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Funding Goal
For period:
   2017-01-01 to 2017-06-30.
Base Goal: $3000.00
Progress So Far: $3000.00
Stretch Goal: $2000.00
Progress So Far:
Approximately: $504.18

Covers the period:
  2017-01-01 00:00:00 ..
  2017-05-28 14:01:42 UTC
  (SPIDs: [586..706]) --martyb

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How many natural languages do you know?

  • 1
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  • more than 5

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:80 | Votes:268

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the Looks-Better==Is-Better? dept.

Consumer Reports is running an article titled Free Over-the-Air TV Is Going to Get Better. They're rolling out a new standard, ATSC 3.0.

According to the article, you'll be able to watch OTA (over the air) TV on your phone or tablet! I wrote an article a few years back wondering why you couldn't already.

It's a fairly long and very informative article, but very much worth a read. It only talks about American broadcasts, no word about when or if it will reach other countries, but my guess is it won't be long.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @01:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the Drain-The-Swamp dept.

There is a federal law saying that lobbyists need to be granted a waiver to work in the administration. This is overseen by the Office of Government Ethics. Historically, for both Democrat and Republican administrations, the White House has complied with providing these waivers.

The Trump Administration has not provided these waivers. Walter Shaub, the director of the OGE, has set a deadline of June 1 to provide these documents. The White House Council has provided instructions to employees to not provide this documentation, claiming providing them would be an undue administrative burden. This raises the question of why it would be an undue burden: due to the number of people provided waivers or the extent of the waivers granted.

Editorializing a bit, it is both heartening that the head of the office for Ethics is willing to proverbially "walk the talk" by putting his own position at risk to do the right thing, as well as depressing that such behavior is the laudable exception rather than the accepted norm.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @12:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the You're-the-product dept.

A look inside the company and its astonishing reach into our daily lives through a series of studies conducted by Share Labs, first reported by the BBC but without linking directly to the material posted by Share Labs.

Share Lab is a research team based in Yugoslavia: "Where indie data punk, meets media theory pop to investigate digital rights blues"

For those of us born and raised before Facebook, life has many different aspects: work, family, hobbies. In each context we may behave differently and other people might have a different impression of our personality but Facebook, by mixing it all together, is causing a "context collapse", no longer partitioning our lives.

However, one of Zuckerberg's fears is "context restoration" whereas users become aware of the Panopticon and choose to "behave" in Facebook withholding essential data and thus ruining Facebook's algorithms. It may become a LinkedIn type of site, where everything posted is highly curated for professional purposes and the "social" migrates to other platforms, such as Instagram.

It is possible that in the near future Facebook and LinkedIn will be competing for the same market: professional or skilled traders and lose some of its potency. That is why Facebook is extending its reach to other websites, tracking both Facebook users and others to keep harvesting data about our daily activities and testing algorithms to influence every decision we make.

As Douglas Rushkoff puts it:

"Facebook will market you your future before you've even gotten there, they'll use predictive algorithms to figure out what's your likely future and then try to make that even more likely. They'll get better at programming you – they'll reduce your spontaneity. "

As we all know, your social media profile has become of interest to would-be employers, law-enforcement and of course, advertisers. Some have started to demand wages for using Facebook, as we are creating the "product" they sell.

Those afraid of Big Government should be very afraid of behemoths like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple and others which are not hindered by the constitution or human rights. It appears that we can run but no hide.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @10:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the If-only-s/he-provided-an-e-mail-address dept.

Hello! I fairly recently wrote MailTask, an email client that fits my needs better than the ones that had previously existed, and which I hope may be useful to other people as well. I think the program has the potential to be especially useful for other people who have to deal with a lot of email on a day-to-day basis and for power users, a category which I'm sure most of SoylentNews's readership falls into.


When you start MailTask, the program puts up a window allowing you to view any of the top-level "folders" recognized by the program. These folders include the INBOX and Sent folders of any IMAP accounts you have the program configured to use, allowing you to view any emails in these folders, and also the "Tasks" folder, which is where the program expects you'll be spending most of your time.

The "Tasks" folder is a list of tasks, not of emails. A task contains a title, any notes-to-self related to the task, any number of unsent draft email messages related to the task, and any number of links to received or already sent email messages related to the task.

