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►  Secret Rules for Facebook Moderators Leaked

Posting “Someone shoot Trump” is considered unacceptable by Facebook moderators, but more generalized suggestions of violence like “Kick a person with red hair” or “Let’s beat up fat kids” are OK. Those were the examples given in the “credible violence” section of secret Facebook guidelines leaked to the Guardian. The “Facebook Files,“ including training manuals, state that videos of violent deaths, child abuse, or animal abuse are not banned outright. “Videos of violent deaths are disturbing but can help create awareness,“ the files say. “We mark as ‘disturbing’ videos of the violent deaths of humans.“ The files reveal that Facebook moderators deal with almost a million reports of fake accounts a day.

The guidelines state that child abuse images can be shared in an effort to help identify and rescue the child involved. Animal abuse images can be shared, but not when there’s an element of “sadism or celebration.“ People can livestream attempts to self-harm, because Facebook “doesn’t want to censor or punish people in distress.“ Facebook declined to comment directly on the files, Reuters reports, but Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert issued a statement saying: “We work hard to make Facebook as safe as possible while enabling free speech. This requires a lot of thought into detailed and often difficult questions, and getting it right is something we take very seriously.“


►  Hapless Snail’s Quest to Mate Thwarted, Again

Meet Jeremy. He’s looking for love but his genitalia are tough to access—and yes this is a PG-rated story. As NPR reports, the rare left-curling snail’s story surfaced last fall when scientists at the University of Nottingham made a public bid to find other left-curling snails with which Jeremy could mate (his left-curling status means he can’t align sex organs, which are located on the left side of the head, with normal right-curling snails). They found not one potential suitor, but two: Lefty, a UK woman’s pet, and Tomeu, who was on his way to becoming a meal in Spain. Scientists stuck all three in the fridge—as one does to simulate snail hibernation, apparently—then took them out in the spring to see if lefty love might come alive. It did, but it was Lefty and Tomeu who were furiously mating.

Lefty and Tomeu produced three batches of eggs, and more than 170 snails have thus far hatched, per a press release, giving scientists the answer to the question of whether left-curling snails produce left-curling snails: Nope. At least not so far, notes Sky News, though scientists are hoping the trait might show in future generations. But all is not lost for Jeremy: Lefty has since returned home, and Angus Davison—the UK professor who has been studying the love triangle—is hoping that Jeremy and Tomeu turn to each other’s, er, shells? Says Davison, Jeremy “has since become much more lively so we continue to hope that we can do the experiment and understand the genetics of all three snails, but for the moment only two of them have reproduced.“ As “simultaneous hermaphrodites,“ snails can do that.

In Science and Technology….

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►  New Apple HQ’s Attention to Detail Is, Frankly, Insane

A glass door four stories tall; nearly 9,000 trees; a cafe with patented box technology to keep pizzas from getting soggy; a two-story yoga room covered in stones specifically distressed to look like those at Steve Jobs’ favorite hotel. These are but a few of the features of the new Apple Park in Cupertino. Steven Levy at Wired got a tour of the company’s new headquarters, feeling “a bit like one of the passengers on the first ride into Jurassic Park.“ Jobs, before his death, dreamed of creating “the best office building in the world.“ The result of that dreaming is a campus that has taken eight years and reportedly $5 billion to build.

The centerpiece to Apple Park is the Ring, a 2.7 million-square-foot glass doughnut. The hyper-obsessive attention to detail that went into the Ring is well-documented—Jobs wanted wood specifically cut in January; door handles and stairway banisters are built into the features so nothing is bolted on—but even the concrete parking garage boasts perfectly rounded corners. And while it’s possible this all resulted in that world’s-best office building desired by Jobs, it’s also possible the Apple founder’s architectural legacy is—as Levy puts it—an “anal-retentive nightmare of indulgence gone wild.“ Read the full story HERE to get a look at the Ring in all its “what-the-f—- oddity.“


