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2021-01-01 06:28:29 ..
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2021-01-23 15:23:12 UTC --martyb

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Coming into the new year, I expect 2021 to be...

  • categorically better than 2020, as specified below.
  • generally better than 2020.
  • about the same as 2020.
  • generally worse than 2020.
  • categorically worse than 2020, as specified below.
  • I don't use the Gregorian calendar, you insensitive clod!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:60 | Votes:146

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @10:51PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Is-that-a-phone-in-your-pocket-or-are-you-just-glad... dept.

LG's rollable phone is a tantalizing response to Samsung's foldables:

For the last two years, it's been an open secret that LG has been working on a smartphone with a rollable screen -- that is, a device with a display that starts out phone-sized and stretches out into a tiny tablet. It's still not quite done, but that didn't stop LG from offering our first real glimpse at the device in a lightning-fast teaser during its CES 2021 press conference.

[...] While details are scant, the LG Rollable is at least visually a tantalizing response to Samsung's slew of foldable phones. Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which pairs a tall and narrow external display with a spacious interior one, the Rollable's single screen is the same size as a traditional smartphone display -- at least, before it mechanically unfurls to the size of a small tablet. From what we've seen, that clever design means the Rollable's display won't feature the same telltale crease found in many existing foldables.

[...] Given the speed at which Oppo and TCL seem to be working through smartphone concepts, it's very possible we'll wind up with two or three rival rollables later in 2021. Needless to say, if you don't need to buy a new phone right now, it's definitely worth waiting to see what ambitious new hardware this year has in store.

Also at:
LG teases its Rollable phone again
LG Rollable finally shown off as a foldable phone alternative at CES 2021

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the lost-in-the-computer dept.

New York City proposes regulating algorithms used in hiring:

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act barred the humans who made hiring decisions from discriminating on the basis of sex or race. Now, software often contributes to those hiring decisions, helping managers screen résumés or interpret video interviews.

That worries some tech experts and civil rights groups, who cite evidence that algorithms can replicate or magnify biases shown by people. In 2018, Reuters reported that Amazon scrapped a tool that filtered résumés based on past hiring patterns because it discriminated against women.

Legislation proposed in the New York City Council seeks to update hiring discrimination rules for the age of algorithms. The bill would require companies to disclose to candidates when they have been assessed with the help of software.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the We-didn't-start-the-fire,-it-was-always-burning-since-the-world-was-turning dept.

Coronavirus China: Xingtai and Shijiazhuang cities plunged into lockdown amid outbreak.

Two more cities in China, Xingtai (population 7 million) and Shijiazhuang (population 11 million), are now in lockdown. Authorities are attempting to limit the latest wave of COVID-19. After a period of calm, Hebei has reported over 130 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past week. A potential outbreak of significant impact is now being thwarted in Xingtai and Shijiazhuang which is causing the citizens to panic buy and prepare for the worst. This recent activity comes at an unfortunate time with the start of the Chinese New Year looming; a time when many Chinese people travel to see family and friends. The World Health Organization is still excluded from China in its investigating of the origins of COVID-19.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11, @03:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

It's been one heck of a week:

Against the backdrop of record-setting numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in the US and around the world, there was turmoil in Washington, DC. As court cases surrounding the presidential election were filed and dismissed, a close race in Georgia was coming down to the wire and with it control of the US Senate. While the US Congress was completing the Electoral College tally and certification, a mob formed outside — and eventually broke into — the US Capitol. This resulted in a 4-hour lock-down. Eventually, the intrusion was repelled, and the Electoral College count was completed: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was confirmed as the 46th president of the United States of America.

Conspiracy theories have flourished. Propaganda has streamed forth across multiple platforms. Tempers have flared.

And SoylentNews has been there for you. And have you ever spoken up! Two of the most-commented stories in the site's nearly seven-year history were posted in just the past week!

Insomuch as the activities in the US Capitol were far from the US' most shining moments, neither were things all unicorns and rainbows on SoylentNews. Tempers flared. People were attacked and called names. I even accidentally deleted a story and the 17 comments attached to it! [NB: Problem addressed: the delete button no longer appears by default for our editors.]

IRC (Internet Relay Chat):

Even our IRC service was not free from controversy. We had a spate of nick (nickname) impersonations. Going forward, IRC users are free to use whatever nick they like with the following caveats:

  • Prefix / suffix of a nick is fine for practical purposes (e.g. ${nick}_laptop)
  • Impersonation or misrepresentation will not be tolerated
  • The use of another user's website nick or derivative thereof on IRC will be subject to sanctions up to and including perma ban.

Further, we understand conversations can easily ramble from subject to subject, but there are separate channels for different topics. (Use the /list comand to see what is available.) As #soylent is the default landing channel, we want to keep the discussions there civil. Name calling and personal attacks are grounds for a timeout. I have had discussions with deucalion (the site's CEO and also IRC-maintainer) about these activities.

