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Last updated 25 Mar, 02:00 PM

BBC News - Home

Brexit: PM under pressure over Commons Brexit votes - Ministers "more positive" about a vote on the PM's deal this week - but the DUP is still against it.

'The biggest EU story since the fall of the Berlin wall' - Two foreign correspondents in Brussels give us the European view on covering Brexit.

Mueller report: Trump triumphant after being cleared of collusion - The US president is exonerated of collusion with Russia but not of obstructing justice.

BA flight lands in Edinburgh instead of Dusseldorf by mistake - The mistake only became apparent when the "welcome to Edinburgh" announcement was made.

Scott Walker, influential rock enigma, dies aged 76 - The US singer, one of the most enigmatic figures in rock history, was hugely influential.

The Register

Aussie engineer accuses 'serial farter' supervisor of bullying, seeks $1.8m redress - Bloke alleges boss 'thrust his bum' at him Farting at work is a bigger taboo than discussing pay.…

Autonomy paid its own customers to pump up revenues, claims HPE - High Court hears opening shots of long-awaited tech trial Autonomy Trial Mike Lynch's Autonomy Corporation pumped up its value by paying its own customers to buy its products so Autonomy could inflate its accounts, London's High Court was told this morning.…

Builds aplenty, taking calls from the pub with Teams, and Edgy leaks: It's the week at Microsoft - Now with exclusive cult cinema references Roundup In a week where macOS users got their first taste of Microsoft's Defender and certain vendors received a kick in the virtuals from Azure's cloudy desktop, the gang at Redmond kept on a-building and a-leaking.…

The tech lawsuit of the year: HPE v Mike Lynch and Sushovan Hussain - And we'll be there to tell you all about it Autonomy Trial Today begins the tech trial of the year: HPE has hauled Mike Lynch into London's High Court, claiming $5bn from the one-time chief exec of ill-fated UK software firm Autonomy.…

NexDock 2: Electric Boogaloo. Crowdfunded laptop shell sequel touts less plastic, more pixels - Hoping for an Empire Strikes Back rather than a Big Momma's House 2 Three years after the original comes another NexDock, a laptop shell aimed at owners of Android phones or lovers of the diminutive Raspberry Pi (and its brethren).…

New Scientist - News

Huge T. rex fossil suggests many dinosaurs were bigger than we thought - The discovery of a T. rex that was 400 kilograms heavier than any other found so far suggests we may have underestimated the size of this and other dinosaurs

Exclusive: Thousands of security flaws found on UK government websites - The Wannacry attack locked down NHS computers in 2017. Now an investigation as uncovered thousands of unpatched vulnerabilities on UK government websites

Evidence of early Australian arrival is best judged with an open mind - Signs that our ancestors reached Australia 120,000 years ago may be "difficult to credit", but recent discoveries have shattered many similar preconceptions

We’ve found 4000 exoplanets but almost zero are right for life - The chemical reactions that give rise to life need enough liquid water and not too much ultraviolet light, which seems to be a rare combination in the galaxy

Genetic risk scores on their own aren't that good at predicting health - A new way of measuring your genetic risk for health conditions could help identify high-risk people. But it isn’t clear how medically useful these tests are yet

Hacker News

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand [pdf] - Comments

How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs (2007) - Comments

Credder Wants to Create an Equivalent to “Rotten Tomatoes” for News - Comments

The Rainbow Network: An Off-ChainDecentralized Synthetics Exchange [pdf] - Comments

How Japanese Police Turned Cyber Prank into Arresting Cases - Comments


Improved Estimates of the Distance To the Large Magellanic Cloud - Long-time Slashdot reader colinwb writes: A team of researchers has published a letter in Nature (2019) estimating the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud" to a precision of one per cent; Arxiv (2019). The Arxiv abstract: In the era of precision cosmology, it is essential to empirically determine the Hubble constant with an accuracy of one per cent or better. At present, the uncertainty on this constant is dominated by the uncertainty in the calibration of the Cepheid period — luminosity relationship (also known as Leavitt Law). The Large Magellanic Cloud has traditionally served as the best galaxy with which to calibrate Cepheid period-luminosity relations, and as a result has become the best anchor point for the cosmic distance scale. Eclipsing binary systems composed of late-type stars offer the most precise and accurate way to measure the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud. Currently the limit of the precision attainable with this technique is about two per cent, and is set by the precision of the existing calibrations of the surface brightness — colour relation. Here we report the calibration of the surface brightness-colour relation with a precision of 0.8 per cent. We use this calibration to determine the geometrical distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud that is precise to 1 per cent based on 20 eclipsing binary systems. The final distane is 49.59 +/- 0.09 (statistical) +/- 0.54 (systematic) kiloparsecs. In 2013 a team of researchers (including several of the current researchers) published a letter in Nature (2013) which estimated the distance with a precision of two per cent; Arxiv (2013). Another team of researchers has also posted their recent research on Arxiv (2019) in which they provide a 1% foundation for the determination of the Hubble Constant. All the links are to abstracts; the full letters to Nature are paywalled, but the Arxiv abstracts have links to PDFs which seem to be complete and accessible. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