►  At Doomsday Vault Meant to Protect Our Seeds, a Breach

“This is supposed to last for eternity,“ says the operator of the so-called Doomsday Vault, which since 2008 has been tucked within a mountain on a Norwegian island 800 miles from the North Pole where the soil is always frozen—or is supposed to be. The Guardian reports the Global Seed Vault “has been breached,“ with meltwater pouring into its entrance. This though Reuters in 2015 reported that the location on the island of Spitsbergen was supposed to be so cold that in the event of power failure the nearly 1 million packets of crop seeds within the vault would be preserved for at least 200 years. The issue now is skyrocketing temperatures (roughly 45 degrees above normal in late 2016) that replaced light snow with rain and melting, and their effect on the permafrost that surrounds the vault.

“It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there,“ explains Norwegian government rep Hege Njaa Aschim. Also not in the plans: watching the vault 24/7, as they are doing now. But now all the reasons not to panic: That water didn’t make it to the vault, and new waterproofing work is underway. One of the vault’s creators (who wasn’t present during the incident) tells Popular Science “in my experience, there’s been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year.“ He explains the protective mechanics of the path to the seeds: a 330-foot tunnel, two pumping stations, and a brief uphill slant before the vault, whose 0.4-degree Fahrenheit temperature would freeze any water that made it that far.

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►  Creationist Sues Grand Canyon for Religious Discrimination

Somewhere between 15% and 40% of Americans believe our planet is only 10,000 years old, in spite of the literal heaps of evidence that it is far older. One such American, young-Earth creationist Andrew Snelling, is suing the National Park Service for not letting him remove rocks from the canyon to study, reports the Atlantic. Snelling holds a PhD in geology, has given lectures and guided biblical-themed rafting tours through the park. He cites First Amendment rights to free speech and religious freedom, Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, the 2000 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Trump’s executive order in May to protect religious freedoms from “undue interference by the federal government.“

NPS rejected his 2013 request to collect 50 to 60 fist-sized rocks, reports the Phoenix New Times, saying all research in the park is restricted, especially if it involves removing any material. One park officer also noted that the type of rock he wanted to study can be found outside the park. Meanwhile, three mainstream geologists asked to peer review Snelling’s request denounced the work as scientifically invalid, though some argue that Snelling should be allowed to proceed so his work can be argued on its merits. “I just expect to have fair treatment,“ he says. Others argue that scientists like Snelling are the ones being inflexible in the face of evidence that contradicts their beliefs. NPS declined to comment.


►  FCC vote kicks off a battle over regulation of the internet

A federal agency voted to kick off the repeal of “net neutrality” rules designed to keep broadband providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from interfering with the internet.

It’s the latest change that the Federal Communications Commission has made to ease regulation of the phone, broadcast and cable industries.

Undoing the net neutrality rules — which, for instance, block providers from favoring their own apps and services over those of competitors like Netflix — may be the biggest battle yet triggered by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The tech industry, which sees net neutrality as necessary to innovation, is already pushing back by lobbying politicians, sending letters of protest to the agency and starting to rally supporters.

The FCC’s three commissioners voted 2-1, with the lone Democrat opposed, to start a process aimed at unwinding the net neutrality rules. It will be months before final rules are up for a vote.


BATTLE OF THE INVESTMENT STUDIES

Pai often argues that net neutrality rules are heavy handed and discourage broadband investment. His goal, he says, is to encourage companies to build out their wired and wireless broadband networks and draw more Americans online.

For support, Pai turns to a study by Hal Singer, a net-neutrality critic and economist who has worked as a telecom-industry consultant. Singer found that such infrastructure investment by network companies has declined 5.6 percent in 2016 from 2014. The telecom trade group USTelecom likewise says broadband investment is falling in the aftermath of the net neutrality rules.

Free Press, an advocacy group that supports net neutrality, has its own competing study showing broadband companies’ infrastructure spending rose, and says USTelecom is wrong to exclude some spending by AT&T and Sprint. Pai on Thursday defended the analysis he relied on, saying it’s the more accurate measure of investment in the U.S.