General Workflow of MailTask:

First, an email comes in. MailTask puts this message in the appropriate INBOX folder and either attaches this email to an existing task it can tell is related to the received email -- for instance, perhaps the received email is a reply to an email an existing task links to -- or it creates a new one and puts a link to the just-received message in the just-created task. The user looks at the task that has either been created or activated, looks at and possibly revises any notes-to-self, looks through the thread of related messages, composes a draft response to the received message, and sends the response. MailTask at this point will hide the task in question so that it doesn't clutter the view (there's a shortcut that lists you see hidden tasks), but will only make it visible again if new emails come in that are related to it. If an email ever comes in that doesn't need a response, you can manually hide or delete the task that was activated or created. Thus, the "Tasks" folder should ideally only ever contain "stuff you have to deal with and haven't".

Of course, the program is more flexible than that. You can create tasks that aren't related to any emails at all -- like a shopping list, for instance. You can set a task to be related to a meeting. If you do, the meeting will be added to your Google Calendar, the meeting task will go to the top of the task list so you don't miss it, and the meeting task can be used to hold notes for the upcoming meeting, unsent drafts related to the upcoming meeting, and sent/received emails related to the upcoming meeting. You can do a similar thing with tasks that are not meetings but have deadlines of some kind. You can also blacklist a certain sender, so emails from that sender are never added to tasks in the task list unless you do it manually. Alternatively, you can blacklist an entire account, but whitelist particular senders so that emails from them don't get blacklisted just because they were received by the blacklisted account.

The Code:

The code itself is extensible, so, if you're a Python programmer, the sky is the limit. The code related to dealing with incoming emails is all dispatched from a single function in the file You don't need to know the entire internals of MailTask to add new features to the task handler. I added support for Google Calendar and blacklists/whitelists after the original design was long finished, and the support was easy to add. I also added support for adding a note to a created task stating which class of mine a student is in, based on the sender address of the email, since they almost never tell me. One thing I haven't done yet but know would be very easy to do is an autoreply feature.

A little bit more on the internals. The program itself is actually three related Python scripts. is an IMAP client, and is in charge of syncing the other components with regard to emails that come in and tasks that are changed. is the program that brings up the GUI and that the user interacts with -- it's expected there may be multiple clients running at a time, one on each of the user's computers. is the "utility client" which is in charge of updating the tasks in the task list based on newly received and sent emails. Both and are "clients" in that they need to connect to the server run by over TCP/IP. needs to open two ports for the clients to connect to; the numbers of these two ports are configurable.

The UI:

The user interface is entirely keyboard shortcuts. If you look for the definition of valid_shortcuts in, these shortcuts and their actions should be reasonably self-explanatory. If you have questions, please comment, and I'll answer them.


To install the program, you'll need Python 2.7, the FLTK library, pyFLTK, which is a Python binding for the FLTK library. The hardest one of these to get working seems to be pyFLTK. I've successfully run the program on both Linux and MacOS X, and I expect Windows and other UNIXes will also work, but Windows is untested and there could possibly be problems. Comment if you have trouble, tell me what OS you're on, and I'll do my best to help.

Suggestions for improvement are greatly appreciated. I hope you like it! :)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @08:38AM   Printer-friendly
from the hand-over-your-wallet-and-no-one-gets-e-coli dept.

Chris Bing from CyberScoop notes:

"A sophisticated hacking group with suspected ties to cybercrime gangs operating in Eastern Europe is now actively targeting and breaching prominent brand-name restaurants in the U.S. More than 20 U.S.-based hospitality companies — the sector that includes hotels and restaurants — have been successfully hacked by FIN7 since the summer of 2016..." (Javascript required.)

FIN7 is also linked to the Carbanak APT and was accused a string of bank cyber-heists possibly totalling US $1 billion:

This group has been described as "the first international cybermafia, a group of cybercriminals from Russia, Ukraine and other parts of Europe and China." and are suspected to have been involved with an SEC impersonation email campaign:

"In the phishing emails, FIN7 spoofed the sender email address as "EDGAR" in an email with an attachment reading disguised as a word doc entitled "Important_Changes_to_Form10_K.doc" " -

Two other methods are also said to have been used in their attacks: fileless malware and fake windows compatibility patches

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @06:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the deadly-trolleys dept.

A new study suggests that smartphone users may be more apt to employ utilitarian reasoning in resolving moral problems, rather than adhering to absolute moral principles.

The study, which is published in Computers in Human Behavior, is one of the first studies into the impact of the digital age on moral judgments, and suggests that moral judgments depend on the digital context in which a dilemma is presented and could have significant implications for how we interact with computers.

To investigate how moral judgements are affected by smartphones and PCs, the researchers recruited 1,010 people and presented them with a classic moral dilemma known as the 'Trolley Problem'.

