Graphics

My High School CS Homework Is the Centerfold 609

Posted by timothy
from the awfully-thin-skin dept.
theodp writes: To paraphrase the J. Geils Band, Maddie Zug's high school computer science homework is the centerfold. In a Washington Post op-ed, Zug, a student at the top-ranked Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, argues that a centerfold does not belong in the classroom. "I first saw a picture of Playboy magazine's Miss November 1972 a year ago as a junior at TJ," Zug explains. "My artificial intelligence teacher told our class to search Google for Lena Soderberg (not the full image, though!) and use her picture to test our latest coding assignment...Soderberg has a history with computer science. In the 1970s, male programmers at the University of Southern California needed to test their image-processing algorithm. They scanned what they had handy: the centerfold of a Playboy magazine. Before long, the image became a convention in industry and academia." (Wikipedia has a nice background, too.)
AT&T

AT&T Bills Elderly Customer $24,298.93 For Landline Dial-Up Service 233

Posted by timothy
from the but-it-says-in-the-fine-print dept.
McGruber writes: 83-year-old Woodland Hills, California resident Ron Dorff usually pays $51 a month to AT&T for a landline, which he uses to access the Internet via an old-school, low-speed AOL dial-up subscription.... but then, in March, AT&T sent him a bill for $8,596.57. He called AT&T and their service rep couldn't make heads or tails of the bill, so she said she'd send a technician to his house. None came, so Dorff figured that everything was ok.

Dorff's next monthly bill was for $15,687.64, bringing his total outstanding debt to AT&T, including late fees, to $24,298.93. If he didn't pay by May 8, AT&T warned, his bill would rise to at least $24,786.16. Droff then called David Lazarus, business columnist for the LA Times, who got in touch with AT&T, who wasted little time in deciding it would waive the more than $24,000 in charges.

AT&T spokeshole Georgia Taylor claims Dorff's modem somehow had started dialing a long-distance number when it accessed AOL, and the per-minute charges went into orbit as he stayed connected for hours.

AT&T declined to answer the LA Times questions about why AT&T didn't spot the problem itself and proactively take steps to fix things? AT&T also declined to elaborate on whether AT&T's billing system is capable of spotting unusual charges and, if so, why it doesn't routinely do so.
The Courts

Judge Tosses United Airlines Lawsuit Over 'Hidden City' Tickets 126

Posted by timothy
from the you-had-to-go-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes: United Airlines lost a legal round in its effort to stop a website that helps people find 'hidden city' ticket pairs. The airline, along with online travel site Orbitz, sued New York-based Skiplagged.com and its founder, Aktarer Zaman, in November seeking an injunction to stop the site from sending users to Orbitz to purchase United tickets. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Illinois isn't the proper venue for the carrier's claims.
Patents

Patent Issued Covering Phone Notifications of Delivery Time and Invoice Quantity 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-should-patent-the-rubber-stamp dept.
eldavojohn writes: The staggering ingenuity of the U.S. Patent system has again been showcased by the EFF's analysis of recent patents. This week's patent and follow-up patent cover the futuristic innovative idea that when you order something, you can update your order and add additional amounts to your order while it's being processed. But wait, it gets even more innovative! You may one day be able to even to notify when you would like it delivered — on your phone! I know, you're busy wiping all that brain matter off your screen as your head seems to have exploded. Well, it turns out that inventor and patent holder Scott Horstemeyer (aka Eclipse IP, LLC of Delray Beach, FL) found no shortage of targets to go after with his new patents. It appears Tiger Fitness (and every other online retailer) was sending notices to customers about shipments. Did I mention Horstemeyer is a lawyer too? But not just a regular lawyer, a "SUPER lawyer" from the same firm that patented social networking in 2007, sued Uber for using location finding technologies in 2013 and sued Overstock.com as well as a small time shoe seller for using shipping notifications in 2014. A related article at Vox makes this case: "The primary problem with the patent system is, well, the patent system. The system makes it too easy to get broad, vague patents, and the litigation process is tilted too far toward plaintiffs. But because so many big companies make so much money off of this system, few in Congress are willing to consider broader reforms."
Government

American Psychological Association Hit With New Torture Allegations 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the protip-don't-torture-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: Did the American Psychological Association (APA) collude with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to enable the torture of detainees in the War on Terror? The answer won't be known until June, when an independent investigation is due to conclude. But at least one thing was made clear in a report from an independent group of psychologists based on e-mail exchanges between APA and CIA officials from 2003 to 2006: The world's largest professional organization for psychologists has maintained a surprisingly cozy relationship with the defense and intelligence community.
Government

