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YouTube Censors Senate Floor Speech With Whistleblower's Name

Slashdot - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 01:20
SonicSpike shares a report from The Hill: YouTube has removed a video from its platform that shows Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stating on the Senate floor the name of a person who conservative media have suggested is the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The company, home to millions of hours of video content, said in a statement on Thursday that "videos, comments, and other forms of content that mention the leaked whistleblower's name" violate its community guidelines and will be removed from the site. "We've removed hundreds of videos and over ten thousand comments that contained the name. Video uploaders have the option to edit their videos to exclude the name and reupload," Ivy Choi, a spokesperson, said in the statement, which was first reported by Politico. The video clip removed by YouTube comes from the Senate impeachment trial, when Paul mentioned a name that has circulated in conservative media as the whistleblower. Paul did so after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declined to read a question he submitted including that person's name. Paul says he does not know if the name he said on the Senate floor is the whistleblower's or not, but he said it was wrong for his speech to be censored. "It is a chilling and disturbing day in America when giant web companies such as YouTube decide to censure speech," he said in a statement. "Now, even protected speech, such as that of a senator on the Senate floor, can be blocked from getting to the American people. This is dangerous and politically biased. Nowhere in my speech did I accuse anyone of being a whistleblower, nor do I know the whistleblower's identity." Important to note: Federal whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). "This law protects federal employees who disclose illegal or improper government activities," notes Study.com. "Generally, this means the government can't fire, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or discriminate against a whistleblower."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Qualcomm Makes Case To Appeals Court That It Didn't Hurt Competition

Slashdot - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 00:40
Qualcomm is making the case for why it didn't hurt competition in the smartphone chip business. "The company, represented by attorney Thomas Goldstein of the firm Goldstein & Russell, on Thursday appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in downtown San Francisco," reports CNET. "Qualcomm is hoping the appeals court will overturn a ruling by a district court judge that declared it to be a monopoly and ordered it to renegotiate its licensing contracts." From the report: Qualcomm during the hearing didn't dispute that it has a monopoly in 3G and 4G LTE chips. But it maintains that it didn't wield that power to harm competition. "What has gone wrong in the competitive process?" Goldstein said. "The answer is nothing." He noted that Qualcomm's business practices could be an issue of contract violations but not an antitrust issue. The US Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, tried to make it clear how Qualcomm's "no license, no chip" policy undercut rivals and caused handset makers to shift business to Qualcomm. Brian Fletcher, an attorney who teaches at Stanford University, spoke for the FTC. He said Qualcomm is making it harder for competitors not because its policies have meant lower chip prices but "because it's demanding customers pay Qualcomm even when they decide to buy from rival suppliers." The hearing is the latest twist in a legal saga that began three years ago when the FTC accused Qualcomm of operating a monopoly and forcing Apple and other customers to work with it exclusively. The FTC also accused the company of charging excessive licensing fees for its technology. As part of the district court's ruling, Qualcomm must submit compliance and monitoring reports for the next seven years and report to the FTC annually. Thursday's hearing marks Qualcomm's attempt to have that ruling overturned. The three appeals court judges likely won't make a decision for three months to over a year as they weigh the evidence.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Car 'Splatometer' Tests Reveal Huge Decline In Number of Insects

Slashdot - Fri, 14/02/2020 - 00:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects. The second survey, in the UK county of Kent in 2019, examined splats in a grid placed over car registration plates, known as a "splatometer." This revealed 50% fewer impacts than in 2004. The research included vintage cars up to 70 years old to see if their less aerodynamic shape meant they killed more bugs, but it found that modern cars actually hit slightly more insects. [...] The stream research, published in the journal Conservation Biology, analyzed weekly data from 1969 to 2010 on a stream in a German nature reserve, where the only major human impact is climate change. "Overall, water temperature increased by 1.88C and discharge patterns changed significantly. These changes were accompanied by an 81.6% decline in insect abundance," the scientists reported. "Our results indicate that climate change has already altered [wildlife] communities severely, even in protected areas."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Google's Area 120 Brings Quick Web Games To Slow Phones

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 23:25
Google is countering Facebook's Instant Games with its own bid to make web games more accessible. Its Area 120 experimental lab is introducing GameSnacks, HTML5-based casual games that are designed to load quickly and play well even on poor connections and basic smartphones. From a report: The combination of a lean initial web page, compressed media and just-in-time loading means you can start playing within just a few seconds, even on a phone with less than a 1Mbps connection (all too common in the world) and just 1GB of RAM. All titles work with both touch as well as a PC's mouse and keyboard, and are designed to run on virtually any platform and device. Like many casual games, they're designed to be playable with a minimum of instructions -- important when they're meant to reach people across many different languages. Some are not-so-subtle riffs on familiar titles like Puzzle Bobble and Tetris, but that's probably not a bad thing for gamers who otherwise couldn't play those games on their phones.

