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Those Cute Cats Online? They Help Spread Misinformation

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 23:34
"Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around..." writes the New York Times. "Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say." The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher. Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said this kind of "engagement bait" helped misinformation actors generate clicks on their pages, which can make them more prominent in users' feeds in the future. That prominence can drive a broader audience to content with inaccurate or misleading information, she said. "The strategy works because the platforms continue to reward engagement over everything else," Ms. Ryan said, "even when that engagement comes from" publications that also publish false or misleading content.

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Categories: Technology

'Advent of Code' Has Begun - and Other Geeky Daily Programming Challenges

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 22:35
I Programmer writes: December 1st is much anticipated among those who like programming puzzles. It is time to start collecting stars by solving small puzzles on the Advent of Code website with the goal of amassing 50 stars by Christmas Day, December 25th. Raku has also opened its advent calendar and there's a brand new Bekk Christmas blog with informational content on multiple topics... At the time of writing we are only 10.5 hours into Advent of Code's Day 1, almost 50,000 users have completed both puzzles and another 8,484 have completed the first. [Some programmers are even livestreaming their progress on Twitch, or sharing their thoughts (and some particuarly creative solutions) in the Advent of Code subreddit.] We can credit Perl with pioneering the idea of a programming advent calendar with daily articles with a festive theme and the Raku Advent Calendar now continues the tradition. Now in its 13th year, but only the third with its new name this year's first advent post solves a problem faced by Santa of creating thumbnails of approaching 2 billion images... Smashing magazine has pulled together its own exhaustive list of additional geek-themed advent calendars. Some of the other highlights: The beloved site "24 Pull Requests" has relaunched for 2021, daring participants to make 24 pull requests before December 24th. (The site's tagline is "giving back to open source for the holidays.") Over the years 26,465 contributors (as well as 25,738 organizations) have already participated through the site. The Advent of JavaScript and Advent of CSS sites promise 24 puzzles delivered by email (though you'll have to pay if you also want them to email you the solutions!) This year also saw daily challenges from the sixth annual Code Security advent calendar being announced on Twitter, while TryHackMe.com has its own set of cybersecurity puzzles (and even a few prizes).

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Categories: Technology

JetBrains Announces 'Fleet' IDE to Compete with Microsoft's Visual Studio Code

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 21:34
On Monday JetBrains (creators of the Kotlin programming language and makers of the integrated development environment IntelliJ IDEA) made an announcement: a preview for a lightweight new multi-language IDE called Fleet using IntelliJ's code-processing engine with a distributed IDE architecture and a reimagined UI. By Friday they'd received an "overwhelming" number of requests, and announced the preview program had stopped accepting new requests. ("To subscribe for updates and the public preview announcement at jetbrains.com/fleet or follow @JetBrains_Fleet on Twitter.") They'd received 80,000 requests in just the first 30 hours, reports Visual Studio magazine: Although JetBrains didn't even mention VS Code in its Nov. 28 announcement, many media pundits immediately characterized it along the lines of an "answer to Visual Studio Code," a "response to Visual Studio Code," a "competitor to Visual Studio Code" and so on... "When you first launch Fleet, it starts up as a full-fledged editor that provides syntax highlighting, simple code completion, and all the things you'd expect from an editor," JetBrains said. "But wait, there's more! Fleet is also a fully functional IDE bringing smart completion, refactorings, navigation, debugging, and everything else that you're used to having in an IDE — all with a single button click." "It starts up in an instant so you can begin working immediately..." boasts the Fleet web page, adding that Fleet "is designed to automatically detect your project configuration from the source code, maximizing the value you get from its smart code-processing engine while minimizing the need to configure the project in the IDE." And it also offers "project and context aware code completion, navigation to definitions and usages, on-the-fly code quality checks, and quick-fixes..." Fleet also offers a collaborative environment allowing developers to work together — not just sharing the editor, but also terminals and debugging sessions. (There's even a diff view for reviewing changes.) "Others can connect to a collaboration session you initiate on your machine, or everyone can connect to a shared remote dev environment," explains Fleet's web page. "It supports a number of remote work scenarios and can be run locally on the developer's computer, in the cloud, or on a remote server," reports SD Times. (And Fleet's home page says soon it will even run in Docker containers configured with an appropriate environment for your project.) SD Times adds that Fleet "currently supports Java, Kotlin, Go, Python, Rust, and JavaScript. The company plans to extend support to cover PHP, C++, C#, and HTML, which are the remaining languages that have IntelliJ IDEs." It's multi-platform — running on Linux, MacOS, or Windows — and Fleet's web page promises "a familiar and consistent user experience" offering one IDE for the many different technologies you might end up using. And yes, there's a dark theme.

