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Communications

PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty 903

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.

PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

Update: Apparently, canceling his Youtube Red series was deemed an insufficient response. Youtube has now removed the mirror of PewDiePie's "Death to All Jews" video because it "violates Youtube's policy on hate speech." The original posting of the video had already been marked private by PewDiePie shortly after the controversy erupted. A quick check of Vimeo and Daily Motion came up empty, so you're on your own if you wish to find out for yourself what the controversy was all about.
Medicine

Ethicists Advise Caution In Applying CRISPR Gene Editing To Humans (washingtonpost.com) 159

New submitter Baron_Yam quotes a report from Washington Post (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): Ethicists have been working overtime to figure out how to handle CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technique that could potentially prevent congenital diseases but could also be used for cosmetic enhancements and lead to permanent, heritable changes in the human species. The latest iteration of this ongoing CRISPR debate is a report published Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. The report, a series of guidelines written by 22 experts from multiple countries and a variety of academic specialties, presents a kind of flashing red light for CRISPR. The report did not recommend an absolute prohibition of gene editing on the human "germline" if such interventions can be proved safe. This would involve genetic changes to eggs, sperm or embryos that would persist in an adult and could be inherited by future generations. For some ethicists, that represents a slippery slope. At the conclusion of a gene-editing summit in Washington at the National Academy of Sciences in December 2015, scientists said that although some basic research could proceed, it would be irresponsible to use genetically modified germline cells for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy. But the new report takes a slightly more permissive, forward-thinking position, saying that, if and when such interventions are proved safe -- which could be in the near future -- and if numerous criteria are met to ensure that such gene editing is regulated and limited, it could potentially be used to treat rare, serious diseases. "We say proceed with all due caution, but we don't prohibit germline, after considerable discussion and debate," said Richard Hynes, an MIT biologist and one of the leaders of the new study. "We're talking only about fixing diseases."
Power

Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US (arstechnica.com) 200

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: At 2.25 gigawatts, Arizona's Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-burning power plant in the Western U.S. The plant, and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it, are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Navajo and Hopi peoples have had a conflicted relationship with coal since the plant opened in the 1970s. Almost all the 900-plus jobs at the mine and plant are held by Native Americans, and the tribes receive royalties to account for large portions of their budget. Negotiations were underway to improve the tribes' lease terms, which expire in 2019. But on Monday, the four utilities that own most of the plant voted to close it at the end of 2019. They decided that the plant's coal-powered electricity just can't compete with plants burning natural gas. A press release from Salt River Projects, which runs the plant, explained, "The decision by the utility owners of [Navajo Generating Station] is based on the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry, which has seen natural gas prices sink to record lows and become a viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power."
Medicine

New Study In Mice Shows That Increasing Serotonin Affects Motivation, But Only In Certain Circumstances (neurosciencenews.com) 47

New submitter baalcat quotes a report from Neuroscience News: A new study in mice shows that increasing serotonin, one of the major mediators of brain communication, affects motivation -- but only in certain circumstances. Furthermore, the study revealed that the short and long term effects of increased serotonin levels are opposed -- a completely unforeseen property of this neurotransmitter's functional system. A surprising behavioral effect, discovered in mice by neuroscientists at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU), in Lisbon, Portugal, strongly suggests that serotonin is involved in a biological mechanism which affects the animals' motivation. The study has now been published in the online open access journal eLife. Serotonin, one of the chemical "messengers," or neurotransmitters, in the brain, is used by neurons to communicate with each other. It plays an important role in the regulation of sleep, movement and other behaviors which are essential for animal survival. But for motivation in particular, it was unclear whether serotonin was involved. Using optogenetics, the team stimulated the release of serotonin from neurons in the raphe nuclei. They first induced "peaks" of serotonin by stimulating these neurons with pulses of light, lasting three seconds every ten seconds, over three five-minute time periods. The mice, placed in a box, were left free to explore their environment. In these conditions, their most frequent spontaneous behaviors are walking around, rearing, grooming, digging holes or keeping relatively still, but nevertheless alert. The only difference the scientists saw was that stimulation caused the mice to reduce their locomotive speed by about 50%. In general, this stimulation of serotonin-producing neurons did not affect other behaviors. The effect of these serotonin "peaks" on locomotion was almost instantaneous (speed reduction manifested one second after stimulation) and transient, with things going back to normal after five seconds. But during this short period of time, "the animals acted as if they weren't motivated," says Zach Mainen, who led the study.
Wikipedia