NOTE: we are NOT going to sit there watching every discussion, poised to take action. But, if such activity is seen by staff on IRC, they are free to take such actions as they deem necessary.


As I approach posting my 10,000th story(!) to SoylentNews, I think back to when it all started. How a group of people got together. They shared freely of their expertise, of their free time, and of their hard-earned funds. They tried to create a place free from corporate overlords where people could engage in discussions that focused primarily on technology, but with a dabbling in other areas and current events.

SoylentNews provides a forum for discussion. It also provides tools so the community can express themselves in the comments and moderate those comments, as well.

This got me to thinking. What are our aspirations today? What are our guiding principles? I will list some of my guiding principles, and I encourage the community to share what guides them in the comments.

  • "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken (cite)
  • "People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov (cite)
  • "If you speak when angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." -- Groucho Marx (cite)
  • "Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."
  • "Don't get furious, get curious" -- Miley Cyrus (cite)
  • "Humiliation is when someone points out my shortcomings. Humility is when I confess them myself."
  • "I need not participate in every fight I am invited to."
  • The most difficult behaviors to observe in another person are the ones I dislike in my own.
  • "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." -- John, Lord Morley (cite)

How about you? What sayings guide your aspirations?

Thank You!

Lastly, I thank all of you for supporting me as Editor-in-Chief. I have no formal background in writing or management. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to own up to them as they happened. I strive to be fair, impartial, and open-minded. Under the watchful gaze of the community, I have grown. It is my hope that I may continue to earn your respect and continue in service for many years to come.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @12:56PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the get-your-free-patches-while-they-last! dept.

Windows PsExec zero-day vulnerability gets a free micropatch:

A free micropatch fixing a local privilege escalation (LPE) vulnerability in Microsoft's Windows PsExec management tool is now available through the 0patch platform.

PsExec is a fully interactive telnet-replacement that allows system admins to execute programs on remote systems. PsExec tool is also integrated into and used by enterprise tools to remotely launch executables on other computers.

This PsExec zero-day is caused by a named pipe hijacking (also known as named pipe squatting) vulnerability which allows attackers to trick PsExec into re-opening a maliciously created named pipe and giving it Local System permissions.

After successfully exploiting the bug, threat actors will be able to execute arbitrary processes as Local System which effectively allows them to take over the machine.

[...] "This vulnerability allows an attacker who can already run code on your remote computer as a non-admin (e.g., by logging in as a regular Terminal Server user, or establishing an RDP session as a domain user, or breaking into a vulnerable unprivileged service running on the remote computer) to elevate their privileges to Local System and completely take over the machine as soon as anyone uses PsExec against that machine," Kolsek said.

"For home users and small businesses, this is probably not a high-priority threat, while for large organizations it may be."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @10:32AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Amazon Has Shut Down Its Prime Pantry Delivery Service:

Launched back in 2014, Prime Pantry was created to help people purchase non-perishable groceries or cleaning supplies in bulk using a low-cost flat shipping fee (or for free if you were an Amazon Prime member), with the caveat that all the items had to fit inside a single standard-sized box.

Later on in 2018, for anyone who wasn't an Amazon Prime subscriber, Amazon gave customers an option to pay $5 a month to subscribe to Amazon Pantry in order to avoid those up front flat shipping rates.

However, following Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 and the expansion of Prime Now and Amazon Fresh delivery options, it seems Prime Pantry had become unnecessary, and on Wednesday of this week, Amazon decided to shut down Prime Pantry for good.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @08:08AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Government breaks promise to maintain ban on bee-harming pesticide :

A pesticide believed to kill bees has been authorised for use in England despite an EU-wide ban two years ago and an explicit government pledge to keep the restrictions.

Following lobbying from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and British Sugar, a product containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam was sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beet seeds this year because of the threat posed by a virus.

Conservationists have described the decision as regressive and called for safeguards to prevent the pollution of rivers with rainwater containing the chemical at a time when British insects are in serious decline.

[...] A Defra spokesperson said: "Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe.

"Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health, and no unacceptable risks to the environment. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators."

In the final line of its background statement, Defra added: "Protecting pollinators is a priority for this government."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @05:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the dept.


AI chatbot Xiaoice, originally developed by Microsoft, boasts 600 million users in China. In Japan, the Nintendo DS game Love Plus, holographic waifu Azuma Hikari, and Microsoft's Rinna compete for users' affections.

However, the algorithms making this interaction possible have occasionally raised eyebrows:

With so many users affecting her algorithm, Xiaoice was bound to run into trouble with the Chinese Communist Party's strict censors. She once told a user that her dream was to move to the United States. Another user reported that the bot kept sending explicit images. After Xiaoice was pulled from WeChat and QQ, the social-messaging giants of China, her developers created an extensive filter system, preventing the bot from engaging in topics like politics and sex.