First-of-Its-Kind US Nuclear Waste Dump Marks 20 Years - "In a remote stretch of New Mexico desert, the U.S. government put in motion an experiment aimed at proving to the world that radioactive waste could be safely disposed of deep underground..." reports the Associated Press: Twenty years and more than 12,380 shipments later, tons of Cold War-era waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research across the U.S. have been stashed in the salt caverns that make up the underground facility. Each week, several shipments of special boxes and barrels packed with lab coats, rubber gloves, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements are trucked to the site. But the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has not been without issues. A 2014 radiation leak forced an expensive, nearly three-year closure, delayed the federal government's cleanup program and prompted policy changes at national laboratories and defense-related sites across the U.S. More recently, the U.S. Department of Energy said it would investigate reports that workers may have been exposed last year to hazardous chemicals. Still, supporters consider the repository a success, saying it provides a viable option for dealing with a multibillion-dollar mess that stretches from a decommissioned nuclear weapons production site in Washington state to one of the nation's top nuclear research labs, in Idaho, and locations as far east as South Carolina. If it weren't for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, many containers of plutonium-contaminated waste would be outside, exposed to the weather and susceptible to natural disasters, said J.R. Stroble, head of business operations at the Department of Energy's Carlsbad Field Office, which oversees the contractor that operates the repository. "The whole purpose of WIPP is to isolate this long-lived radioactive, hazardous waste from the accessible environment, from people and the things people need in order to live life on Earth," he told The Associated Press. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Which Programming Language Has The Most Security Vulnerabilities? - A new report from the open source security company WhiteSource asks the question, "Is one programming language more secure than the rest?" An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic: To answer this question, the report compiled information from WhiteSource's database, which aggregates information on open source vulnerabilities from sources including the National Vulnerability Database, security advisories, GitHub issue trackers, and popular open source projects issue trackers. Researchers focused in on open source security vulnerabilities in the seven most widely-used languages of the past 10 years to learn which are most secure, and which vulnerability types are most common in each... The most common vulnerabilities across most of these languages are Cross-SiteScripting (XSS); Input Validation; Permissions, Privileges, and Access Control; and Information Leak / Disclosure, according to the report. Across the seven most widely-used programming languages, here's how the vulnerabilities were distributed: C (47%) PHP (17%) Java (11%) JavaScript (10%) Python (5%) C++ (5%) Ruby (4%) But the results are full of disclaimers -- for example, that C tops the list because it's the oldest language with "the highest volume of written code" and "is also one of the languages behind major infrastructure like Open SSL and the Linux kernel." The report also notes a "substantial rise" across all languages for known open source security vulnerabilities over the last two years, attributing this to more awareness about vulnerable components -- thanks to more research, automated security tools, and "the growing investment in bug bounty programs" -- as well as the increasing popularity of open source software. And it also reports a drop in the percentage of critical vulnerabilities for most languages -- except JavaScript and PHP. The report then concludes that "the Winner Of Most Secure Programming Language one and everyone...! It is not about the language itself that makes it any more or less secure, but how you use it. If you are mitigating your vulnerabilities throughout the software development lifecycle with the proper management approach, then you are far more likely to stay secure." Coincidentally, WhiteSource sells software which monitors open source components throughout the software development lifecycle to provide alerts about security (and licensing) issues. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Can We Build Ethics Into Automated Decision-Making? - "Machines will need to make ethical decisions, and we will be responsible for those decisions," argues Mike Loukides, O'Reilly Media's vice president of content strategy: We are surrounded by systems that make ethical decisions: systems approving loans, trading stocks, forwarding news articles, recommending jail sentences, and much more. They act for us or against us, but almost always without our consent or even our knowledge. In recent articles, I've suggested the ethics of artificial intelligence itself needs to be automated. But my suggestion ignores the reality that ethics has already been automated... The sheer number of decisions that need to be made means that we can't expect humans to make those decisions. Every time data moves from one site to another, from one context to another, from one intent to another, there is an action that requires some kind of ethical decision... Ethical problems arise when a company's interest in profit comes before the interests of the users. We see this all the time: in recommendations designed to maximize ad revenue via "engagement"; in recommendations that steer customers to Amazon's own products, rather than other products on their platform. The customer's interest must always come before the company's. That applies to recommendations in a news feed or on a shopping site, but also how the customer's data is used and where it's shipped. Facebook believes deeply that "bringing the world closer together" is a social good but, as Mary Gray said on Twitter, when we say that something is a "social good," we need to ask: "good for whom?" Good for advertisers? Stockholders? Or for the people who are being brought together? The answers aren't all the same, and depend deeply on who's connected and how.... It's time to start building the systems that will truly assist us to manage our data. The article argues that spam filters provide a surprisingly good set of first design principles. They work in the background without interfering with users, but always allow users to revoke their decisions, and proactively seek out user input in ambiguous or unclear situations. But in the real world beyond our inboxes, "machines are already making ethical decisions, and often doing so badly. Spam detection is the exception, not the rule." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cities In India Ban 'PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' Over Fears It Turns Children Into 'Psychopaths' - Player Unknown's Battlegrounds is facing a "ferocious" backlash in India, Bloomberg reports: Nowhere has resistance to the game been quite like India. Multiple cities have banned PUBG, as it's known, and police in Western India arrested 10 university students for playing. The national child rights commission has recommended barring the game for its violent nature. One of India's largest Hindi newspapers declared PUBG an "epidemic" that turned children into "manorogi," or psychopaths. "There are dangerous consequences to this game," the Navbharat Times warned in a March 20 editorial. "Many children have lost their mental balance...." What's different about India is the speed with which the country has landed in the strange digital world of no laws or morals. It skipped two decades of debate and adjustment, blowing into the modern gaming era in a matter of months. Rural communities that never had PCs or game consoles got smartphones in recent years -- and wireless service just became affordable for pretty much everyone after a price war last year. With half a billion internet users looking for entertainment, PUBG has set off a frenzy. Over 250,000 students entered one recent PUBG competition, according to the article. At least one local minister criticized the game as "the demon in every house." Read more of this story at Slashdot.