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-stop-yelling dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
Piracy

Grooveshark Shuts Down 224

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-that-through-a-bit-better dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Grooveshark, one of the most popular music streaming websites, has announced that they are shutting down immediately. Several lawsuits from the record companies pushed the company out of business. In a notice posted on the Grooveshark website, its two founders said, "[D]espite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation." All of their music has been deleted, and the site itself now belongs to the record companies. NewYorkCountryLawyer adds that according to the settlement (PDF), Grooveshark must pay $50 million, but no money judgment has been entered against individual defendants.
United Kingdom

UK High Court Orders Block On Popcorn Time 96

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-mocie-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Five ISPs have been given orders by the UK High Court to restrict access to sites offering downloads of popular movie streaming service Popcorn Time – a move which follows complaints from the Motion Picture Association referring to the software's use as a platform for viewing pirated content. According to the new regulation, Virgin, BT, Sky, EE and TalkTalk are now required to block access to popcorntime.io, flixtor.me, popcorntime.se and isoplex.isohunt.to – all sites which link to Popcorn Time downloads. In the High Court order, Justice Birss cites under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, that the 'Popcorn Time application is used in order to watch pirated content on the internet.' Popcorn Time operates as a BitTorrent client, despite its slick user interface, and is used mainly for illegal content – although, as its supporters argue, it is also a handy tool for streaming public domain films. It is unclear how successful the ban will be – the blocked sites are not the only places to find Popcorn Time online. Additionally, at ISP level, it will be challenging to monitor as there is not a single version or developer to seek out, with the code available as open source.
Encryption

FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For "Stupid" Ideas About Encryption 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the stupid-is-as-stupid-does dept.
blottsie writes: At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the FBI endured outright hostility as both technical experts and members of Congress from both parties roundly criticized the law enforcement agency's desire to place so-called back doors into encryption technology. "Creating a technological backdoor just for good guys is technologically stupid," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Stanford University computer science graduate. "That's just stupid. Our founders understood that an Orwellian overreaching government is one of the most dangerous things this world could have," Lieu said.
Social Networks

Can Riots Be Predicted By Social Media? 141

Posted by timothy
from the not-the-best-ones dept.
sciencehabit writes: The broken glass and burned wreckage are still being cleared in the wake of the riots that convulsed Baltimore's streets on 27 April. The final trigger of the unrest was the funeral of a 25-year-old African-American man who had died in police custody, but observers point to many other root causes, from income inequality to racial discrimination. But for a few researchers who are studying Baltimore's unrest, the question is not the ultimate causes of the riot but its mechanism: How do such riots self-organize and spread? One of those researchers, Dan Braha, a social scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been collecting data from Twitter that spans the riot from buildup to aftermath, part of a larger study of social media and social unrest around the world. He spoke to Science about how researchers are helping to predict the riots of the future.
United States

US Senate Targets Patent Trolls 56

Posted by timothy
from the crimes-of-opportunity dept.
New submitter jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, "Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)", began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech. The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August. "Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. "This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Is Disrupting the Argentine Economy 251

Posted by timothy
from the when-promises-are-fulfilled dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Nathaniel Popper writes in the NYT that with its volatile currency and dysfunctional banks, Argentina is the perfect place to experiment with a new digital currency. The number of Bitcoin users in Argentina is relatively small; it barely registers on most charts of global Bitcoin usage. But Argentina has been quietly gaining renown in technology circles as the first, and almost only, place where Bitcoins are being regularly used by ordinary people for real commercial transactions. For example, BitPagos is selling bitcoins in over 8,000 Argentine convenience stores and is helping more than 200 hotels, both cheap and boutique, take credit-card payments from foreign tourists. The money brought to Argentina using Bitcoin circumvents the onerous government restrictions on receiving money from abroad

The Rock Hostel is one of hundreds of hotels in the country using BitPagos to collect credit-card payments from foreign customers. If owner Rodriguez Pons accepted credit-card payments from American customers through the usual financial channels, customers would be billed in dollars, and when those dollars came to Pons's Argentine bank account, they would be converted at the official rate, about 30 percent lower than the black-market rate. It would also take 20 days for Pons to get her pesos. BitPagos helped counter these drawbacks by taking the credit-card payment in the United States and then using the dollars to buy Bitcoins, generally from Coinbase, before sending them to Pons immediately.