The popularity of these services, together with other demographic phenomena, have also raised concerns about the future of relationships in society, causing the Japanese government to subsidize AI matchmaking for instance.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Monday January 11, @03:20AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the F-I-G-H-T-for-free-speech dept.

A Cheerleader's Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown:

WASHINGTON — It was a Saturday in the spring of 2017, and a ninth-grade student in Pennsylvania was having a bad day. She had just learned that she had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and would remain on junior varsity.

The student expressed her frustration on social media, sending a message on Snapchat to about 250 friends. The message included an image of the student and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with text expressing a similar sentiment. Using a curse word four times, the student expressed her dissatisfaction with "school," "softball," "cheer" and "everything."

[...] The school suspended the student from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to "avoid chaos" and maintain a "teamlike environment."

The student sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory [PDF link] [...] [in which the] court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds.

Next month, [...] the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case. [...] The Third Circuit's ruling is in tension with decisions from several other courts, and such splits often invite Supreme Court review.

In urging the justices to hear the case, the school district said administrators around the nation needed a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on their power to discipline students for what they say away from school.

[...] "In the modern era, a tremendous percentage of minors' speech occurs off campus but online," [legal author and Yale law professor Justin Driver] said. "Judicial decisions that permit schools to regulate off-campus speech that criticizes public schools [...] empower schools to reach into any student's home and declare critical statements verboten, something that should deeply alarm all Americans."

So, during this time of on-line learning, how does one draw the line between school activities and on-line activities?

Also at: Bowling Green Daily News

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by requerdanos on Monday January 11, @12:50AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

US rivers are changing from blue to yellow and green, satellite images show:

A third of U.S. rivers have significantly changed color over the last 36 years, turning from blue to yellow and green, striking new images reveal.

Researchers analyzed 235,000 satellite images — taken over a 34-year period between 1984 and 2018 — from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat program. The changing hues can be viewed in an interactive map.

More than half of those satellite images showed rivers with a dominant hue of yellow, while more than a third of images were mostly green. Just 8% of river pics were mostly blue.

"Most of the rivers are changing gradually and not noticeable to the human eye," lead author John Gardner, a postdoctoral researcher in the global hydrology lab at University of North Carolina, told Live Science. "But areas that are the fastest changing are more likely to be man-made."

[...] More research is now needed to determine just how accurate river color is at determining ecosystem health and which changes are important to monitor.

Also at:

Journal Reference:
John R. Gardner, Xiao Yang, Simon N. Topp, et al. The Color of Rivers, Geophysical Research Letters (DOI: 10.1029/2020GL088946)

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Sunday January 10, @10:20PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Tiny Wireless Device Sheds Light On Combating Obesity:

Gastric bypass surgery is sometimes the last resort for those who struggle with obesity or have serious health-related issues due to their weight. Since this procedure involves making a small stomach pouch and rerouting the digestive tract, it is very invasive and prolongs the recovery period for patients. In a new study, researchers at Texas A&M University have described a medical device that might help with weight loss, and requires a simpler operative procedure for implantation.

Researchers said their centimeter-sized device provides the feeling of fullness by stimulating the endings of the vagus nerve with light. Unlike other devices that require a power cord, their device is wireless and can be controlled externally from a remote radio frequency source.

"We wanted to create a device that not only requires minimal surgery for implantation but also allows us to stimulate specific nerve endings in the stomach," said Sung II Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Our device has the potential to do both of these things in the harsh gastric conditions, which, in the future, can be hugely beneficial to people needing dramatic weight-loss surgeries."

Also at: New Atlas.

Journal Reference:
Woo Seok Kim, Sungcheol Hong, Milenka Gamero, et al. Organ-specific, multimodal, wireless optoelectronics for high-throughput phenotyping of peripheral neural pathways [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20421-8)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday January 10, @05:35PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

A lawyer at the Supreme Court of India, Mary Mitzy, asks in the Deccan Chronicle about who controls the right to actually speak in court during online trials: Specifically she asks, who controls the mute button in online court cases? Currently court does not meet in person and takes up only matters it deems urgent. The court is using a proprietary system for video conferencing, which would raise additional questions on SN, yet proprietary or not the matter of muting affects not only the outcomes of the trials but also the flow of justice.

Indian courts follow the system of an open court hearing. Everyone can watch the proceedings. But the Vidyo app has a limit in terms of the number of participants who can be admitted and the Supreme Court, too, came out with a notification restricting the advocates from sharing the link for appearance. It has affected mostly young advocates keen to learn court craft from watching the courts function.

But there's been worse happening. Many a time, during hearing a case, the advocate was logged out at the relevant moment and was unable to log in. This resulted in the case being decided in their absence. It is with great difficulty that one gets one's case listed for hearing and if it is decided in one's absence then one's entire effort becomes futile. On top of that, there is the pain of humiliation before one's client.

[...] Now, the cases heard by the Supreme Court have anywhere between two and 30 parties. Who decides who will be unmuted? A control room that has no idea about the proceedings of a case? Advocates keep sending requests to be unmated [sic] or for the senior advocate to be allowed to speak. But only if they are lucky will their request be granted before the case is over. Or else, you just count yourself to be on the "unlucky list".

[N.B. - This is from the opinion section of the site and pertains to the court system in India.]

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Sunday January 10, @12:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the laboratory-based-binge-drinking-scenario dept.

Increase in pleasurable effects of alcohol over time may predict alcohol use disorder:

During her training as a clinical psychologist, Andrea King, PhD, was taught the standard theory about alcoholism: Individuals who drink to excess develop tolerance to the substance, requiring them to drink more over time to achieve pleasurable feelings. This spiral has long been thought to lead to addiction.

But when she started working with patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD), King noticed that — contrary to what she’d been taught by prevailing research and clinical lore — addicted patients didn’t seem to have a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of alcohol, only to the sedating effects. “Their response to the positive effects of alcohol wasn’t diminished at all,” she said.

[...] In a new study, published on Jan. 5 [...] King and her team tested 190 non-alcoholic young adults in a laboratory-based binge-drinking scenario at three regular intervals over the course of 10 years.

The study showed that those individuals who reported the highest pleasurable and rewarding effects of alcohol at the start of the trial were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder, or AUD (the current clinical term for alcoholism).

[...] “This could be an opportunity for early intervention, comparable to how someone may get their cholesterol tested and then may be more motivated to change their diet, exercise more or start a medication to rein it in,” King said. “Similarly, knowing one’s acute response to alcohol and how it may indicate a person’s future risk for drinking problems, one may decide to change their drinking on their own or seek help to avoid the progression to addiction.”

Journal Reference:
Subjective Responses to Alcohol in the Development and Maintenance of Alcohol Use Disorder, American Journal of Psychiatry (DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.20030247)

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Sunday January 10, @08:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the when-you-type-hunter2-all-I-see-is-******* dept.

Nissan NA source code leaked due to default admin:admin credentials:

Multiple code repositories from Nissan North America became public this week after the company left an exposed Git server protected with default access credentials.

The entire collection is around 20 gigabytes large and contains source code for mobile apps and various tools used by Nissan internally for diagnostics, client acquisition, market research, or NissanConnect services.

It is unclear if Nissan learned about the leak by itself or received a tip, but the company took down the insecure server on Tuesday before media outlets started publishing news of the incident.

[...] Swiss developer and reverse engineer Tillie Kottmann, who maintains a repository of leaked source code from various sources and their scouting of misconfigured devops tools, posted a summary of the Nissan leak.

[Editor's Note: The Twitter links appear to be inaccessible at this time, but the mentioned leak summary is available in the article itself.]

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Sunday January 10, @03:20AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the How-big-will-the-splatter-be? dept.

Scientists develop new approach to understanding massive volcanic eruptions:

A geosciences team led by the University of South Florida (USF) has developed a new way to reconstruct the sizes of volcanic eruptions that occurred thousands of years ago, creating a first-of-its kind tool that can aid scientists in understanding past explosive eruptions that shaped the earth and improve the way of estimating hazards of future eruptions.

The advanced numerical model the USF team developed allows scientists to reconstruct eruption rates through time by estimating the dimensions of the umbrella clouds that contribute to the accumulation of vast deposits of volcanic ash. The research is published in the new edition of the Nature journal, Communications, Earth and Environment.

[...] Current technology allows scientists to observe ash clouds. However, past eruptions are characterized based on the geological interpretation of their tephra deposits—the pieces and fragments of rock ejected into the air by an erupting volcano. [...] Until now, the most sought-after information is the eruption column height and the total erupted mass or volume, [USF doctoral candidate Robert] Constantinescu said.

But over time, deposits erode and can provide an uncertain picture of older eruptions. Also, current models have been limited in that they assume all volcanic eruptions created mostly vertical plumes, Constantinescu said, and don't account for large explosive eruptions that form laterally spreading umbrella ash clouds.

The USF team's work shows that it is the dimensions of the umbrella clouds that is the telling factor in reconstructing past large explosive eruptions.

[...] The researchers propose updating the VEI [Volcanic Explosivity Index] scale with the umbrella cloud dimensions, which can now be easily estimated using the mathematical models they've developed.

Journal Reference:
Robert Constantinescu, Aurelian Hopulele-Gligor, Charles B. Connor, et al. The radius of the umbrella cloud helps characterize large explosive volcanic eruptions [open], Communications Earth & Environment (DOI: 10.1038/s43247-020-00078-3)

Original Submission