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Robot Analysts Outwit Humans on Investment Picks, Study Shows

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 22:41
They beat us at chess and trivia, supplant jobs by the thousands, and are about to be let loose on highways and roads as chauffeurs and couriers. Now, fresh signs of robot supremacy are emerging on Wall Street in the form of machine stock analysts that make more profitable investment choices than humans. From a report: At least, that's the upshot of one of the first studies of the subject, whose preliminary results were released in January. Buy recommendations peddled by robo-analysts, which supposedly mimic what traditional equity research departments do but faster and at lower costs, outperform their flesh-and-blood counterparts over the long run, according to Indiana University professors. "Using this type of technology to make investment recommendations or to conduct investment analyses is going to become increasingly important," Kenneth Merkley, an associate professor of accounting and one of the authors, said by phone. Whether getting stock calls right is a critical mission of human analysts is debatable. Wall Street research departments serve a variety of functions, among them connecting investors with company executives and gathering earnings and other corporate data. While their buy, sell and hold recommendations still garner attention and can move stocks, the number of clients premising investment decisions off them is probably limited. The study looked at a small and still largely experimental branch of fintech, firms founded on the premise that digital technology does a better job than humans in making equity recommendations. While all analysts use computers, a handful of start-ups has been seeing if programs can handle every aspect of the stock-picking process.

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Half-Life: Alyx finally has a release date

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 22:24

Twelve years after the launch of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the near-unimaginable has happened; the next instalment in Valve's legendary series - VR-only shooter Half-Life: Alyx - finally has an actual, proper release date, and will be coming to Steam on 23rd March.

Half-Life: Alyx takes place between the original Half-Life and Half-Life 2, casting players as the latter's Alyx Vance as she mounts a secret resistance against the invading alien Combine.

It'll blend exploration, puzzles, combat, and story in the vein of the classic games, with each element designed to play to the strengths of VR. So far we've only seen snatches of the reportedly 15-hour experience in official and off-screen footage, but the combination of natural motion-based interactions - such as aiming, reloading, grenade-tossing, and door-opening - and wonderfully atmospheric environments certainly looks promising.

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Categories: Video Games

Why Poor People Make Poor Decisions

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 22:01
An anonymous reader shares a report: [...] The most significant improvement was in how the money helped parents, well, to parent. Before the casino opened its doors, parents worked hard through the summer but were often jobless and stressed in the winter. The new income enabled Cherokee families to put money aside and to pay bills in advance. Parents who were lifted out of poverty now reported having more time for their children. They weren't working any less though, Costello discovered. Mothers and fathers alike were putting in just as many hours as before the casino opened. More than anything, said tribe member Vickie L Bradley, the money helped ease the pressure on families, so the energy they'd spent worrying about money was now freed up for their children. And as Bradley put it, that "helps parents be better parents." What, then, is the cause of mental health problems among poorer people? Nature or culture? Costello's conclusion was both: the stress of poverty puts people genetically predisposed to develop an illness or disorder at an elevated risk. But there's a more important takeaway from this study.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Witcher-inspired card-battler Gwent is finally heading to Android in March

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 21:28

It's been a bit of a wait, but CD Projekt's free-to-play Witcher-themed card-battler, Gwent, is finally heading to Android devices next month.

Gwent, if you're unfamiliar and merely clicked this story on a daredevil whim, began life as a tavern-based distraction within CD Projekt's masterful The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Two years later, it emerged as a standalone free-to-play game, radically reworked to introduce more tactical nuance and depth. Since then, it's received something of a reboot, and even an acclaimed story-driven solo spin-off known as Thronebreaker.