The Trolley Problem typically involves a runaway trolley that will kill a certain number of people on the tracks, unless some action is taken. (It has recently come to broader attention in discussions of the ethics of autonomous vehicles.) In the original version, a switch is present that will allow the trolley to be diverted; but in doing so, it will kill an otherwise innocent bystander who is on the diversion track. In the so-called "fat man" variant, the dilemma allows the possibility of pushing an obese man in front of the trolley to stop it and save a larger number of people down the line.

Before reading further, stop for a moment to think of what you would do.

Studies generally show that many people use utilitarian reasoning and flip the switch in the first scenario to save the larger number of people. But fewer people in studies are generally willing to push the fat man onto the tracks. Philosophers consider this latter response to be a type of deontological reasoning, which values a moral principle above utilitarian calculations (i.e., it is wrong to murder someone, even to save others).

In the new study, participants were required to have both a smartphone and PC to participate. They were randomly assigned to use one or the other for the experiment. There was no statistically significant difference between their responses for the "switch" scenario to the trolley problem (80.9% for the smartphone users vs. 76.9% for the PC users), but a significantly larger number of smartphone users were willing to sacrifice the fat man (33.5% vs. 22.3% for PC users). When under time pressure in a follow-up experiment with 250 new participants, the fat man scenario difference increased (45.7% for smartphone users vs. 20% for PC users).

Dr Albert Barque-Duran, a researcher from the Department of Psychology at City, University of London and lead author of the study, said:

"What we found in our study is that when people used a smartphone to view classic moral problems, they were more likely to make more unemotional, rational decisions when presented with a highly emotional dilemma. This could be due to the increased time pressures often present with smartphones and also the increased psychological distance which can occur when we use such devices compared to PCs.

"Due to the fact that our social lives, work and even shopping takes place online, it is important to think about how the contexts where we typically face ethical decisions and are asked to engage in moral behaviour have changed, and the impact this could have on the hundreds of millions of people who use such devices daily."

Perhaps due to the lead author's characterization of utilitarian reasoning as "rational," a number of news outlets have portrayed the study as concluding that smartphone users are "more rational." (See, for example, coverage at The Daily Mail and Engadget.) However, the conclusion of the full study challenges that idea, noting that the enhanced distinction for smartphone users under time pressure does not accord with the theory that avoiding killing the fat man is only a quick "gut reaction" governed by emotions.

Alternatively, in the past some have argued that trolley problem research is flawed anyway because many respondents find the scenarios silly and may not take them seriously.

Link to original study

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @05:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the clueless-people-praising-authoritarianism dept.

Common Dreams reports

Speaking to CNBC on Monday [May 22], [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross, who accompanied Trump on the weekend trip to Riyadh, said he found it "fascinating" that he did not see "a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard".

[...] Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in the Center for Middle East Policy, told CNBC afterwards that Saudi Arabia is among the "most repressive" of free speech in the Middle East, adding: "Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which forbids any political protest or any manifestation of dissent. It is also a police state that beheads opponents."

In Why Were the Saudi Streets So Quiet?, also via Common Dreams, Medea Benjamin adds:

Protest is illegal in the kingdom. It's also against the law to "distort the reputation of the kingdom" or "break allegiance with the ruler". A 2014 anti-terrorism law treats virtually all free expression as acts of terrorism, including "calling for atheist thought"; "contacting groups or individuals opposed to the Kingdom"; and "seeking to disrupt national unity" by calling for protests. People who dare dissent are publicly flogged, tortured in prison, and sometimes publicly beheaded.

U.S. President to Visit Saudi Arabia; Arms Sales Expected

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday May 29, @03:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-all-gone-to-bits dept.

From the RooshV Forum:

I constantly get the vibe from people that they think our technology is skyrocketing, that we're living in a new tech age, "where was all this ten years ago?!" etc.

But I disagree with this assessment of our technology. It has made steady improvements in one specific space: software and electronic hardware. That is all. On top of that, the improvements on the hardware have not even been ground breaking. GPS is a ground-breaking invention. Smaller screens are not: they are just an incremental improvement.

Smartphones are merely the result of incremental improvements in the size and quality of electronic components. The only breakthroughs involved are ages old. The invention of the transistor, the laser, etc. The existence of google, facebook, uber, and so on, are merely inevitable "new applications" stemming from these improvements. They are not breakthroughs, they are merely improvements and combinations upon the telephone, the directory, and the taxi.

In my opinion, technology as a whole is borderline stagnant.