34 'Highly Toxic Users' Wrote 9% of the Personal Attacks On Wikipedia (bleepingcomputer.com) 174

Researchers used machine learning to analyze every single comment left on Wikipedia in 2015. An anonymous reader shares their results: 34 "highly toxic users" were responsible for 9% of all the personal attacks in the comments on Wikipedia, according to a research team from Alphabet's Jigsaw and the Wikimedia Foundation. They concluded that "significant progress could be made by moderating a relatively small number of frequent attackers." But at the same time, in Wikipedia's comments "less than half of attacks come from users with little prior participation; and perhaps surprisingly, approximately 30% of attacks come from registered users with over a 100 contributions. These results suggest the problems associated with personal attacks do not have an easy solution... the majority of personal attacks on Wikipedia are not the result of a few malicious users, nor primarily the consequence of allowing anonymous contributions."

The researchers "developed a machine learning algorithm that was able to identify and distinguish different forms of online abuse and personal attacks," reports Bleeping Computer, adding that the team "hopes that Wikipedia uses their study to build a comments monitoring dashboard that could track down hotspots of abusive personal attacks and help moderators ban or block toxic users." The paper describes it as a method "that combines crowdsourcing and machine learning to analyze personal attacks at scale."

Businesses

Tesla Employee Calls For Unionization, Musk Says That's 'Morally Outrageous' (arstechnica.com) 594

"In a Medium post published today, Tesla employee Jose Moran detailed working conditions at the company's Freemont factory and called for the factory workers to unionize with United Auto Workers (UAW)," reports Ars Technica. In response, Elon Musk told Gizmodo via Twitter Direct Messages: "Our understanding is that this guy was paid by the UAW to join Tesla and agitate for a union. Frankly, I find this attack to be morally outrageous. Tesla is the last car company left in California, because costs are so high." Musk went on to blame the UAW for killing the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI), which sold the Fremont factory to Musk in 2010. Ars Technica reports: Tesla currently employs more than 5,000 non-union workers at its Fremont, CA-based factory. Moran wrote that the workers are often faced with "excessive mandatory overtime" and earn between $17 and $21 hourly, compared with the national average of $25.58 hourly for most autoworkers in the U.S. The Tesla employee noted that the astronomical cost of living in the Bay Area makes $21 an hour difficult to live on. Moran also claimed that the factory's "machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies," and requires "too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers' input were welcomed." He added that at one point, six out of eight people on his team were out on medical leave "due to various work-related injuries."
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail As 'Unreliable' Source (theguardian.com) 405

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group "generally unreliable." The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organization Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors. The editors described the arguments for a ban as "centered on the Daily Mail's reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication." The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015. It said: "Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is 'generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a 'reliable source' on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general -- with common sense and caution."
The Internet

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images Available For Free (fortune.com) 42

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that more than 375,000 of its "public-domain artworks" are now available for unrestricted use. "We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years," said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met, in a statement. "Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care." Fortune reports: The image collection covers photographs, paintings, and sculptures, among other works. Images now available for both scholarly and commercial purposes include Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware; photographs by Walker Evans, Alfred Steiglitz, and Dorothea Lange; and even some Vincent van Gogh paintings. The Met has teamed up with Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Artstor, Digital Public Library of America, Art Resource, and Pinterest to host and maximize the reach of their enormous collection. There is also a public GitHub repository of the images.
AI