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Categories: Technology

Twitter Admits 'Coordinated and Malicious' Activity Weaponizing Its New Privacy Policy

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 20:34
CNN reports: Twitter acknowledged on Friday that a new policy it unveiled this week to protect users from harassment is being abused by malicious actors — days after journalists, left-wing activists and self-described "sedition hunters" reported their accounts had been locked for sharing publicly available images of anti-maskers, anti-vaccine protesters and suspected Capitol insurrectionists. The acknowledgment highlights how Twitter has been caught flat-footed by what it described in a statement as "a significant amount of coordinated and malicious" activity that led to "several errors" in Twitter's enforcement. "We've corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended — to curb the misuse of media to harass or intimidate private individuals," Twitter said. Unveiled on Tuesday, Twitter's new policy prohibits the sharing of images of private individuals without those people's consent. The rule was created, Twitter initially said, in a bid to prevent its platform from being abused to harass and intimidate people, particularly women, activists and minorities. But right-wing groups and anti-mask activists have quickly determined that the new Twitter policy offers an opportunity to strike back at those who might draw attention to their real-world identities. And in a matter of days, they established a coordinated campaign to flood Twitter with complaints that left-wing activists, Jan. 6 investigators and journalists covering rallies have published their faces without consent in violation of the new rule.... "Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor as we can take down Antifa f****t doxxing pages more easily," read one recent message on the encrypted messaging app Telegram that was reviewed by CNN. The message, which has been viewed more than 19,000 times, lists dozens of Twitter accounts for supporters to target with claims of violations under the new privacy policy... After filing such reports, some individuals have publicly celebrated "weaponizing" Twitter's new rule. A pair of posts reviewed by CNN on the alternative social media site Gab boasted of making dozens of Twitter reports and urged allies to "stay on the offensive" against "antifa" and "their doxxing riot videos." The rapidly unfolding campaign highlights how a tool intended to help protect vulnerable individuals has quickly evolved to help shield others from the scrutiny that might stem from their public actions. Twitter's policy is generally not supposed to apply to large-scale protests or newsworthy events, the company had said on Tuesday. Yet CNN points out now that "those aspects of Twitter's own policy appear not to have been followed in at least several cases."

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Categories: Technology

Essex: More than 200 drivers arrested for drink and drug drinking

Braintree and Witham Times - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 20:16
More than 200 drivers were arrested for drink and drug driving offences last month - figures have revealed.
Categories: Local News

Amazon Ordered to Hold Another Union Vote in Alabama

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 19:34
America's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) "has ordered a new union election for Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama," reports the Associated Press, "based on objections to the first vote that took place in April." The move, announced Monday, is a major blow to Amazon, which had spent about a year aggressively campaigning for warehouse workers in Bessemer to reject the union, which they ultimately did by a wide margin.... In a 20-page decision, the regional director for the NLRB focused much attention on Amazon's installation of a U.S. Postal Service mail box at the main employee entrance, which may have created the false impression that the company was the one conducting the election process. The regional director also refuted Amazon's position that it was making voting easier and was trying to encourage as high a turnout as possible. "The employer's flagrant disregard for the board's typical mail-ballot procedure compromised the authority of the board and made a free and fair election impossible," according to the decision. "By installing a postal mailbox at the main employee entrance, the employer essentially highjacked the process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process. This dangerous and improper message to employees destroys trust in the board's processes and in the credibility of the election results...." A repeat of the election means another battle for Amazon with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (or RWDSU). The first election garnered nationwide attention and put a spotlight on how Amazon treats its workers. It was the biggest union push in Amazon's history and only the second time that an organizing effort from within the company had come to a vote. In the first vote, 47% of the workers ultimately didn't cast a ballot.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Technology

