GilmerFreePress.net

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  HBO hackers leak episodes from upcoming season of ‘Curb

The hackers who broke into HBO’s computer network have released more unaired episodes, including several from the highly anticipated return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which debuts in October.

The latest dump includes Sunday night’s episode of “Insecure,” another popular show, and what appear to be episodes of other lower-profile shows, including “Ballers,” some from the unaired shows “Barry” and “The Deuce,” a comedy special and other programming. They did not release episodes of HBO’s ratings hit “Game of Thrones.”

HBO did not immediately respond to messages.

The network acknowledged the hack in late July, and the thieves have been dribbling out stolen video and documents since then. Their intrusion has so far fallen well short of the chaos inflicted on Sony when the studio was hacked in 2014.


►  Facebook anonymously launched an app in China

Facebook anonymously launched a new photo-sharing app in China in a new effort to make inroads in the world’s most populous country.

China’s ruling Communist Party controls internet traffic across the country’s borders and tries to keep the public from seeing thousands of websites including Facebook.

The app, called Colorful Balloons, was launched in China earlier this year and does not carry Facebook’s name. Facebook confirmed Saturday that it launched the app.

The social media company’s connection to the app was first reported Friday by The New York Times, which said it was released in China through a separate local company called Youge Internet Technology.

The launch of the app comes as China is cracking down on technology that allows web surfers to evade Beijing’s online censorship.

Last month, users of Facebook’s What’sApp messaging service, which normally operates freely in China, were no longer able to send images without using a virtual private network. That came amid official efforts to suppress mention of the death of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.

China’s biggest internet service provider, China Telecom Ltd., sent a letter to corporate customers last month saying that VPNs, which create encrypted links between computers and can be used to see sites blocked by Beijing’s web filters, would be permitted only to connect to a company’s headquarters abroad. The move could block access to news, social media or business services that are obscured by China’s “Great Firewall.”

Chinese authorities have long blocked Facebook, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, arguing that foreign social media services operating beyond their control pose a threat to national security.

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  private body cams raise transparency questions

America’s largest sheriff’s department still lacks a policy for body cameras after years of studying the issue, so hundreds — perhaps thousands — of its deputies have taken matters into their own hands and bought the cameras themselves.

It’s reassuring for those Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who have the devices, which sell for about $100 online, but it raises a host of thorny questions about transparency. Chief among them: How can the public be assured critical footage will be shared if there are no policies for what gets disclosed?

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Melanie Ochoa, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “I would imagine officers would be quite willing to turn it over if it paints them in a good light, but what is the access if it does not?”

Nearly every large U.S. police department has a policy for officers who wear body cameras, and it has become somewhat common to see video from these cameras emerge — sometimes due to court orders — following high-profile shootings and other clashes.

An estimated 20 percent of Los Angeles County’s 10,000 deputies have bought cameras for themselves, according to the county’s inspector general. Sheriff Jim McDonnell concedes some deputies have their own cameras but disputes that as many as 2,000 wear them on duty.

Whatever the number, not a single frame of any video from these cameras has ever made it into the public domain.

A 2014 report released by the U.S. Justice Department and the Police Executive Research Forum advised police departments against allowing officers to use body cameras they purchased themselves.

“Because the agency would not own the recorded data, there would be little or no protection against the officer tampering with the videos or releasing them to the public or online,” the report said. “Agencies should not permit personnel to use privately owned body-worn cameras while on duty.”

There are some U.S. police agencies that allow officers to wear personal body cameras, but they have adopted policies to address those concerns.

A police department in northern Indiana adopted a policy in January that allows its officers to buy and wear their own body cameras. The Mishawaka Police Department’s rules came after a year of discussions about how to store and handle the recordings. A police official said in January that about 10 officers were wearing their own cameras.

In 2015, a video from a southern Ohio officer’s personal body camera showed the officer pointing his gun but not firing at the suspect who charged yelling, “Shoot me!”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is developing a policy that would set out guidelines for deputies who wear their own cameras, though it’s unclear when that policy will be finalized and put in place.

“It’s something we saw the need for, we initiated it, and it is working its way through the system,” McDonnell told The Associated Press.

Deputies have never captured any use-of-force incidents or fatal shootings on personally owned body cameras, McDonnell said.

The sheriff’s department said it is confident its policies on confidentiality and professional standards would hold deputies accountable. Those policies require deputies to keep any evidence, including audio and video recordings, for at least two years and to turn it over to the department when requested, officials said.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida denied the AP’s request to see drafts of the policies the department says are being crafted.