Bitcoin proponents like to say that the currency first became popular in the places that needed it least, like Europe and the United States, given how smoothly the currencies and financial services work there. It makes sense that a place like Argentina would be fertile ground for a virtual currency. Inflation is constant: At the end of 2014, for example, the peso was worth 25 percent less than it was at the beginning of the year. And that adversity pales in comparison with past bouts of hyperinflation, defaults on national debts and currency revaluations. "In the long run, Bitcoin will be very disruptive to the developed world," says Dan Morehead, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now runs a hedge fund focused on Bitcoin. Things are happening sooner in Argentina, he says, because its financial system creates hassles for the people there. But, he added, "Argentina is just a more extreme example of the situation in every country."
Government

Tech Credited With Reducing Nigerian Election Death Toll 58

Posted by timothy
from the pat-answers dept.
jfruh writes: Dozens died in the runup to Nigeria's most recent election — a shocking statistic to many Westerners, but a relief in comparison to the much more serious violence that plagued earlier elections. Observers are crediting technology with making the election safer: the use of biometric IDs gave voters more confidence in the results, and social media gave people a chance to blow of anger that might've otherwise results in street brawls.
Education

White House Outsources K-12 CS Education To Infosys Charity 88

Posted by timothy
from the perhaps-someone-besides-mama-cass-is-getting-fat dept.
theodp writes: In December, the White House praised the leadership of Code.org for their efforts to get more computer science into K-12 schools, which were bankrolled by $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg. On Monday, it was announced that Infosys Foundation USA will be partnering with Code.org to bring CS education to millions of U.S. students. Infosys Foundation USA Chair Vandana Sikka, who joins execs from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon execs on Code.org's Board, is the spouse of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka. The announcement from the tax-deductible charity comes as India-based Infosys finds itself scrutinized by U.S. Senators over allegations of H-1B visa program abuses.
The Internet

Rand Paul Moves To Block New "Net Neutrality" Rules 437

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-isps? dept.
SonicSpike writes with news about another bump in the road for net neutrality. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would 'wrap the Internet in red tape.' The 'net neutrality' rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court. Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.
United Kingdom

Windows XP Support Deal Not Renewed By UK Government, Leaves PCs Open To Attack 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-for-all dept.
girlmad writes: The government's one-year £5.5m Windows XP support deal with Microsoft has not been extended, sources have told V3, despite thousands of computers across Whitehall still running the ancient software, leaving them wide open to cyber attacks. It's still unclear when all government machines will be migrated to a newer OS.
Government

Senate Advances "Secret Science" Bill, Sets Up Possible Showdown With President 353

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-others-eyes-only dept.
sciencehabit writes: Republicans in Congress appear to be headed for a showdown with the White House over controversial "secret science" legislation aimed at changing how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses scientific studies. A deeply divided Senate panel yesterday advanced a bill that would require EPA to craft its policies based only on public data available to outside experts. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure. But Democrats and science groups have harshly criticized the approach, and the White House has threatened a veto.
Advertising

How Google Searches Are Promoting Genocide Denial 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the revising-history-through-seo dept.
merbs writes: If you use Google Turkey to search for "Ermeni Krm", which means "Armenian genocide" in Turkish, the first thing you'll see is a sponsored link to a website whose purpose is to deny there was any genocide at all. If you Google "Armenia genocide" in the U.S., you'll see the same thing. FactCheckArmenia.com may reflect Turkey's longstanding position that the Ottoman Empire's systematic effort to "relocate" and exterminate its Armenian population does not qualify as a genocide, but it certainly does not reflect the facts. The sponsored link to a credible-looking website risks confusing searchers about the true nature of the event. Worse, it threatens to poison a nascent willingness among Turkish citizens to recognize and discuss the horrors of its past.
Canada

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Music Industry Got a Copyright Extension 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-wouldn't-download-a-lobbyist dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby, which was ready with a press release within minutes. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming? Michael Geist reports that records show the extension is the result of backroom lobbying with monthly meetings between senior government officials and music industry lobbyists paving the way for copyright term extension without public consultation or debate.
Transportation

Massachusetts Governor Introduces Bill To Regulate Uber, Lyft 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-your-medallions dept.
jfruh writes: The "wild west" days of ridesharing services may be coming to an end. The governor of Massachusetts has proposed a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and their rivals in the state. Among the new rules: ridesharing services would have to run background checks on their drivers and keep a roster of active drivers; vehicles would need to have some external marker indicating that they're a ridesharing car; and drivers would need to hold at $1 million worth of insurance when transporting passengers.