Google Brain Creates Technology That Can Zoom In, Enhance Pixelated Images (softpedia.com) 146

Google Brain has created new software that can create detailed images from tiny, pixelated images. If you've ever tried zooming in on an image, you know that it generally becomes more blurry. You'd just get larger pixels and not a clear image. Google's new software effectively extracts details from a few source pixels to enhance pixelated images. Softpedia reports: For instance, Google Brain presented some 8x8 pixel images which it then turned into some pretty clear photos where you can actually tell facial features apart. What is this sorcery, you ask? Well, it's Google combining two neural networks. The first one, the conditioning network, works to map the 8x8 pixel source image against other high-resolution images. Basically, it downsizes other high-res images to the same 8x8 size and tries to make a match on the features. Then, the second network comes into play, called the prior network. This one uses an implementation of PixelCNN to add realistic, high-res details to that 8x8 source image. If the networks know that one particular pixel could be an eye, when you zoom in, you'll see the shape of an eye there. Or an eyebrow, or a mouth, for instance. The technology was put to the test and it was quite successful against humans. Human observers were shown a high-resolution celebrity face vs. the upscaled image resulted from Google Brain. Ten percent of the time, they were fooled. When it comes to the bedroom images used by Google for the testing, 28 percent of humans were fooled by the computed image.
Earth

Scientists Discover Evidence of a 'Lost Continent' Under the Indian Ocean (earthsky.org) 78

Scientists at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa say they've discovered evidence of a "lost continent" beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to EarthSky, the evidence of the "lost continent" may be leftover from the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which started to break up around 200 million years ago. The evidence itself "takes the form of ancient zircon minerals found in much-younger rocks." From the report: Geologist Lewis Ashwal of Wit University led a group studying the mineral zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions. Zircon minerals contain trace amounts of radioactive uranium, which decays to lead and can thus be accurately dated. Ashwal and his colleagues say they've found remnants of this mineral far too old to have originated on the relatively young island of Mauritius. They believe their work shows the existence of an ancient continent, which may have broken off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. Ashwal explained in a statement: "Earth is made up of two parts -- continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young." On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed. Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years. The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent." The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
Nintendo

Nintendo Halts Wii U Production In Anticipation of Switch Launch (theguardian.com) 59

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: The Guardian reports that Nintendo has ceased production of the Wii U after a little more than four years. From the report: "In late January it was announced that Nintendo had ceased production of the Wii U console. The follow-up machine to the hugely successful Wii had sold fewer than 15 million units worldwide since its launch in 2012. PlayStation 4 sold more in a year. Wii sold more than 100m in its lifetime. What happened? How did Nintendo, one of the oldest and most respected companies in the video game industry, get it so wrong? And did anything good come out of the Wii U era? How will the machine be remembered, if at all?" Perhaps it could have something to do with the fact that the Wii U bundle didn't include a Wii remote-type controller, and the much-hyped secondary screen was most commonly used for solo gaming -- the exact opposite of the Wii's emphasis on a social experience and is an area where they have to compete with cell phones, tablets and their very own DS line. Nintendo still seems hellbent on selling a console-tablet hybrid, but at least this time it sounds like an interesting controller will be included.
Education

'To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics' (quantamagazine.org) 229

