Medicine

Research Finds 1 In 3 American Cats and Dogs Are Overweight (arstechnica.com) 18

After surveying 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats in the U.S. last year, a group of researchers found that about one in three were overweight or obese. "Looking over data from the last decade, the researchers say the new figures reveal a 169-percent increase in hefty felines and a 158-percent increase in chunky canines," reports Ars Technica. From the report: All the data is from researchers at Banfield, which runs a chain of veterinary hospitals across 42 states. The researchers surveyed animals that checked into one of Banfield's 975 locations, putting them through a five-point physical and visual exam. Animals were considered overweight if their ribs were not clearly visible or easily felt and if their waists were also hard to see. Pets were dubbed obese if their ribs couldn't be felt at all and they had no visible waist. As in humans, being overweight makes pets more prone to chronic health conditions. Also similar to humans, doctors blame pets' weight problems on overfeeding and lack of exercise. Other contributing factors include genetics and health issues such as arthritis, which can make play painful. Last, some pet owners may not be able to spot weight issues in their pets -- particularly because so many more dogs and cats are now overweight, making chubby pets the new norm. Dog breeds with the highest prevalence of obesity are Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels, the researchers report. For cats, the fattest breeds are Manx and Maine Coons.
Books

O'Reilly No Longer Selling Individual Books, Videos Online 51

dovf writes: Just got an email from O'Reilly Media that as of today, they are no longer selling individual books or videos online -- rather, they are encouraging people to sign up for Safari. They are continuing to publish books and videos, "and you'll still be able to buy them at Amazon and other retailers." They also make it clear that we will not lose access to already-purchased content, updates to such content, etc. More details can be found in the FAQ. No mention, though, of whether the content sold at these other retailers will remain DRM-free... From the FAQ: "You can buy all of the books (ebooks and print) at shop.oreilly.com from Amazon and other digital and bricks-and-mortar retailers. We're no longer selling individual books and videos via shop.oreilly.com -- but we are definitely continuing to publish books and videos on the topics you need to know. And of course, every O'Reilly book and video (including O'Reilly conference sessions) is available instantly on Safari." The only mention of "DRM" in the FAQ is in regard to what happens to the digital content you have in your account at members.oreilly.com. According to O'Reilly, "Your DRM-free ebooks and videos are safe and sound, and you'll continue to have free lifetime access to download them anytime, anywhere."
Facebook

Facebook's Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children (propublica.org) 208

Sidney Fussell from Gizmodo summarizes a report from ProPublica, which brings to light dozens of training documents used by Facebook to train moderators on hate speech: As the trove of slides and quizzes reveals, Facebook uses a warped, one-sided reasoning to balance policing hate speech against users' freedom of expression on the platform. This is perhaps best summarized by the above image from one of its training slideshows, wherein Facebook instructs moderators to protect "White Men," but not "Female Drivers" or "Black Children." Facebook only blocks inflammatory remarks if they're used against members of a "protected class." But Facebook itself decides who makes up a protected class, with lots of clear opportunities for moderation to be applied arbitrarily at best and against minoritized people critiquing those in power (particularly white men) at worst -- as Facebook has been routinely accused of. According to the leaked documents, here are the group identifiers Facebook protects: Sex, Religious affiliation, National origin, Gender identity, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Serious disability or disease. And here are those Facebook won't protect: Social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, countries. Subsets of groups -- female drivers, Jewish professors, gay liberals -- aren't protected either, as ProPublica explains: White men are considered a group because both traits are protected, while female drivers and black children, like radicalized Muslims, are subsets, because one of their characteristics is not protected.
Security

Microsoft's Telemetry Shows Petya Infections in 65 Countries Around the World (microsoft.com) 83