A list of why technology is still shit:

The posting goes on to list examples of incremental, rather than breakthrough, changes in the areas of:

  • Electronics & Machines
  • Energy
  • Medicine
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Finance

Have we really stagnated? Have we already found all of the "low-hanging fruit", so new breakthroughs are harder to find? Maybe there is greater emphasis on changes that are immediately able to be commercialized and less emphasis on basic research?

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 29, @01:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the juno-it dept.

The results are in:

Early science results from NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet's surface than previously thought.

[...] Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, entering Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016. The findings from the first data-collection pass, which flew within about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of Jupiter's swirling cloud tops on Aug. 27, are being published this week in two papers in the journal Science, as well as 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters.

[...] Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno's imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter's poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together. "We're puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter's north pole doesn't look like the south pole," said Bolton. "We're questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we're going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?"

Another surprise comes from Juno's Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter's atmosphere, from the top of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere. The MWR data indicates that Jupiter's iconic belts and zones are mysterious, with the belt near the equator penetrating all the way down, while the belts and zones at other latitudes seem to evolve to other structures. The data suggest the ammonia is quite variable and continues to increase as far down as we can see with MWR, which is a few hundred miles or kilometers.

Prior to the Juno mission, it was known that Jupiter had the most intense magnetic field in the solar system. Measurements of the massive planet's magnetosphere, from Juno's magnetometer investigation (MAG), indicate that Jupiter's magnetic field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape. MAG data indicates the magnetic field greatly exceeded expectations at 7.766 Gauss, about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth.

DOIs not active yet, but here is some of it: (the other Science paper)

Geophysical Review Letters keyword search

Juno's Fifth Science Orbit Completed, First In-Depth Papers on Thursday

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday May 29, @12:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the making-progress dept.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the World Bank's Women Entrepreneurs Fund, an idea that the president's elder daughter proposed, will work to help women in the Middle East who want to start their own businesses.

The [$100 million] donation from Saudi Arabia and the UAE was set to be announced at a Sunday event with President Trump's daughter, according to the report.

The first daughter spoke with Saudi women who are civil leaders, businesswomen and elected government officials during the president's first foreign trip.

The Hill

The announcement by World Bank President Jim Young Kim came during a visit to Saudi Arabia by President Trump, who was accompanied by his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

"We thought it was a fantastic idea," Kim said. "But we had no idea how quickly this would build. This is really a stunning achievement. I've never seen anything come together so quickly, and I really have to say that Ivanka's leadership has been tremendous." The money will help kick off a $1 billion women's empowerment fund that the World Bank will announce in July, he said.


additional coverage:

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday May 28, @10:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the another-step-forward dept.

Taiwan's Council of Grand Justices (大法官) ruled that the current civil law banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional and that the legislature has two years to either amend the law or create a new law.

Taiwan News

Legislation enforcing the court's ruling is already working its way through the legislature, where both the ruling and major opposition parties support legalisation as do a majority of Taiwanese people and President Tsai Ing-wen. (News Corp)

A large percentage of the public in Taiwan has accepted the idea of same-sex marriage because leaders have elevated liberal social causes to show the island's democratic credentials in the face of China, a political rival that restricts free speech and association.

Los Angeles Times

But the debate has prompted a backlash, with mass protests by conservatives in recent months.

BBC News

Additional coverage:

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday May 28, @09:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the human-beings-not-goldfish dept.

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to give Wikimedia a chance to legally challenge the NSA's mass surveillance as being unconstitutional. The government has previously argued that the NSA's Upstream warrantless spying is authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. [...]

The ruling yesterday reversed a lower court's ruling which found Wikimedia, which publishes the internet behemoth Wikipedia, couldn't prove the NSA's "Upstream" surveillance program was secretly monitoring its communications, vacuuming the communications right off the internet backbones – even with leaked Snowden documents showing Wikipedia as an NSA target.

[...] due to the sheer size of Wikimedia, the judges found that the NSA probably had seized at least some of their communications.

Computerworld (hyperlinks in original)

"Wikimedia has plausibly alleged that its communications travel all of the roads that a communication can take, and that the NSA seizes all of the communications along at least one of those roads," U.S. Circuit Judge Albert Diaz wrote. "Thus, at least at this stage of the litigation, Wikimedia has standing to sue for a violation of the Fourth Amendment. And, because Wikimedia has self-censored its speech and sometimes forgone electronic communications in response to Upstream surveillance, it also has standing to sue for a violation of the First Amendment."

