusion of trade agreement negotiations." Though in reality, it does not introduce significant changes in the transparency or reporting requirements that are currently in place, which have allowed the negotiations of this deal to be held in secret since 2009. With concerns being raised about the deal's impacts on everything from intellectual property rights to government sovereignty, it is surprising to many that Congress would abdicate their role in determining the specifics of agreements that may have far reaching implications for their constituents.
United Kingdom

Bank of England Accidentally E-mails Top-Secret "Brexit" Plan To the Guardian 386

Posted by timothy
from the brexit-is-good-with-toast-and-jam dept.
schwit1 writes: The first rule of "Project Bookend" is that you don't talk about "Project Bookend." In retrospect, maybe the first rule should have been "you don't accidentally e-mail 'Project Bookend' to a news agency," because as the Guardian reports, one of its editors opened his inbox and was surprised to find a message from the BOE's Head of Press Jeremy Harrison outlining the UK financial market equivalent of the Manhattan project. Project Bookend is a secret (or 'was' a secret) initiative undertaken by the BOE to study what the fallout might be from a potential 'Brexit', but if anyone asked what Sir Jon Cunliffe and a few senior staffers were up to, they were instructed to say that they were busy investigating "a broad range of European economic issues." And if you haven't heard the term before, "Brexit" refers to the possibility of Britain leaving the EU -- one of the possible outcomes of an upcoming referendum.
Communications

NSA-Reform Bill Fails In US Senate 135

Posted by timothy
from the couldn't-have-happened-to-a-nicer-bill dept.
New submitter Steven King writes with a link to The Daily Dot's report that the U.S. Senate has rejected the controversial USA Freedom Act, thus "all but guaranteeing that key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will expire"; had it passed, the bill would have allowed continued use of some mass data-collection practices, but with the addition of stronger oversight. From the article: The Senate failed to reach agreement on passage of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to reauthorize and reform Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which the government has used to conduct bulk surveillance of Americans' phone records. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but Senate Democrats, who unified behind the bill, did not get enough Republican votes to assure passage. The linked piece also mentions that the EFF shifted its position on this bill, after a panel of Federal judges ruled that the Feds at the NSA had overstepped their bounds in collecting a seemingly unlimited trove of metadata relating to American citizen's phone calls.
Earth

California Votes To Ban Microbeads 244

Posted by timothy
from the stock-up-now-on-crest dept.
New submitter Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation. As the article notes, the California Senate would need to pass a bill as well, for this ban to take effect, and if that happens, the resulting prohibition will come into place in 2020. From the article: Last year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a ban on the usage of microbeads in cosmetics, approving a law that will go into effect in 2018, and earlier this year two congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill to outlaw the use of microbeads nationwide. And for exceptionally good reason; the beads, which serve as exfoliants and colorants are a massive source of water pollution, with scientists estimating that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay alone every single day.