From a blog post by Microsoft: On June 27, 2017 reports of a ransomware infection began spreading across Europe. We saw the first infections in Ukraine, where more than 12,500 machines encountered the threat. We then observed infections in another 64 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Russia, and the United States. The new ransomware has worm capabilities, which allows it to move laterally across infected networks. Based on our investigation, this new ransomware shares similar codes and is a new variant of Ransom:Win32/Petya. This new strain of ransomware, however, is more sophisticated. [...] Initial infection appears to involve a software supply-chain threat involving the Ukrainian company M.E.Doc, which develops tax accounting software, MEDoc. Although this vector was speculated at length by news media and security researchers -- including Ukraine's own Cyber Police -- there was only circumstantial evidence for this vector. Microsoft now has evidence that a few active infections of the ransomware initially started from the legitimate MEDoc updater process. A New York Times reports how rest of the world is dealing with Petya. From the article: A fuller picture of the impact will probably emerge in the coming days. But companies and government offices worldwide appeared less affected than the WannaCry attack, notably in places like China, which was hard hit in May. Reports from Asia suggested that many of the companies hit were the local arms of European and American companies struck on Tuesday. In Mumbai, India, a port terminal operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, was shut after it disclosed that it had been hit by the malware. In a statement, Indian port authorities said they were taking steps to relieve congestion, such as finding places to park stranded cargo. The attack shut the terminal down on Tuesday afternoon. On the Australian island of Tasmania, computers in a Cadbury chocolate factory owned by Mondelez International, the American food company, displayed the ransomware message, according to the local news media.
Security

Hacker Behind Massive Ransomware Outbreak Can't Get Emails From Victims Who Paid (vice.com) 182

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: On Tuesday, a new, worldwide ransomware outbreak took off, infecting targets in Ukraine, France, Spain, and elsewhere. The hackers hit everything from international law firms to media companies. The ransom note demands victims send bitcoin to a predefined address and contact the hacker via email to allegedly have their files decrypted. But the email company the hacker happened to use, Posteo, says it has decided to block the attacker's account, leaving victims with no obvious way to unlock their files. [...] The hacker tells victims to send $300 worth of bitcoin. But to determine who exactly has paid, the hacker also instructs people to email their bitcoin wallet ID, and their "personal installation key." This is a 60 character code made up of letters and digits generated by the malware, which is presumably unique to each infection of the ransomware. That process is not possible now, though. "Midway through today (CEST) we became aware that ransomware blackmailers are currently using a Posteo address as a means of contact," Posteo, the German email provider the hacker had an account with, wrote in a blog post. "Our anti-abuse team checked this immediately -- and blocked the account straight away.
China

China's All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens' Faces (wsj.com) 104

China's government is using facial-recognition technology to help promote good behavior and catch lawbreakers, reports the WSJ. From the article: Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering (alternative source). Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. Ms. Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender. "I won't ever run a red light again," she said. China is rushing to deploy new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would spook many in the U.S. and the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing's authoritarian leaders are installing iris scanners at security checkpoints in troubled regions and using sophisticated software to monitor ramblings on social media. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national "social credit" system that would assign every citizen a rating based on how they behave at work, in public venues and in their financial dealings.
Security

Ukrainian Banks, Electricity Firm Hit by Fresh Cyber Attack; Reports Claim the Ransomware Is Quickly Spreading Across the World (vice.com) 106

A massive cyber attack has disrupted businesses and services in Ukraine on Tuesday, bringing down the government's website and sparking officials to warn that airline flights to and from the country's capital city Kiev could face delays. Motherboard reports that the ransomware is quickly spreading across the world. From a report: A number of Ukrainian banks and companies, including the state power distributor, were hit by a cyber attack on Tuesday that disrupted some operations (a non-paywalled source), the Ukrainian central bank said. The latest disruptions follow a spate of hacking attempts on state websites in late-2016 and repeated attacks on Ukraine's power grid that prompted security chiefs to call for improved cyber defences. The central bank said an "unknown virus" was to blame for the latest attacks, but did not give further details or say which banks and firms had been affected. "As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations," the central bank said in a statement. BBC reports that Ukraine's aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, Russian oil producer Rosneft and Danish shipping company Maersk are also facing "disruption, including its offices in the UK and Ireland."