Excerpts from an article on Quanta Magazine, rearranged for clarity and space: Math conferences don't usually feature standing ovations, but Francis Su received one last month in Atlanta. In his talk he framed mathematics as a pursuit uniquely suited to the achievement of human flourishing, a concept the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, or a life composed of all the highest goods. Su talked of five basic human desires that are met through the pursuit of mathematics: play, beauty, truth, justice and love. Su opened his talk with the story of Christopher, an inmate serving a long sentence for armed robbery who had begun to teach himself math from textbooks he had ordered. After seven years in prison, during which he studied algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus, he wrote to Su asking for advice on how to continue his work. After Su told this story, he asked the packed ballroom at the Marriott Marquis, his voice breaking: "When you think of who does mathematics, do you think of Christopher?" If mathematics is a medium for human flourishing, it stands to reason that everyone should have a chance to participate in it. But in his talk Su identified what he views as structural barriers in the mathematical community that dictate who gets the opportunity to succeed in the field -- from the requirements attached to graduate school admissions to implicit assumptions about who looks the part of a budding mathematician. When Su finished his talk, the audience rose to its feet and applauded, and many of his fellow mathematicians came up to him afterward to say he had made them cry. [...] Mathematics builds skills that allow people to do things they might otherwise not have been able to do or experience. If I learn mathematics and I become a better thinker, I develop perseverance, because I know what it's like to wrestle with a hard problem, and I develop hopefulness that I will actually solve these problems. And some people experience a kind of transcendent wonder that they're seeing something true about the universe. That's a source of joy and flourishing.
United States

Trump's Executive Order Eliminates Privacy Act Protections For Foreigners (whitehouse.gov) 952

Long-time Slashdot reader Kernel Kurtz writes : January 28 is supposed to be Data Privacy Day, so it seems fitting in an alternative sort of way that U.S. President Trump just signed an executive order that eliminates Privacy Act protections for foreigners. As a non-American, I find it curious that the person who says he wants to bring jobs to America is simply confirming the post-Snowden belief that America is not a safe place to do business.
The Privacy Act has been in place since 1974. But now section 14 of Trump's "Enhancing Public Safety" executive order directs federal agencies to "ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information" to the extent consistent with applicable law.
Medicine

Medical Startup To Begin Testing At-Home Brain Zapping Devices (ieee.org) 59

"A doctor's prescription for clinical depression could one day sound like this: In the comfort of your own home, slip on a brain-zapping headband a few times per week," reports IEEE Spectrum. Slashdot reader the_newsbeagle writes: This isn't old-school brain zapping: It's not electroshock therapy... While "transcranial direct current stimulation" is being investigated as a treatment for all sorts of neuropsychiatric disorders, many researchers and doctors think depression may be the killer app. A South Korean company called Ybrain thinks its consumer-friendly headband for depression will be the product that makes this treatment mainstream...
Ybrain plans to test the device on thousands of depression patients in 70 hospitals in Korea, according to the article, then "use data from all those patients to build a case for approval in Europe...and then in the U.S." The company's founder and CEO believes that after the FDA approves the first brain-zapping device, "it will be seen as a mainstream treatment."
Programming

Software Engineers Are the Heroes of New Computer History Museum Exhibit (ieee.org) 115

Tekla Perry writes: The Computer History Museum set out to turn the spotlight on software engineers and show how they are the changing the world. But what projects to feature in the new, permanent exhibit [called "Make Software: Change the World!"] (that opens to the public this Saturday, January 28th)? The curators whittled a list of 100 technologies that owe their existence to breakthroughs in software down to seven: Photoshop, the MP3, the MRI, car crash simulation, Wikipedia, texting, and World of Warcraft. They expect these choices to be debated at length, in particular, World of Warcraft, but hope the exhibition elevates the prominence of software engineers and gets more than a few middle schoolers talking about targeting their career plans in that direction.
Communications

Customer Feedback Surveys Could Be Considered Harmful (easydns.org) 196

Longtime Slashdot reader Stunt Pope writes: Customer Feedback surveys are now near-ubiquitous, subjecting us all to near-Black Mirror-esque pursuit to "rate your experience" for everything from going to the bank to ordering a pizza. Thanks to The Curse of Goodhart's Law, all of these surveys are beyond useless and even damaging. Mark Jeftovic writes in a blog post: "The shop/hire-rate-reward feedback loop has become baked-in to some systems. Many live marketplaces incorporate these feedback transactions into ratings, which then become a score which then impacts future prospects of whomever is being rated. And that's where the trouble starts. There is a point where this stops being useful and the knock-on effects of a ratings system predicated on feedback results becomes counter-productive. That point is when the ratings become targets. When a company decrees 'All customer feedback ratings must score a minimum of X, or else...' the company has just commenced the process of invalidating and corrupting all useful information to be gleaned from that feedback/survey process. A label which captures this concept is 'Goodhart's Law' -- after economist Charles Goodhart, who posited in essence that 'when a measure becomes a target, it becomes useless.'"
NASA