Ron Hernandez, president of the union that represents rank-and-file deputies in Los Angeles, says most deputies who bought their own cameras want to protect themselves in case someone alleges misconduct.

“It’s really a personal preference,” Hernandez said. “The guys we have spoken to have said they thought it would be beneficial for them. They see the value in covering themselves.”

But Hernandez dismissed civil libertarians’ concerns that deputies would potentially abuse the footage because the department was not officially storing it.

“I would hope that if a deputy is recording, he is retaining it,” Hernandez said. “It would be counterproductive to a guy to get his own camera to cover himself and then assume he’s going to manipulate the footage. He’d be better off not having anything.”

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  Consumers Reports pulls Microsoft laptop recommendation

Consumer Reports is pulling its recommendation of four Microsoft laptops after one of its surveys found that users were complaining about problems with the devices.

The consumer advocacy group said Thursday that it can no longer recommend Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor reliability compared to other brands. Microsoft said the findings don’t accurately reflect Surface owners’ “true experiences.”

The consumer group says Microsoft machines have performed well in laboratory testing. But a subscriber survey found start-up and freezing problems. The devices losing their “recommended” status are the Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions) and Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions).

Consumer Reports last pulled laptop recommendations in 2015, when ratings were removed for two Hewlett-Packard laptops and one made by Lenovo.


►  Ancient ape skull discovered in northern Kenya

To the untrained eye, the area west of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya appears to be barren of anything but rocky hills and volcanic ash.

But anthropologists know the Napudet region of the Turkana Basinas a promising newdig site for fossils from the Middle Miocene era, about 13 million years ago. And one professor’s persistence there would pay off in a monumental discovery: a rare, complete skull of a baby ape that could give scientists a glimpse at what our common ancestors looked like.

The discovery almost didn’t happen.

When Isaiah Nengo, an anthropology professor at De Anza College in California, sought to assemble a team for a three-week expedition there in 2014, no one wanted to go.

“There was nothing useful to be found,“ Nengo said others told him.

Undeterred, Nengo, who had just spent two years at the University of Nairobi on a Fulbright scholarship, returned to Kenya and gathered a ragtag group of local fossil finders. There were six of them in total, including the camp cook.

For two weeks in August, the team dug and found . . . nothing. Though Nengo knew it wasn’t unusual for the site (“You could go for days and days, weeks and weeks without finding anything”), he began hoping to come across some fossil scraps or bone fragments - anything to make the expedition worth it.

On September 4, 2014, the team once again worked for hours at the dig site and came up empty-handed. Exhausted and disappointed, the crew packed up and began walking back to their land cruiser, parked about a mile away from where they had been working.

One team member, Kenyan fossil hunter John Ekusi, pulled out some tobacco and began rolling a cigarette.

“Man, you’re gonna kill us with that smoke,“ Nengo told him.

Ekusi ambled ahead until he was a couple hundred yards away from the group. After a short while, Nengo noticed Ekusi had stopped, and was inspecting something with a familiar fervor.

“If you’re a fossil finder, you know that look,“ he said. “It’s like an atomic bomb can go off, and you don’t care, you’re so focused at what you’re looking for.“

By the time the group caught up with Ekusi, he had brushed out the top of a fossil.

“Almost instantly we knew it was the skull of a primate,“ Nengo said. “We just broke into a dance, we were so happy.“

What the team later excavated would end up being what is thought to be the most complete skull of an extinct ape species in the fossil record. After more than two years of sophisticated imaging work and additional geological research at the dig site, the discovery was published in the August 10 issue of the journal Nature.

According to the article, “younger” fossil finds - those 6- to 7-million-years-old - have shed light on humans’ common ancestors with chimpanzees. However, far less is known about the common ancestors of all living apes and humans from before 10 million years ago.

“Relevant fossils are scarce, consisting mostly of isolated teeth and partial jaw bones,“ a statement accompanying the Nature article reads. “It has therefore been difficult to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like?“

The discovery of the infant ape skull - nicknamed “Alesi” after the local Turkana word for “ancestor” - helps bridge some of those gaps, not only because of how intact the outside of the skull is but for what was preserved on the inside.

In September 2015, about a year after the fossil was excavated, Nengo obtained government clearance to hand-carry the skull from Kenya to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France. It was, he would later admit, one of the most nerve-racking airtravel experiences he had ever had.