Industry analysts, however, say it’s so far hard to say, and note that other factors also affect investment.

In June 2015, the Obama-era FCC decided to regulate broadband as a “Title II” service — putting it, like phone service, under stricter government oversight. That gave the FCC authority to enforce net neutrality rules. Companies worried that regime would make it easier to regulate the prices they charged for broadband.

“From where we sit, the overall level of investment in the business is still pretty strong,“ said Moody’s Mark Stodden, who analyzes telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T. “I hear companies complaining about net neutrality and Title II, but I think it’s a cop-out. I don’t think they’re actually spending less. They don’t like it so they complain about it.“


RALLYING THE TROOPS

Some net-neutrality supporters have already started to push back against the repeal effort. The Firefox browser has a call to action that goads users to “tell the FCC that you heart the open web!“ and links to a site collecting signatures for a letter to Pai.

John Oliver, the HBO comedy-news host whose 2014 segment helped popularize net neutrality as an issue (nearly 4 million comments filed back in 2015), got into the mix again with another segment on May 7, urging viewers to tell the FCC to keep the net neutrality rules.

But the vitriol often unleashed by the internet is already leaking into this inter-industry tech-policy battle. The chairman and his staff have complained about mean or racist comments directed at Pai, who is Indian-American. Oliver even begged supporters to be civil in an online video posted Sunday.

There are also reports that many of the 2 million comments already filed to the FCC are fake. And the FCC said its site was attacked the night of Oliver’s first segment, making it hard to leave a comment.

FCC officials have said, however, that it’s not a numbers game, and they pay more attention the know-how of the person or group making the comment rather than how many are filed on each side.


INDUSTRY COMFORT

A preliminary version of Pai’s proposals, released last month, raised concerns that the FCC would only repeal, but not replace, net neutrality protections. Thursday’s proposal asked whether it’s still necessary to bar internet providers from blocking or slowing down certain websites or apps, or from charging services like Netflix extra for access to consumers. (Pai said Thursday these sections are still in the proposal.)

Big broadband companies say they can be trusted to do what’s right for their customers. Net-neutrality advocates cry foul; Free Press has a list of what it calls net-neutrality violations going back more than a decade.

“An open internet means that we do not block, throttle or otherwise impair your online activity,“ said a Wednesday ad in the Washington Post placed by the cable lobby, NCTA. “We firmly stand by that commitment because it is good for our customers and good for our business.“

“Verizon supports net neutrality. Our customers demand it and our business depends on it,“ wrote Craig Silliman, Verizon’s general counsel, in a post on LinkedIn. He also called for net-neutrality legislation from Congress.

In an April blog post, AT&T says it “has always supported our customers’ right to an open internet — and the right to access the content, applications and devices of their choosing.“

AT&T and industry trade groups sued the FCC over the 2015 rules; a federal appeals court upheld them in 2016 . Verizon sued over a previous attempt that was spiked in 2014 by a federal appeals court.


►  A Tower That Fights Smog Is Waging a Battle in China

With pollution levels in pockets of India and China reaching deadly levels, innovators around the world are designing and engineering ways to fight the war on smog. One device, a 23-foot-tall wind-powered air purifier called the Smog Free Tower, sucks in air from its surroundings and filters out tiny pollution particles that might otherwise find a home in our lungs. Designed by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde in 2015, it was installed in Beijing in 2016 and found to be not all that helpful in a test conducted by the China Forum of Environmental Journalists. But a scientist has conducted new tests on the tower, now installed in a field in Tianjin, and says that it actually outperforms previous findings, capturing up to 70% of PM10 and 25% of PM2.5 (two pollution particles), reports Fast Company.

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Roosegaarde says that while the tower only has a limited impact on the air 65 feet around it (when filtered air is combined with surrounding air, the effect is air containing 45% less PM10, per the new test), the smog-fighting tower could still provide relief and become part of a longer-term solution. Under the larger Smog Free Project, he’s also designing bicycles that spit out positively charged ions that capture pollutants, reports Digital Trends. Roosegaarde says his team is building a prototype and hopes to develop a partnership between the Netherlands and China to install the bikes into local bike-sharing programs such as Mobike.