Boeing Unveils New NASA Spacesuits For Starliner Austronaut Taxi (space.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The NASA astronauts who fly aboard Boeing's new spaceship will wear sleek, blue suits that are lighter, simpler and more comfortable than the bulky orange gear of the space shuttle era, company representatives said. Unveiled today (Jan. 25), the new "Boeing Blue" spacesuits for the Starliner capsule weigh about 20 lbs. (9 kilograms) each with all of their accessories, compared to 30 lbs. (13.6 kg) for the old space shuttle suits, NASA officials said. Other advances include touch-screen-sensitive gloves, more-flexible material and soft helmets that are incorporated into the suit (rather than the hard, detachable helmets of the shuttle era). The Boeing Blue suit, and the one that SpaceX develops, will help keep astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during trips to and from orbit. The suits are not designed for spacewalks; the large, bulky "extravehicular mobility units" that astronauts use for this latter purpose are already aboard the ISS. "The spacesuit acts as the emergency backup to the spacecraft's redundant life-support systems," Richard Watson, subsystem manager for spacesuits in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in the same statement. "If everything goes perfectly on a mission, then you don't need a spacesuit. It's like having a fire extinguisher close by in the cockpit. You need it to be effective if it is needed." You can view pictures of the spacesuits here.
Google

Gmail Will Soon Block JavaScript File Attachments (androidpolice.com) 53

Starting February 13, 2017, Google will not allow JavaScript files to be sent as an attachment via Gmail in an effort to reduce malicious attacks. Android Police reports: Malicious emails often attach various forms of executable programs and trick users into running them. These include standard Windows executables (.exe), batch files (.bat), and even JavaScript files (.js). If you're not familiar with web development, JavaScript is a common language used when developing web applications, and JS files are often loaded as part of web pages. However, opening an unknown JS file on Windows can be dangerous, as it runs inside Windows Script Host by default. From there, the script can easily run Windows executables. While blocking .js attachments is a step in the right direction, it is unclear if any warnings will be shown when receiving emails with JS files attached. Source: G Suite Updates
Earth

India To Send Surveyors To Find Out If Everest Shrunk From Nepal Earthquake (phys.org) 57

OffTheLip writes: Recent scrutiny into the officially recorded height of the world's tallest mountain will lead to a re-measurement. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015 is being eyed as the reason. India's surveyor general Swarna Subba Rao said, "We will remeasure it. Two years have passed since the major Nepal earthquake and there's doubt in the scientific community that it did in fact shrink." A team will depart once winter passes to take measurements to determine the current height of Everest. "The exercise will require a month of observation and roughly another fortnight for the data to be officially declared," reports Phys.Org. "The earthquake, Nepal's deadliest disaster in more than 80 years, is also believed to have shifted the earth beneath the capital Kathmandu several meters to the south."
Communications

Amazon Updates Echo, Echo Dot To Let You Address It As 'Computer' (theverge.com) 134

ewhac writes: "Computer, what is the time, please?" is now a spoken command that will actually work with Amazon's updated Alexa/Echo smart speaker. Previously, your options were "Alexa," "Echo," and "Amazon." Now you can also choose, "Computer." In practice, it's a bit clunkier than you might hope, depending on how often you speak the word "computer" on a day-to-day basis; and "computer" is harder for machine speech recognition to pick out than "Alexa," so it may not hear you as reliably. But for those who've been yearning for a Star Trek-like future, this small bit of silliness gets you one step closer.

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