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Categories: Video Games

Judge Temporarily Blocks Microsoft Pentagon Cloud Contract After Amazon Suit

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 21:20
A judge ordered Thursday a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract in response to a suit filed by Amazon. From a report: A court notice announcing the injunction was filed on Thursday, but wasn't public. It's unclear why the documents were sealed. In April, the Defense Department announced that Amazon and Microsoft were the two finalists to provide the contract, ruling out other contenders like IBM and Oracle. Then in July, President Donald Trump said he was looking into the contract after IBM and other companies protested the bidding process. Microsoft was awarded the contract on Oct. 25. Amazon has been protesting the move, saying that it was driven in part by President Trump's bias against the company. Trump often criticizes Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, claiming the newspaper unfairly covers his administration. Last month, Amazon's cloud-computing arm AWS filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft's work on the JEDI cloud contract, claiming the evaluation process included "clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias." The court granted that motion on Thursday.

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The U.S. is Charging Huawei With Racketeering

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 20:40
Ratcheting up its pressure campaign against Huawei and its affiliates, the Department of Justice and the FBI announced today that it has brought 16 charges against Huawei in a sprawling case with major geopolitical implications. From a report: Huawei is being charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute. The DoJ alleges that Huawei and a number of its affiliates used confidential agreements with American companies to access those companies' intellectual property, only to then misappropriate that property and use it to fund Huawei's business. In addition to conspiracy, Huawei and the defendants are charged with lying to federal investigators and obstructing the investigation into the company's activity. According to the statement published by the Department of Justice, "As part of the scheme, Huawei allegedly launched a policy instituting a bonus program to reward employees who obtained confidential information from competitors. The policy made clear that employees who provided valuable information were to be financially rewarded."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

An Old Android Virus is Reinstalling Itself Even After Factory Resets

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 20:01
A particularly persistent malware infection has been spreading amongst Android phones -- and removing it only seems to bring it back with a vengeance. From a report: The Trojan xHelper, which Malwarebytes first wrote about last year, is reportedly re-spawning on devices where it's already been removed. If virus-removal software doesn't take care of a nasty infection, a hard reset will usually do the trick. But users report that even a full factory reset of an infected device doesn't wipe xHelper out completely. Within an hour the malware is usually back and ready to wreak havoc. Here's how to remove it.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Marvel's Avengers pre-order bonuses include access to beta

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 19:51

If you're so enthusiastically eager to play Crystal Dynamics' upcoming Marvel Avengers game that you're struggling to resist the urge to to dash to the shops and slap down some cash, you might be interested to know that Square Enix has a dizzying array of pre-order bonuses planned, including access to its pre-launch beta.

Players that pre-order any version of the game (provided they're purchased through participating retailers, notes Square), can get involved in the planned, although still undated, Avengers beta. They'll also receive an exclusive nameplate and the Marvel Legacy Outfit Pack - featuring classic comic book looks for Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel, inspired by "moments from the comics that defined who each Super Hero was as they first embraced their powers to become the icons they are today."  

That's not quite the end of Square's big pre-order push, however; the standard physical edition of Marvel's Avengers will also include either a limited-edition pin set, patch set, steelbook, or digital comic book, depending where pre-orders are made, and there are additional bonuses exclusive to the PlayStation Store.

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Categories: Video Games

A New Senate Bill Would Create a US Data Protection Agency

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 19:21
Europe's data protection laws are some of the strictest in the world, and have long been a thorn in the side of the data-guzzling Silicon Valley tech giants since they colonized vast swathes of the internet. Two decades later, one Democratic senator wants to bring many of those concepts to the United States. From a report: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has published a bill which, if passed, would create a U.S. federal data protection agency designed to protect the privacy of Americans and with the authority to enforce data practices across the country. The bill, which Gillibrand calls the Data Protection Act, will address a "growing data privacy crisis" in the U.S., the senator said. The U.S. is one of only a few countries without a data protection law (along with Venezuela, Libya, Sudan and Syria). Gillibrand said the U.S. is "vastly behind" other countries on data protection. Gillibrand said a new data protection agency would "create and meaningfully enforce" data protection and privacy rights federally. "The data privacy space remains a complete and total Wild West, and that is a huge problem," the senator said.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

MIT Researchers Disclose Vulnerabilities in Voatz Mobile Voting Election App

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 18:42
Academics from MIT's computer science laboratory have published a security audit today of Voatz, a mobile app used for online voting during the 2018 US midterm elections and scheduled to be used again in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. From a report: MIT academics claim they identified bugs that could allow hackers to "alter, stop, or expose how an individual user has voted." "We additionally find that Voatz has a number of privacy issues stemming from their use of third party services for crucial app functionality," the research team said in a technical paper released today. "Our findings serve as a concrete illustration of the common wisdom against Internet voting, and of the importance of transparency to the legitimacy of elections," researchers added. MIT academics urge states to continue using paper ballots rather than mobile apps that transmit votes over the internet. They say the current paper ballot voting system is designed to be transparent, and allow citizens and political parties to observe the voting process. "Voatz's app and infrastructure were completely closed-source," said James Koppel, one of the MIT academics.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Disney invites game devs to get creative with its IP

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 18:18

Last year, Disney's share of the US film market managed to reach a record 35 per cent (thanks to its merger with Fox) - so I guess it's just as well the company's open to having game developers reimagine its franchises. That is a lot of IP.