Stacey Solomon visits Bluewater Shopping Centre to help sister out at her pop-up store

This Is Total Essex - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 17:51
She was spotted at the shopping centre
Categories: Local News

Booster Doses are Powerful, May Fight Omicron, Researchers Find

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 17:34
Last week researchers at Northwestern University calculated that one week after a Covid-19 booster shot, median antibody levels were 23 times higher than before the shot. This Thursday the Times of London reported that another study found similar results: Booster jabs "massively" strengthen the body's defences against Covid, according to key results that have raised hopes of strong protection from the Omicron variant. A third dose not only increased antibody levels thirtyfold, but roughly tripled levels of T-cells, a part of the immune system that experts believe could be the critical weapon against the heavily mutated Omicron strain. Professor Saul Faust, who led the study, emphasized to the Guardian that "These are remarkably effective immunological boosters, way above what is needed to prevent hospitalisation and death." And speaking to The Week, Faust also added that "This T-cell response gives us hope," because although Omicron was not specifically analysed during the research, their data suggested the triggered T-cells "are recognising a much broader range of antigens that might... be common to all of the variants." And earlier this week long-time Slashdot reader destinyland shared more booster/Omicron news from The Hill: On Sunday, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer's board of directors, said vaccine developers have "a pretty good degree of confidence" that people who have received booster doses on top of their initial COVID-19 vaccinations are protected against omicron. "If you talk to people in vaccine circles, people who are working on a vaccine, they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine, so three full doses of vaccine, is going to be fairly protective against this new variant," he said. Meanwhile, new Omicron-specific vaccines are also just months away, Business Insider reports: Pfizer said it will be able to manufacture and distribute an updated version of its COVID-19 vaccine within 100 days if the new variant Omicron is found to be resistant to its current vaccine... "Pfizer and BioNTech have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant," the company said in a statement... "We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally," a spokesperson told Reuters. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also preparing to respond to the Omicron's possible threat. Moderna on Friday said it plans to test a variant-specific booster in the event that its current vaccine is found to be ineffective against the Omicron. And The Hill also reports: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Monday he has "a very high level of confidence" that his company's COVID-19 treatment pills are effective against the omicron variant... Bourla said Paxlovid was designed in anticipation of future possible mutations. "So that gives me very, very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be effected, our oral treatment will not be effected by this virus."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Technology

Chelmsford Army and Navy: New hamburger roundabout could be built at major junction after public support

This Is Total Essex - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 16:51
The designs would completely change the roundabout
Categories: Local News

Southend Christmas tree 'stolen' just a day after being put up

This Is Total Essex - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 16:35
It was going to be given as a donation to the community
Categories: Local News

Bitcoin, Ether, Other Cryptocurrencies Suddenly Drop More Than 16%

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 16:34
"Cryptocurrency was down by as much as 20% Saturday, hitting its lowest point in months," reports MarketWatch: Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market value, was down 18% at $46,571.84 at about 7 a.m. ET, according to data from CoinDesk. It temporarily dipped to $42,000 before bouncing back. Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency, was down close to 16%. The declines were widespread across the crypto universe. Other widely traded cryptocurrencies including Solana, Dogecoin, and Shiba Inu coin lost more than a fifth of their value. Dogecoin now appears to be down more than 33%. According to the article, a "market insights" official at cryptolender Genesis Global Trading speculated that a large sell order might have triggered cryptocurrency margin calls and liquidations. Meanwhile, the president of El Salvador gloated on Twitter that they'd snapped up 150 bitcoins at an average price of $48,670 each, bragging that "El Salvador just bought the dip!" MarketWatch reports. "He later wrote that the country had 'Missed the f***ing bottom by 7 minutes,' followed by a laughing emoji."