According to local media reports, the "unknown virus" cited above is a ransomware strain known as Petya.A. Here's how Petya encrypts files on a system (video). News outlet Motherboard reports that Petya has hit targets in Spain, France, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries as well. From the report: "We are seeing several thousands of infection attempts at the moment, comparable in size to Wannacry's first hours," Costin Raiu, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Motherboard in an online chat. Judging by photos posted to Twitter and images provided by sources, many of the alleged attacks involved a piece of ransomware that displays red text on a black background, and demands $300 worth of bitcoin. "If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they are encrypted," the text reads, according to one of the photos. "Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don't waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service."
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 172

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 265

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
EU

Germany Cracks Down On Illegal Speech On Social Media. (smh.com.au) 532

ArmoredDragon writes: German police have raided 36 homes of people accused of using illegal speech on Facebook and Twitter. Much of it was aimed at political speech. According to the article, "Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation."

This comes just as a new law is being debated that can fine social media platforms $53 million for not removing 70% of illegal speech (including political, defamatory, and hateful speech) within 24 hours of it being posted, which Facebook argues will make it obligatory for them to delete posts and ban users for speech that isn't clearly illegal.

Businesses

'Chiropractors Are Bullshit' (theoutline.com) 323

From an article on The Outline, submitted by two readers: If you're one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who have suffered from back pain, you may have been referred to a chiropractor for medical help. In the modern-day internet landscape, you'll find chiropractic celebrities like Dr. Josh Axe (1.7 million Facebook followers), Dr. Billy DeMoss (20,000 Facebook followers), and Dr. Eric Berg (472,000 YouTube subscribers) giving advice that goes beyond managing spinal issues. Both in their offices and on social media, chiropractors have adapted to a marketplace that's demanding more than just pain management: they extol the virtues of an "alkaline diet," tell you how to manage stress with detoxing, and wax scientific about the adrenal gland. [...] Chiropractic care, I'm sorry to say, is little more than the buffoonery of a 19th-century lunatic who derived most of his medical theory from seances. It has not evolved much since its creation. Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation's practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death. Chiropractors can't replace your doctor, and I'm amazed that they're still even allowed to practice. [...] Though some chiropractors are now making an effort to introduce evidence-based practices into their treatment, chiropractic as a whole hasn't evolved like other areas of medicine -- with hypotheses, experimentation, and peer review. Instead, it was birthed by a strange combination of hocus pocus, guesswork, and strongly held religious beliefs.
China

Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument (cnet.com) 69

Abstract of a study: The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called "50c party" posts vociferously argue for the government's side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime's strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime's strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. From a CNET article, titled, Chinese media told to 'shut down' talk that makes country look bad: Being an internet business in China appears to be getting tougher. Chinese broadcasters, including social media platform Weibo, streamer Acfun and media company Ifeng were told to shut down all audio and visual content that cast the country or its government in bad light, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television posted on its website on Thursday, saying they violate local regulations. "[The service providers] broadcast large amounts of programmes that don't comply with national rules and propagate negative discussions about public affairs. [The agency] has notified all relevant authorities and ... will take measures to shut down these programmes and rectify the situation," reads the statement.
Television

BBC Technical Glitch Leaves TV Presenter In Silence (theguardian.com) 56

Viewers of BBC's News at Ten were entranced last night when a glitch in its system produced over four minutes of surreal beauty. Two readers share a report: Huw Edwards was left sitting in silence for four minutes at the start of BBC News at Ten on Tuesday night after a technical fault delayed the start of the programme and bemused viewers. Viewers on some devices and channels were left watching the presenter sitting in silence as he waited for his cue to start. The BBC News Channel showed Edwards sitting mute for the entirety of the delay, while BBC1 put up a message apologising for the fault and played saxophone music. On BBC iPlayer an announcer apologised for the glitch and breaking news alerts also appeared during the delay. When the programme started at 22:04, Edwards apologised for what he described as a "few technical problems." The presenter said on Wednesday that nobody had told him he was on air until two minutes into the delay. However, Edwards told Radio 4's The Media Show that he "sensed I might be on" so took "the most conservative approach possible" and sat at his desk reading his notes before the bulletin started. BBC hasn't shared more about those "technical glitches." You can watch the clip here.
Businesses

With Her Blog Post About Toxic Bro-Culture at Uber, Susan Fowler Proved That One Person Can Make a Difference (recode.net) 340

Kara Swisher, writing for Recode: It was Lao Tzu who said that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now -- culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick -- it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors. It was clear from the moment you read the 3,000-word post by former engineer Susan Fowler about her time at the car-hailing company that nothing was going to be the same. Titled simply, "Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber," the essay deftly and surgically laid out the map that the media and others would use to prove to its out-to-lunch board and waffling investors that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to go. In her account, Fowler was neither mean nor self-righteous, although in reading the story that she laid out about her horrible time there, it would have been completely fair for her to have taken that tone.
Businesses

Leaked Recording: Inside Apple's Global War On Leakers (theoutline.com) 81

Reader citadrianne writes: A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. The briefing, titled 'Stopping Leakers -- Keeping Confidential at Apple,' was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team. According to the hour-long presentation, Apple's Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military. Top-notch reporting from The Outline, consider reading the full report. During the briefing, a company executive said they have been able to find two employees who leaked information to media.
Social Networks

Supreme Court Rules Sex Offenders Can't Be Barred From Social Media (gizmodo.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law that prevents sex offenders from posting on social media where children might be present, saying it "impermissibly restricts lawful speech." In doing so, the Supreme Court asserted what we all know to be true: Posting is essential to the survival of the republic. The court ruled that to "foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights." The court correctly noted that "one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace." The North Carolina law was ruled to be overly broad, barring "access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge."
Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
Government

Snowden's Former Employer Under Criminal Investigation For Fraudulent Billing (boozallen.com) 43

McGruber writes: Booz Allen Hamilton, the contracting firm that was Edward Snowden's employer when he leaked classified information from the NSA has announced that it is under a federal civil and criminal investigation of its billing practices. The disclosure in a regulatory filing sent shares of parent company Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. tumbling $7.33, or 18.6 percent, to $32 in Friday trading.
Censorship

Japan Passes Controversial 'Anti-Conspiracy' Bill (privateinternetaccess.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Virtual Privacy Network Blog, News: Earlier today, after an intentionally rushed consideration process, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed a new mass surveillance law conveniently called the "anti-conspiracy bill." With the vague wording of the bill, anyone suspected of planning any of [the 277 acts listed in the bill] could be put under targeted surveillance. Of course, the Japanese government has promised not to overstep their boundaries and emphasized that the new law is only meant to increase security before the 2020 Olympics. Among the noted crimes that would be punishable in Japan under the new anti-terrorism law is copyright violation, which is a criminal offense not a civil offense in Japan. Both the Japanese Bar Association and the United Nation's Special Rapporteur have spoken out against the law, saying that it will severely curtail civil liberties in Japan.

BBC laid out some of the most ridiculous things that someone in Japan can now catch a potentially terrorism-related charge for even planning or discussing on social media the acts of: Copying music; Conducting sit-ins to protest against the construction of apartment buildings; Using forged stamps; Competing in a motor boat race without a license; Mushroom picking in conservation forests; Avoiding paying consumption tax. The stated rationale of the government is that these now-illegal acts, such as copying music to CDs or foraging for mushrooms in conservation forests, could be used to fund terrorist activities. Hence, planning or thinking about them is bad. If this sounds like the Thought Police, that's because it is.

Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."

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