Speaking at this year's 2020 DICE summit, Disney exec Sean Shoptaw said the company wants to empower game developers to do "really unique things" with its catalogue (via The Hollywood Reporter).

"We want to tap into the power of creatives across the industry."

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Categories: Video Games

Analysis Shows Andrew Yang Was Snubbed By Mainstream Media in its Coverage

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 18:01
Scott Santens, writing for Vocal: Back in June of 2019, I tweeted about the latest egregious example of MSNBC excluding Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang from their ongoing coverage of the 2020 Presidential candidates. There had been previous examples, but that was the worst up to that point because they had photos of all 20 candidates who were going to be in the first debates, and instead of including Yang as one of them, they included someone who wasn't even going to be there. I then started to add each new example as a new reply, and that ongoing thread has now been covered over and over again with each new example as a source of entertaining absurdity. It's been covered by traditional media outlets like The Guardian, Vox, and The Hill. It's also been covered by new media like Ethan and Hila Klein of the H3 Podcast for their two million subscribers. I have gotten many requests to put the entire thread in one place outside of Twitter, so this article has been created to meet that request. Each time a new example occurs, I will update the thread on Twitter, and update this page on Vocal too. I have also made a point here of expanding on the thread in a way I can't on Twitter, by expanding the timeline with earlier examples that had occurred before I started my thread. So instead of starting in June, this timeline starts back in March.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Final Fantasy 7 Remake's new quest system shown off

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 17:47

Final Fantasy 7 Remake includes a new quest system where you kill rats and find lost cats in exchange for rewards.

New screenshots from the game released today by publisher Square Enix and published by the PlayStation blog have shown off how it all looks.

Mercenary Quests can be picked up from people across Midgar and tracked via a new Quests menu. These will task you with helping merchants or townspeople with their problems, and can reward gil. Another type of mission, Battle Report quests, can be acquired from Shinra researcher Chadley. These will ask you to assess enemies and defeat them in differing ways in return for Materia.

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Categories: Video Games

Let's Get Real About How Important Our Phones Are

Slashdot - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 17:21
Samsung unveiled three flagship smartphones earlier this week. The phones pack the most powerful processor in any Android smartphone, boast an impressive set of camera sensors and offer a range of other features. Commenting on the new phones, a Washington Post columnist writes: "And with prices ranging from $1,000 to $1,400, either one is hard to justify as much more than a luxury." John Gruber of DaringFireball comments: This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple's phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that's outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is "hard to justify"? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary -- usually only -- camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600. There are way more people on the planet who'd rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around. But you'll never see a tech reviewer claim that $1,000-1,400 is "hard to justify" for a laptop. It's ridiculously out of touch to argue otherwise. And, the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices.

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Ultra-rare Nintendo PlayStation prototype up for auction

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 17:20

Fancy owning a slice of video game history? The infamous and ultra-rare PlayStation SNES prototype console dug up in 2015 has finally been put up for auction.

You'll need a decent chunk of change to make a bid, however. After a few hours on sale, the console is at $31k (£23k), and is likely to go much higher before the sale concludes on 27th February.

Nintendo and Sony's brief dalliance during the SNES-era is reasonably well documented - a romance between the two was on the cards with the intent of producing a disc-based console together - before the liason broke down and Sony struck out solo.

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Categories: Video Games

Nintendo Switch eShop Blockbuster sale gets underway

Eurogamer - Thu, 13/02/2020 - 16:47

After a cheeky announcement on Twitter back on Tuesday, the Nintendo Switch eShop Blockbuster sale is now live with discounts of up to 75 per cent available on a number of the console's biggest games.

Perhaps not the ones you want, though.

Starting with Nintendo's first-party releases, these are all at that very familiar £33.29 price point we've come to expect from a Switch eShop sale. Only four are included: Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. A decent if not spectacular discount, then.

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