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Categories: Technology

Essex Covid: Omicron variant has 'possibly' been found

Chelmsford Weekly News - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 16:30
Two Omicron Covid variant cases have possibly been found in south Essex - say council bosses.
Categories: Local News

Essex Covid: Omicron variant has 'possibly' been found

Braintree and Witham Times - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 16:30
Two Omicron Covid variant cases have possibly been found in south Essex - say council bosses.
Categories: Local News

Mark Wright gives fans tour around his new £1.3million Essex mansion

This Is Total Essex - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 15:51
He'll be moving into the property with Michelle Keegan soon
Categories: Local News

Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

The Register - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 15:48
Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

In brief  Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.…

Categories: Technology

Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten Harder to Understand

Slashdot - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 15:34
"I used to be able to understand 99% of the dialogue in Hollywood films," writes professional film blogger Ben Pearson. "But over the past 10 years or so, I've noticed that percentage has dropped significantly — and it's not due to hearing loss on my end...." Knowing I'm not alone in having these experiences, I reached out to several professional sound editors, designers, and mixers, many of whom have won Oscars for their work on some of Hollywood's biggest films, to get to the bottom of what's going on. One person refused to talk to me, saying it would be "professional suicide" to address this topic on the record. Another agreed to talk, but only under the condition that they remain anonymous. But several others spoke openly about the topic, and it quickly became apparent that this is a familiar subject among the folks in the sound community, since they're the ones who often bear the brunt of complaints about dialogue intelligibility... "There are a number of root causes," says Mark Mangini, the Academy Award-winning sound designer behind films like "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Blade Runner 2049." "It's really a gumbo, an accumulation of problems that have been exacerbated over the last 10 years ... that's kind of this time span where all of us in the filmmaking community are noticing that dialogue is harder and harder to understand...." When it comes to dialogue unintelligibility, one name looms above all others: Christopher Nolan. The director of "Tenet," "Interstellar," and "The Dark Knight Rises" is one of the most successful filmmakers of his generation, and he uses his power to make sure his films push the boundaries of sound design, often resulting in scenes in which audiences literally cannot understand what his characters say. And it's not just audiences who have trouble with some Nolan films: the director has even revealed that other filmmakers have reached out to him to complain about this issue in his movies.... Thomas Curley, who won an Oscar as a production sound mixer on "Whiplash" and previously worked on "The Spectacular Now," has also seen this type of mentality at work. "Not everything really has a very crisp, cinematic sound to it in real life, and I think some of these people are trying to replicate that," he tells me. Among the other factors: Curley also says that in general there's also a "bit of a fad" with today's actors for "soft delivery or under your breath delivery of some lines." Another sound designer complains today's more-visual movies are more resistant to closely-placed boom microphones — while a sound editor notes issues are exacerbated by compressed shooting schedules. One "high-profile Hollywood sound professional who wishes to remain anonymous even blamed an abundance of new technologies: "more tracks to play with, more options, therefore more expected and asked for from the sound editors... We literally have hundreds of tracks at our disposal." And after all that, the article adds, movie theaters could also just be showing the movie with volume set too low.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Technology

Essex: More than 200 drivers arrested for drink and drug drinking

Braintree and Witham Times - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 15:21
More than 200 drivers were arrested for drink and drug driving offences last month - figures have revealed.
Categories: Local News

Essex: More than 200 drivers arrested for drink and drug drinking

Chelmsford Weekly News - Sat, 04/12/2021 - 15:21
More than 200 drivers were arrested for drink and drug driving offences last month - figures have revealed.
Categories: Local News

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