Courthouse News Service

Further reading:
Wikipedia article on Upstream
Wikipedia article on Albert Diaz

Additional coverage:

Previous stories:
US Spies Still Won't Tell Congress the Number of Americans Caught in Dragnet
Judge Tosses Wikimedia's Anti-NSA Lawsuit Because Wikipedia It Isn't Big Enough
Wikipedia's Lawsuit Against NSA Internet Vacuum has First Day in Court
Deeper Dive into EFF's Motion on Backbone Surveillance

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday May 28, @07:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the hunt-for-red-october dept.

A gigantic new research submarine designed by Russia will travel underneath ice floes, mapping its underwater surroundings with a pair of huge plane-like wings. The sub will help Moscow exploit its Arctic frontier as it prepares to harvest previously untouchable natural resources.

The Arctic Research Submarine was designed by the famous Rubin Design Bureau, which was also responsible for the Typhoon-class missile submarines, the largest subs ever built. This vessel will weigh in at 13,280 tons, making easily the largest civilian research submersible ever built, and will be 442 feet long. The sub will have a maximum speed of 12.6 knots and a crew of 40.

The most striking detail is the presence of two sets of wing-like sonar receivers that give the sub a futuristic appearance. The "wings," which retract into the hull like the blade of a pocket knife, are meant to receive sonar signals broadcast from the ship's hull. This allows the Arctic Research Submarine to image its surroundings in all directions as it cruises along underwater at a leisurely 3 knots.

Probably then also great for tapping underwater cables (Operation Ivy Bells)

Source: Popular Mechanics

[Ed. note: Javascript may be required to view pictures]

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday May 28, @06:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the why-not dept.

Ford Motor Co. this week tapped Jim Hackett—a former office furniture chief executive who has been running its ride- and vehicle-sharing division since March 2016—to assume leadership of the company.

Hackett's assignment: to transform the 114-year-old automaker from a company that designs and sells vehicles driven by their owners into one that makes autonomous vehicles (see "What to Know Before You Get In a Self-Driving Car"). He quickly got to work announcing a series of executive shifts, including the return of Sherif Marakby, who had left the car maker for Uber last year, to oversee Ford's self-driving and electric car businesses.

Today carmakers sell to individual drivers through an extensive network of dealers, which makes profits both selling and servicing cars. In a world of self-driving vehicles, individuals could stop buying cars, and instead use fleets owned and operated by a third party. Ford and its competitors could become the manufacturer and third-party owner, a seller of rides as well as vehicles.

Hackett, 62, lands the job right as the auto industry seems on the verge of a cyclical downturn in sales following six straight years of unit-sales increases, and following several years of poor stock performance for the company. Unlike the man he is replacing—Mark Fields, a 28-year Ford veteran who guided the automaker for less than three years—Hackett does not have a conventional résumé for an auto industry chief executive. He is best known for running Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Steelcase Inc., once a maker of desks and filing cabinets. He gained a reputation in Silicon Valley as a creative thinker skilled at leading comprehensive organizational change, and attracted the attention of Bill Ford Jr., the automaker's executive chairman. After Steelcase he spent 17 months as interim athletic director at the University of Michigan—where he had played football under the legendary Bo Schembechler—overhauling a struggling football program.

Wake me when they have self-driving bicycles.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday May 28, @04:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the time-to-move dept.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service (PDF hosted on Cloudflare; archived copy here),

Although life expectancy has generally been increasing over time in the United States, researchers have long documented that it is lower for individuals with lower socioeconomic status (SES) compared with individuals with higher SES. Recent studies provide evidence that this gap has widened in recent decades. For example, a 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found that for men born in 1930, individuals in the highest income quintile (top 20%) could expect to live 5.1 years longer at age 50 than men in the lowest income quintile. This gap has increased significantly over time. Among men born in 1960, those in the top income quintile could expect to live 12.7 years longer than men in the bottom income quintile. This NAS study finds similar patterns for women: the life expectancy gap between the bottom and top income quintiles of women expanded from 3.9 years for the 1930 birth cohort to 13.6 years for the 1960 birth cohort.

Apparently, all the advances in medical science and healthy living that occurred during this rolling 30-year interval were visited upon the rich a lot more than on the poor.

The American Prospect

According to a different study (open; DOI 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0918; archived copy here) in JAMA Internal Medicine,

[...] inequalities in life expectancy among counties are large and growing, and much of the variation in life expectancy can be explained by differences in socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors.

In 2014, there was a spread of 20.1 years between the counties with the longest and shortest typical life spans based on life expectancy at birth.


additional coverage: