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Books

Neurologist and Author Oliver Sacks Dead at 82 30

Physician, writer and humanist Oliver Sacks has died of cancer at age 82. Sacks was famous for "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" and other books, including his account in "Awakenings" (later made into a well-recieved film) of administering treatment which resulted in several patients emerging from their comas. The Guardian reports: When he revealed that he had terminal cancer, Sacks quoted one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume. On discovering that he was mortally ill at 65, Hume wrote: “I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”
Censorship

Germany Wants Facebook To Obey Its Rules About Holocaust Denial 692

Bruce66423 writes: In a classic example of the conflict of cultures bought about by the internet, Germany is trying to get Facebook to obey its rules about banning holocaust denial posts. From the linked Jerusalem Post article: [Justice Minister Heiko] Maas, who has accused Facebook of doing too little to thwart racist and hate posts on its social media platform, said that Germany has zero tolerance for such expression and expects the US-based company to be more vigilant. "One thing is clear: if Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws," Maas told Reuters. "It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does." "Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany and it doesn't matter if they're posted on Facebook or uttered out in the public on the market square," he added. ... "There's no scope for misplaced tolerance towards internet users who spread racist propaganda. That's especially the case in light of our German history."
Facebook

Facebook Is Now Working On Its Own Digital Assistant Called M 56

Mark Wilson writes: Sounding like a character from a James Bond movie, M is Facebook's personal digital assistant. Ready to compete with the likes of Cortana, M will live inside Facebook Messenger and take artificial intelligence a step further. Rather than just helping you to find information or create calendar entries, M will actually perform tasks on your behalf.

Once up and running, M will be able to book restaurants for you, purchase shopping, and more. It will also be possible to use the service to ask for advice — such as looking for somewhere to visit nearby, or gift suggestions — and Facebook says the AI behind M is "trained and supervised by people".
Cellphones

Most People Use Their Phones During Social Events, Despite Thinking It Harms Conversation 137

Mark Wilson points out that the Pew Research Center has released a new report on mobile etiquette in the age of smartphones. 90% of U.S. adults now have cellphones and carry them around frequently. Pew's survey looked into how this is changing social norms with regard to shifting attention away from physical-world interactions. Most people think it's fine to use a cellphone while walking the streets or waiting in line, but 62% think it's not OK at a restaurant, an 88% disapprove of using one at a family dinner. Disapproval of using a cellphone in a meeting, movie theater, or church is almost universal. 89% of people say they used their cellphone during their most recent social activity, whether it was texting, checking the web, or snapping a picture. Despite this, 82% say cellphone use generally hurts the conversation. 79% of adults say they occasionally encounter loud or annoying cellphone behavior from others in public, and more than half say they often overhear intimate details of other people's lives because of it.
Twitter

Twitter Blocks API Access For Sites Monitoring Politicians' Deleted Tweets 114

An anonymous reader writes: Politwoops is/was a site that monitored the Twitter feeds of politicians and posted any tweets that those politicians later deleted. On May 15, Twitter suspended API access for the U.S. version of Politwoops, and now they've blocked access to the versions of Politwoops running in 30 other countries. Twitter has also blocked access for similar site Diplotwoops, which focused on deleted tweets from diplomats and embassies. Twitter said, "'Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user's voice." Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation, which developed Politwoops, disagrees: "What politicians say in public should be available to anyone. This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice."
Security

Why Car Info Tech Is So Thoroughly At Risk 191

Cory Doctorow reflects in a post at Boing Boing on the many ways in which modern cars' security infrastructure is a white-hot mess. And as to the reasons why, this seems to be the heart of the matter, and it applies to much more than cars: [M]anufacturers often view bugs that aren't publicly understood as unimportant, because it costs something to patch those bugs, and nothing to ignore them, even if those bugs are exploited by bad guys, because the bad guys are going to do everything they can to keep the exploit secret so they can milk it for as long as possible, meaning that even if your car is crashed (or bank account is drained) by someone exploiting a bug that the manufacturer has been informed about, you may never know about it. There is a sociopathic economic rationality to silencing researchers who come forward with bugs.
Businesses

Do Old Programmers Need To Keep Leaping Through New Hoops? 242

Nerval's Lobster writes: In recent years, it seems as if tech has evolved into an industry that lionizes the young. Despite all the press about 21-year-old rock-star developers and 30-year-old CEOs, though, is there still a significant market for older programmers and developers, especially those with specialized knowledge? The answer is "yes," of course, and sites like Dice suggest that older tech pros should take steps such as setting up social media accounts and spending a lot of time on Github if they want to attract interest from companies and recruiters. But do they really need to go through all of that? If you have twenty, thirty, or even forty years of solid tech work under your belt, is it worth jumping through all sorts of new hoops? Or is there a better way to keep working — provided you don't already have a job, that is, or move up to management, or get out of the game entirely in order to try something startling and new.
The Almighty Buck

Finland Considers Minimum Income To Reform Welfare System 753

jones_supa writes: The Finnish government is considering a pilot project that would see the state pay people a basic income regardless of whether they are employed or not. The details of how much the basic income might be and who would be eligible for it are yet to be announced, but already there is widespread interest in how it might work. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has praised the idea, and he sees it as a way to simplify the social security system. With unemployment being an increasing concern, four out of five Finns are now in favour of a basic income. Sipilä has expressed support for a limited, geographical experiment, just like Dutch city of Utrecht is executing this autumn.
The Internet

Another Wave of Publications Shut Down Online Comments 226

AmiMoJo writes: The debate about comment sections on news sites is often as divisive as the comments themselves. Recently outlets such as The Verge and The Daily Dot have closed their comments sections because they've become too hard to manage. And they're far from alone. Moderating comments is a full-time job (or several full-time jobs) at many news organisations. Nicholas White, editor at The Daily Dot, noted that "in our experience, our community hasn't evolved in our comments. It's evolved in our social media accounts. To have comments, you have to be very active, and if you're not incredibly active, what ends up happening is a mob can shout down all the other people on your site. In an environment that isn't heavily curated it becomes about silencing voices and not about opening up voices."

Riese, co-founder and editor-in-chief of LGBT site Autostraddle, adds, "I completely understand why The Daily Dot wouldn't want to have comments — or in fact why most websites wouldn't want to have comments. I think 75% of the time they're more trouble than they're worth, and for us it's still a lot of work to keep up on. Not all of our users are necessarily on Facebook or are out as gay on Facebook, or are comfortable talking about queer stuff on Facebook. We keep comments on the site which is a safe space for people to exchange ideas — and that's a big factor for us."
Businesses

How 'Rock Star' Became a Business Buzzword 80

HughPickens.com writes: Carina Chocano writes in the NYT that once, a long time ago, a rock star was a free-spirited, convention-flouting artist/rebel/hero/Dionysian fertility god who fronted a world-famous band, sold millions of records and headlined stadium concerts where people were trampled in frenzies of cultlike fervor. Now 'rock star'' has made a complete about-face and in its new incarnation, it is more likely to refer to a programmer, salesperson, social-media strategist, business-to-business telemarketer, recruiter, management consultant or celebrity pastry chef than to a person in a band. The term has become shorthand for a virtuosity so exalted it borders on genius — only for some repetitive, detail-oriented task. According to Chocano, posting a listing for a job for which only ''rock stars'' need apply casts an H.R. manager as a kind of corporate Svengali; "That nobody is looking for a front-end developer who is addicted to heroin or who bites the heads off doves in conference rooms goes without saying. Pretty much anyone can be a ''rock star'' these days — except actual rock stars, who are encouraged to think of themselves as brands."
Security

Facebook Intern Gets Preemptive Ax For Exposing Security Flaw 103

Engadget reports that Harvard student Aran Khanna, who was about to begin an internship at Facebook, had that internship yanked after he created (and took down, but evidently too slowly for the company's taste) a browser plug-in that exposed a security flaw in Facebook, by allowing users to discover the location of other users when they use the Messenger app. Surely Khanna won't be jobless or internship-less for long. (Don't expect the app to work now; it's still in the Chrome store as a historical artifact, though, and at GitHub.)
The Internet

Russian Government Threatening To Block Reddit Over Cannabis 141

An anonymous reader writes: The Russian Government is threatening to block the social linking site Reddit across its country if they do not comply with removing a thread dedicated to growing cannabis. According to a post on VK.com, Roskomnadzor the Russian FCC, has asked Reddit administrator to read their emails and their social media posts stating that they want /r/trees brought down which had posted an article about growing narcotic plants. Recently, Reddit changed its rules to allow illegal discussions on its site but they say that they would continue to block things such as copyrighted material.
Medicine

Brain Scan Predicts the Success of Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment 39

jan_jes writes: MIT researchers performed brain scans on 38 SAD patients and were able to predict with about 80% accuracy which patients would do well in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Use of the scans to predict treatment outcomes improved predictions fivefold over use of a clinician's assessment alone. The researchers used a form of brain imaging that scans patients in a state of rest. Resting-state images can be done quickly and reliably, so they have the potential to be used in a clinical setting. “Choice of therapy is like a wheel of chance,” says first author Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, a research scientist in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. “We’re hoping to use brain imaging to help provide more reliable predictors of treatment response.”
Privacy

Finnish Politician Suggests Embedding Chips In Citizens To Protect the Welfare State 312

New submitter janit writes that social benefits to Finnish citizens living outside of Finland have in recent days been the cause of controversy, and links to an article which suggests just how much of a controversy: A politician from the True Finns Party, Pasi Mäenranta, is also worried about the abuse of the benefits. He published a post on Facebook, where he suggests that all Finnish citizens leaving the country be embedded with an identification chip. Sounds like a parallel system might be a popular idea with some U.S. presidential candidates, too.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Releases Privacy Badger, an Addon That Algorithmically Blocks Online Trackers 136

New submitter zfc writes: Online tracking has become a pervasive invisible reality of the modern web. Most sites you load are likely to be full of ads, tracking pixels, social media share buttons, and other invisible trackers all harvesting data about your web browsing. These trackers use cookies and other methods to read unique IDs associated with your browser, the result being that they record all the sites you visit as you browse around the internet. This sort of tracking is invisible to most web users, meaning they never get the option to agree to or opt-out of it. Today the EFF has launched the 1.0 version of Privacy Badger, an extension designed to prevent these trackers from accessing unique info about you and your browsing.
Social Networks

Reddit Updates Content Policy, Bans More Subreddits 410

AmiMoJo writes: Reddit's new CEO, Steve Huffman, announced new a content policy and the banning of a small number of subreddits today. Additionally, some subreddits will be "quarantined", so users can't see their content unless they explicitly opt in. "Our most important policy over the last ten years has been to allow just about anything so long as it does not prevent others from enjoying Reddit for what it is: the best place online to have truly authentic conversations.I believe these policies strike the right balance." The names of the nixed subreddits make clear that they're not exactly neighbors exchanging pleasantries.
Debian

Largest DebConf Ever Will Hit Heidelberg In Mid-August 41

New submitter alfino writes: Less than two weeks away, DebConf15, the 16th Debian Conference, scheduled to take place 15–22 August in Heidelberg, Germany, has been officially announced. The organisers are expecting more than 550 participants from 53 countries (making it the largest DebConf so far, and the first in history that will be closing registrations early), and have presented a schedule packed with talks and events, including several prominent, invited speakers, and yet plenty of room for informal and ad-hoc collaboration. Most events will be streamed live to allow for remote participation, and archived for later consumption.

The celebrations of Debian's 22nd birthday on 16 August, the traditional "Cheese & Wine BoF", a screening of the Oscar-award-winning documentary Citizenfour (which mentions Debian in its end credits), and a day trip for all attendees top off the programme. Additionally, DebConf15 will be preceeded by DebCamp, a week of sprints, workshops and hacking sessions. It is expected that much progress will be made on Debian (gcc5 transition, planning of the next stable release "stretch", etc.), and of course Free Software in general. The conference itself begins with an Open Weekend geared to the public, and featuring a job fair.

Attendance is free of charge thanks to numerous sponsors, including Platinum Sponsor Hewlett-Packard. Registration is required nonetheless and only very few places are left.

The conference will be tracked on various social media sites using hashtag #DebConf15. Even though Debian does not endorse proprietary services, @DebConf will have the news.
Social Networks

Facebook Allows Turkish Government To Set the Censorship Rules 121

New submitter feylikurds writes: Facebook has been blocking and banning users for posting Kurdish or anti-Turkish material. Many screenshots exists of Facebook notifying people for such. You can insult any single historical figure that you like on Facebook except one: Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal 'Ataturk'. However, he should not receive special treatment and be protected from criticism, but rather should be treated and examined like everyone else. In order to be accessible within Turkey, Facebook has allowed the repressive Turkish government to set the censorship rules for billions of their users all around the globe. Facebook censors Kurds on behalf of Turkey. To show the world how unjust this policy is, this group discusses Facebook's censorship policy as it relates to Kurds (Facebook account required) and how to get Facebook to change its unfair and discriminatory policy. Makes re-reading Hossein Derakhshan's piece worth the time.
NASA

Buzz Aldrin Publishes Moon Expenses Form 100

An anonymous reader writes: Proving once again that the government has a form for everything, Buzz Aldrin has unveiled his Apollo 11 documentation on social media over the past few days, including a travel voucher detailing his expenses on his trip to the moon. The papers listed him as having been on a "work trip" from his home in Houston, Texas that had taken him to the moon and then back again with a total expenses claim of just $33.31. The report notes : "Government meals and quarters [were] furnished for all of the above dates."
The Internet

India Blocks Over 800 Adult Websites 205

William Robinson writes: The government of India has blocked over 800 adult websites through a secret order. “Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check,” N.N. Kaul, a spokesman at the department of telecommunications said. “We don’t want them to become a social nuisance.” The ban has provoked debates in the country about extreme and unwarranted moral policing by the government. The action came after the Supreme Court of India had refused to ban porn sites in India.