“I sat with that specimen in my lap all the way until we got to Grenoble,“ Nengo said. “It did not leave my sight. If I was in the bathroom, it went with me.“

At the facility, which produces “the world’s most intense X-rays,“ scientists scanned the skull and arrived at startlingly clear 3-D images of the what it held.

“We were able to reveal the brain cavity, the inner ears and the unerupted adult teeth with their daily record of growth lines,“ Paul Tafforeau, an ESRF scientist, said in a statement. “The quality of our images was so good that we could establish from the teeth that the infant was about 1 year and 4 months old when it died.“

At first, researchers suspected Alesi had been a baby gibbon because of the small snout. However, once scans revealed fully developed bony inner ear tubes and the unerupted adult teeth, it was clear Alesi had been an ape.

“Gibbons are well known for their fast and acrobatic behavior in trees,“ said Fred Spoor, of University College London and the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology. “But the inner ears of Alesi show that it would have had a much more cautious way of moving around.“

Alesi’s teeth showed that the infant skull hadn’t just belonged to just any ape, but one of a previously undiscovered species, now named Nyanzapithecus alesi. Up until then, scientists hadn’t been certain if the Nyanzapithecus species were apes at all, or whether they had originated in Asia or Africa. Now, Nengo said, they could conclude that N. alesi had been part of a group of primates that lived more than 10 million years ago, and that they had originated in Africa.

“It’s always very important to know when you’re looking for ancestral lineages which continent they evolved. It helps you to explain the evolution of that particular group,“ Nengo said. Alesi provides an important link between apes’ and humans’ common ancestors and the earliest humans.

“To find this little baby that perished in volcanic ash 13 million years ago . . . it’s a glimpse of what our prehuman stage looked like.“

Alesi is now back in Kenya.Nengo said he plans to continue fieldwork there and also to use Alesi as “kind of an anchor” for the study of babies and the role of babies in the evolution of apes and humans.

“The real work is coming now,“ he said.

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  Surface tablets for officiating reviews takes hold in NFL

Alberto Riveron sounds genuinely excited about the NFL’s decision to use Microsoft Surface tablets for referees to watch replay.

That procedure began in earnest with last week’s Hall of Fame game between Dallas and Arizona. The technology worked like a charm, with the one coach’s challenge settled in quick order by referee Jerome Boger and the officiating staff in New York.

“It definitely offers an opportunity after the referee signals there is a review to expedite the process of getting to the video,” Riveron says. “We’re not hurrying the process of reviewing the videos or of the decisions.”

Unlike in the past, the referee no longer will be charged with making that final decision; Riveron and his crew at league headquarters will do so in consultation with the ref.

“The only thing that’s changed about the process, that instead of the final decision being with the referee on the field, it’s now with New York,” he said. “The consultation process, the way we look at the film, the plays we show him, the angles, that hasn’t changed.

“Microsoft has been very sensitive to our needs to get the job done,” Riveron adds. “They worked hard on weather conditions and glare and the like. They have worked hard to make this process work.”

Already, the Surface tablets were being used by coaches and players on the sidelines to download photos of the action. Troy Vincent, who oversees football operations for the league, says the NFL is moving carefully on the use of video by coaches, rather than just photos, during the regular season.

“Some have embraced it, some oppose it,” he says, adding with a laugh, “It’s part of my greatest challenge: when innovation and tradition meet.”

In using the Surface tablets for officiating reviews, two systems will be set up, one at each end of the field, as opposed to the single under-the-hood procedure of the past.

This will be the most visual use of the tablet, but it’s hardly the only one. All 32 teams have been utilizing it for virtually every task.

“Microsoft Surface devices have become ubiquitous on NFL sidelines and in the coaches’ booth,” Microsoft general manager Robert Matthews said in an email.

“Currently, every NFL team is using Microsoft Surface in some capacity throughout their organization — ranging from serving as playbooks to film review being conducted on Surface Hubs, to in-stadium and business operations teams using Microsoft Surface in their front office.

“We have organizations around the league, such as the Buccaneers and Jaguars, fully embracing our technology ... as the solution to every technology need a team could have, on and off the field.”

Also for the first time this season, medical personnel on NFL sidelines will have access to Surface devices which will feature the NFL’s “Game Management” system. That app displays key moments in every game and allows for medical data collection and sharing across games.

“The use of Microsoft Surface in this capacity will allow medical personnel to make more informed, time-sensitive decisions about player safety and health on the sidelines,” Matthews notes.

“The Surface devices will never be used to diagnose an injury to a player, rather it will allow each team’s medical staff faster access to player information in order to make the proper diagnosis.”