In Science and Technology….

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►  This Is the Longest-Nursing of Any Primate

Orangutans nurse their young for up to eight years or longer, a new study finds—a record for primates. As National Geographic notes, it’s difficult to study orangutans in the wild since they’re so often out of sight in trees, but it’s important for conservationists to know when juveniles become independent. Orangutans reproduce for the first time around age 15 and are estimated to live up to 50 years in the wild. They reproduce slowly, the New York Times reports, with mothers raising one baby at a time for six to nine years before birthing another. To determine nursing length, researchers analyzed the levels of barium (a trace element that orangutans absorb from their mother’s milk) in the teeth of four young orangutans whose bones had been kept in museums.

The team found that one orangutan weaned at 8.1 years old; another was still nursing when it died at 8.8 years old. Before this research, scientists estimated orangutans might nurse for six to eight years, but it was difficult to know since field surveys are so challenging. Because the growth patterns of teeth “resemble tree rings” and can be easily dated, per a press release, they also revealed other interesting aspects of the nursing relationship: During periods of time when fruit was known to be abundant, barium levels were lower, and vice versa, indicating that when food was scarce, young orangutans nursed more. Researchers believe the fact that orangutans’ food supply is unpredictable is part of the reason they nurse so long—captive primates with a steady supply of food tend to mature at a faster rate than wild primates.


►  Hackers Could Have a Field Day at Mar-a-Lago

Some cyber-sleuths from ProPublica and Gizmodo poked around Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and other Trump locales and came to an inescapable conclusion: They’re easy pickins for hackers. The investigators detected vulnerable WiFi networks, software, printers, servers, and the like, all of which leave open the potential for “any half-decent” hacker to commandeer computers or smartphones and start recording. At Mar-a-Lago, they didn’t even go into the club: They parked their boat in a lagoon and pointed an antenna at the club. The story includes two quotes from security experts responding to descriptions of the current security set-ups: “Those networks all have to be crawling with foreign intruders,“ says Dave Aitel of Immunity, Inc. And, “I’d assume the data is already stolen and systems compromised,“ per Jeremiah Grossman of SentinelOne.

Trump has entertained world leaders at Mar-a-Lago, though the story notes that he is provided with secure portable equipment when he travels. But he also has famously held sensitive meetings in public places, prompting the Government Accountability Office to launch an investigation into whether the club’s systems are secure. That investigation has not been completed, but the ProPublica piece suggests some serious upgrades are in order. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization disagrees, saying the business enterprise follows “cybersecurity best practices.“ The story’s authors did not hack into any systems at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, or the Trump International Hotel in DC, but they suggested they could have easily done so, in a matter of minutes, had they been so inclined. Read the full story.


►  American Trees Are Moving West, Flummoxing Experts

Go west, young tree! A study published Wednesday in Science Advances finds the trees of eastern American forests are on the move—and none too slowly, either. The study looked at 86 tree species between 1980 and 2015, Smithsonian reports. Over those 35 years, 73% of the trees saw their population centers move westward, and 62% saw them move northward. According to Science Alert, westbound trees moved by about 9.5 miles per decade; northward trees moved about 6.8 miles per decade. The trees themselves weren’t moving, Groot-style; instead their population centers shifted as saplings sprouted up in new areas and trees in older areas died off, the Atlantic explains.

Scientists have long expected tree populations to move north in search of cooler temperatures as the effects of climate change increase. However, the move west was unexpected—and difficult to explain. “When the result came out that trees are moving westward, our eyeballs opened wide,“ study author Songlin Fei says. “Like, ‘Wow, what’s going on with this?‘“ Researchers hypothesize that climate change-related shifts in precipitation are causing the westward movement. The Great Plains have received much more precipitation than normal over the past few decades, while the Southeast has received much less. But, the researchers admit precipitation can only account for about 20% of the westward movement.

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