►  Google gender debacle speaks to tech culture wars, politics

The Google engineer who blamed biological differences for the paucity of women in tech had every right to express his views. And Google likely had every right to fire him, workplace experts and lawyers say.

Special circumstances — from the country’s divisive political climate to Silicon Valley’s broader problem with gender equity — contributed to the outrage and subsequent firing. But the fallout should still serve as a warning to anyone in any industry expressing unpopular, fiery viewpoints.

“Anyone who makes a statement like this and expects to stick around ... is foolish,” said David Lewis, CEO of Operations Inc., a human resources consulting firm.


WHY HE LOST HIS JOB

The engineer, James Damore, wrote a memo criticizing Google for pushing mentoring and diversity programs and for “alienating conservatives.” The parts that drew the most outrage made such assertions as women “prefer jobs in social and artistic areas” and have a “lower stress tolerance” and “harder time” leading, while more men “may like coding because it requires systemizing.”

Google’s code of conduct says workers “are expected to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias, and unlawful discrimination.” Google’s CEO, Sundar Picahi, said Damore violated this code.

Yonatan Zunger, who recently left Google as a senior engineer, wrote in a Medium post that he would have had no choice but to fire Damore had he been his supervisor.

“Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you?” he wrote . “I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face.”

Though one might argue for a right to free speech, however unpopular, such protections are generally limited to government and other public employees — and to unionized workers with rights to disciplinary hearings before any firing.

Broader protections are granted to comments about workplace conditions. Damore argues in a federal labor complaint that this applies to his case, but experts disagree.

“By posting that memo, he forfeited his job,” said Jennifer Lee Magas, public relations professor at Pace University and a former employment law attorney. “He was fired for his words, but also for being daft enough to post these thoughts on an open workplace forum, where he was sure to be met with backlash and to offend his colleagues — male and female alike.”


UNIQUELY GOOGLE

The fallout comes as Silicon Valley faces a watershed moment over gender and ethnic diversity.

Blamed for years for not hiring enough women and minorities — and not welcoming them once they are hired — tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Uber have promised big changes. These have included diversity and mentoring programs and coding classes for groups underrepresented among the companies’ technical and leadership staff. Many tech companies also pledge to interview, though not necessarily hire, minority candidates.

These are the sorts of things Damore’s memo railed against.

As such, experts say Damore might not have been fired at a company that doesn’t have such a clear message on diversity.

In addition, had Damore worked for a smaller, lesser-known company, an internal memo might not have created such a “media storm,” said Aimee Delaney, a Hinshaw & Culbertson attorney who represents companies on labor matters.


A DIFFERENT WORLD

Still, bringing so much public, negative attention would spell trouble for any worker. That’s especially so in this age of fast-spreading social media posts, when internal company documents can easily leak and go viral.

It didn’t help that this was in the heart of Silicon Valley, where typing fingers are on 24/7 and people rarely disconnect from social media, even on a quiet August weekend. Or that Google is a brand consumers interact with all day — and want to read about when memos go viral.

Perhaps the biggest lesson is this: Don’t be so quick to post your angry thoughts for thousands, then millions, to see.

Michael Schmidt, vice chairman of labor and employment at the Cozen O’Connor law firm, said that while workers might have refrained from such remarks around the physical watercooler, “people treat ... electronic communications much more informally than face-to-face speech.”

But the consequences are similar, if not more severe.


EXPLOSIVE CLIMATE

Initially shared on an internal Google network, the memo leaked out to the public over the weekend, first in bits and pieces and then in its 10-page entirety.

It took a life of its own as outsiders weighed in. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took to Twitter to offer Damore a job. One conservative group, Americans for Limited Government, criticized what it called Google’s politically correct culture and left-wing bias. Others called for a Google boycott.

Known for its motto, “don’t be evil,” Google is broadly seen as a liberal-leaning company, something Damore criticized in his manifesto. Liberals and tech industry leaders came to Google’s defense and denounced Damore’s claims as baseless and harmful.

“It’s fair to say that whatever side of the political aisle you are on, ... we are in a climate where we are dealing with very highly charged and emotional issues,” Schmidt said. “And those issues are spilling into the workplace.”

Instead of looking for a bright-line test on what is permissible, he said, “both sides need to understand there has to be a sensitivity to the bigger picture,” a level of respect and cultural sensitivity across all demographics.

Click Below for More...

Page 2 of 217 pages  <  1 2 3 4 >  Last »


The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved