Microsoft women filed 238 discrimination and harassment complaints

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Women at Microsoft working in US-based technical jobs filed 238 internal complaints about gender discrimination or sexual harassment between 2010 and 2016, according to court filings made public on Monday.

The figure was cited by plaintiffs suing Microsoft for systematically denying pay raises or promotions to women at the world’s largest software company. Microsoft denies it had any such policy.

The lawsuit, filed in Seattle federal court in 2015, is attracting wider attention after a series of powerful men have left or been fired from their jobs in entertainment, the media and politics for sexual misconduct.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys are pushing to proceed as a class action lawsuit, which could cover more than 8,000 women. More details about Microsoft’s human resources practices were made public on Monday in legal filings submitted as part of that process.

The two sides are exchanging documents ahead of trial, which has not been scheduled.

Out of 118 gender discrimination complaints filed by women at Microsoft, only one was deemed“founded” by the company, according to details in the unsealed court filings.

Attorneys for the women called the number of complaints “shocking” in the court filings and the response by Microsoft’s investigations team “lackluster.”

Companies generally keep information about internal discrimination complaints private, so it is unclear how the number of complaints at Microsoft compares to competitors.

Microsoft said in court filings that the plaintiffs did not identify practices that impact enough employees to warrant a class action, and that it spends more than $55 million per year to promote diversity and inclusion. The company had about 74,000 US employees at the end of last year.

Microsoft said the plaintiffs cannot cite one example of a pay or promotion problem in which Microsoft’s investigations team should have found a violation of company policy, but did not. A Microsoft spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

US District Judge James Robart has not yet ruled on the plaintiffs’ request for class action status.

A Reuters review of federal court cases filed between 2006 and 2016 revealed hundreds containing sexual harassment allegations where companies used common civil litigation tactics to keep potentially damning information under wraps.

Microsoft had argued that the number of womens’ human resources complaints should be kept secret because publicizing the outcomes could deter employees from reporting future abuses.

A court-appointed official found that scenario “far too remote a competitive or business harm” to justify keeping the information sealed.

News Corp. is a network of leading companies in the world of diversified media, news, and information services.

 

March 13, 2018

Sources: New York Post

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  •  The Best Under Bed Storage Bins of 2018

    The Best Under Bed Storage Bins of 2018

    age of wasted space, and one of those prime pieces of uncharted real estate is definitely underneath the bed. After all, it’s the perfect place for stashing out-of-season clothes, shoes, extra blankets, stuffed animals, toiletries, and more.</p><p>Here’s how the under bed storage bins we tested ranked, in order:</p><p>With a 66-quart capacity, these boxes, which come as a set of four, were by far the most spacious containers we tested. What’s more, the long, thin design allowed them to fit easily under the bed. Sturdy materials and an inflexible shape also enable them to hold either hard or soft items (or both), which you can easily identify through the see-through plastic. </p><p>Even with the addition of smooth-gliding wheels that easily help you pull the boxes out from under the bed, they can be neatly stacked with other units of their size, making them also a good choice for basement, garage, and attic storage. </p><p>The only issue (as with most plastic boxes), is the lid buckles in the center when the box is remotely overstuffed. So, while it still technically latches, the contents will no longer be air and water tight.</p><p>With approximately 80 percent more space than most other bags on the market, these bags can accommodate even your most voluminous down comforter. They feature a double-zip seal and triple-seal turbo valve, meaning they’re designed to get every ounce of air out of the bag when operated with the included hand pump, or your own home vacuum. You’ll not only be able to compress a mountain of clothes into one magically flat packet, but they’ll stay mold, mildew, and bacteria-free. </p><p>The bags are even reusable and average around $25 for a pack of six, making them a great budget buy. Downside? You can’t go the vacuum route with a pile of hard items.</p><p>I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’m a professional food, lifestyle, and pet writer and cookbook author. I’m also a (current) NYC resident and an (actual) native, meaning I’m well acquainted with storage systems, and have ample experience with making the most of small spaces.</p><p>We attempted to pack each storage unit with a standard soft load (one blanket, a set of bed sheets, four bulky jackets or sweaters, two pairs of jeans, four t-shirts and four towels), followed by a standard hard load (four heavy books, 10 paperbacks, 4 cans of food and assorted boxes of food), as well as both loads together. </p><p>We oriented the units both vertically and horizontally under the bed to assess whether they fit or not. We also slid them in and out from under the bed to determine ease of access. Lastly, we took the addition and usefulness of special features (such as wheels) into account when tabulating our final ranking, as well as durability; what’s the point of a storage unit if it can’t reasonably stand the test of time?</p><p>Hard plastic boxes with lids are ideal for under bed storage, as they’re generally spacious, can accommodate both hard and soft items, and keep your belongings airtight and dust-free. </p><p>Zippered plastic or cloth bags are also popular because they allow for more flexibility and versatility, and take up less room. They’re also light enough to stack in closets or on shelves. Either way, wheels or handles are key, especially for retrieving your items at will when they’re squirreled away under the bed. </p><p>Then you have vacuum bags, which are great for compressing stacks of clothes or blankets into tiny packages that take up hardly any space. Bins and carts tend to be the most attractive option, but they don’t often have covers, which are key in keeping grime off of your belongings. </p><p>Unquestionably the most attractive of all the containers we tested, these white wood composite boxes would be adorable in a child’s bedroom or make a chic addition to a college dorm. Fun features include a chalkboard front for labeling and a center divider for keeping contents organized. There’s even a set of casters that allow for seamless access.</p><p>The box can also support up to 30 pounds of either hard or soft items (or both thanks to the center divider), but since there’s no lid included, it’s best for belongings you don’t mind accumulating a fair bit of dust.</p><p>For better or worse, Container Store’s own polypropylene box is comparable to Sterilite’s. They’re both robustly constructed and largely airtight; except when overstuffed, when causes the lid to buckle.</p><p>What knocks them down a notch is that they have a smaller capacity. Even when scantily packed, the cover doesn’t fit as snug as it should. The one benefit is that the wheels can be easily removed and re-clipped to roll in different directions, meaning the box can be oriented under the bed with either the long or short side facing out.</p><p>Not only did Pottery Barn’s super-roomy bag effortlessly fit the contents of our soft test load, we’re pretty sure it could have accommodated our entire winter wardrobe. The only problem is when we lifted our brimming bag by the cloth handle, it tore right off, so be conscious of the weight limit and don’t get too overzealous with your stuffing. </p><p>They are also quite stylish, with see-through plastic tops and cotton blend outfacing sides, in classy colors such as gray, chambray, charcoal, and navy. Which means they’ll look reasonably attractive under your bed...if you can get them under your bed in the first place. When packed to capacity, it proved quite a squeeze for us.</p><p>Not only did this slim, stackable unit (made from Container Store’s favored polypropylene, which they claim is unbreakable) easily slip under our bed, we were able to tuck it under a chest of drawers. </p><p>That said, our soft load quickly overtook it, and our hard load was a real challenge too. And, while the sliding drawer feature is fun, much like the buckling lids on standard boxes, an excess of contents render it unusable.</p><p>About half the size of PB Teen’s bags and made of polyester blend instead of cotton, Bed Bath and Beyond’s under bed entry is unquestionably less spacious and attractive yet hardly less expensive (there’s an approximate $5 difference in price). </p><p>Still, they slip easily under beds, even low clearance dorm ones, and can even be set on shelves or inside drawers — just be sure not to ask too much of them when it comes to packing.</p><p>Budget-friendly and rather cute, this steel, white epoxy cart could potentially prove useful beyond the bedroom, as a means of storing pantry items, pet products, or art supplies. Which is to say, the open grid design isn’t ideal for soft items, as it can quickly accrue dust on all sides. </p><p>You’ll also need to invest a bit of time in piecing these carts together, and from all accounts, you’ll have to spend some energy on maintenance too, as customer complaints include parts snapping off and the wheels coming undone.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  • New futuristic Israeli 'dune-buggy' is bristling with weapons, ready for combat

    New futuristic Israeli 'dune-buggy' is bristling with weapons, ready for combat

    or redistributed. &copy;2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p><p> Mantis (Carmor) </p><p>This fast attack buggy looks like it is made of Legos – and it reconfigures similar to Legos – but it is a lethal combat machine.</p><p>Foldable weapons systems, camouflage against thermal imagers, protection against nuclear weapons, tech to defeat chemical attacks, armor against explosions and machine gun fire … these are just a few of the options that forces can choose for this new vehicle, the Mantis.</p><p>The external looks are deliberately different, the inside is radically different as well. Rather than a typical ATV seat, the driver’s experience is like being sat in an aircraft cockpit.</p><p>The Mantis was revealed by Carmor at the Eurosatory event in Paris last week.</p><p>Drawing a lot of buzz at its debut it has been colorfully described as a “space buggy,” “Lego-mobile,” “part aircraft cockpit and part sports car.” The Mantis is quite a departure in looks from previous Israel Defense Forces models such as the iconic Wolf armored personnel carrier.</p><p>For decades, Israeli company Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions has been equipping the Israel Defense Force and other forces with vehicles such as the heavily modified, armored and enhanced commercial Ford truck known as “the Wolf.”</p><p>This Mantis 4x4 can be modified to suit a range of varied missions from attack and reconnaissance, through to intelligence and providing a sort mini-mobile HQ for command and control. It could potentially also be used for missions such as medevac.</p><p>To attack, there is no shortage of weapons options too.&nbsp; Missile launchers and mortars are two of the hard-hitting weapons systems that could be added.</p><p>Armed Mantis could act as a sort of fast-moving artillery truck to shell enemy forces.</p><p>Night vision and surveillance systems are further add-ons. These could support forces utilizing Mantis for night operations.</p><p>At the debut in Paris, Carmor showcased the Mantis 4x4 pickup truck configuration with a rear retractable weapons mount. The vehicle was armed with a .50 caliber M2 machine gun remote weapon station.</p><p>So what does it have in common with its namesake? Like the predatory Mantis insect, this vehicle can ambush and strike rapidly when prey is within reach. They can both camouflage themselves to lie in wait or actively hunt day and night.</p><p>Instead of a typical driver’s seat, the Mantis design opts for an aircraft cockpit-style approach.</p><p>The cockpit is designed to provide the driver with an enhanced field of vision and maximum control of the digital display systems in the cabin.</p><p>The team sits inside a chassis described as a “shielding capsule.”</p><p>The 4x4 Mantis will be available in three primary versions. the “pickup truck” with an armored cabin can carry three warfighters; a second, larger, version that can carry five warfighters; and the “open buggy” carrying up to eight warfighters inside the armored shell.</p><p>Military forces use technology like thermal imagers to hunt for adversaries. Heat signatures can be a telltale giveaway of location.</p><p>Mantis vehicles are engineered to provide multiple layers of protection to warriors inside.</p><p>The company’s announcement indicates protection against kinetic, blast, nuclear, biological and chemical threats. It is also expected to provide dynamic thermal and visible camouflage options.</p><p>The Mantis chassis incorporates a monocoque armored shell. Warriors are protected behind</p><p>composite armor designed to be both light and provide maximum protection.</p><p>Defense against chemical and biological attacks is in part derived from an air-tight sealed armored body and Carmor’s air-purification system inside the vehicle.</p><p>The vehicle also includes a “floating floor.” This is designed to protect warriors from IEDs and mines on the roads as well as help defend against nearby blasts from explosions.&nbsp;</p><p>The speeds and weight will vary based on factors such as configuration and armor levels.</p><p>Wisely, Carmor has opted to make the weapons mount a foldable, retracting one. Theoretically, this can assist with the team onboard keeping a low profile and the vehicle concealed.</p><p>In addition to the .50-calibre machine gun, the Mantis could also be potentially armed with a 25/30 mm cannon or a missile system.</p><p>As fast moving artillery, it could be armed with a mortar system like the Israeli Elbit Spear Mk 2 120mm.</p><p>Mantis could potentially also be mounted with some models of drone launchers.</p><p>Collapsible mounting may also facilitate Mantis as an air transportable vehicle. If vehicles can be air transported, then this can be a key advantage allowing them to be rapidly moved around the battlespace and deposited ready to drive straight onto missions.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. &copy;2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  • The Best Earplugs for Sleeping of 2018

    The Best Earplugs for Sleeping of 2018

    arplugs doesn’t exist. Everyone’s ears are different, and you’ll need a good fit to get maximum sound blockage—especially if you’re looking to silence your partner’s thunderous snoring. But all pairs aren’t created equal, and that’s where we come in. Don’t worry, you’ll be sleeping in a blissfully squishy foam cave in no time.</p><p>Here are the earplugs we tested, in order of recommendation:</p><p>Our top pick is the Hearos Xtreme for their superior sound blocking and comfort combination. They came in third in our lab sound-blocking tests and first in objective testing for sound blockage and comfort while being worn in various scenarios. They also placed second in a poll of Reviewed staffers for comfort and sound blocking, and tied for second in the subjective testing for reuse, storage, and overall experience.</p><p>They aren’t uncomfortable, but you know they’re in—you just don’t necessarily care thanks to the blissful silence they provide. You can order a set of 100 pairs or just 14 pairs, which is nice if you don’t plan on using them long-term.</p><p>The 3M E-A-Rsoft might be a better choice if you value comfort over sound blockage or just have fussier ear canals, as they’re smaller than the Hearos. They came in second place on our sound isolation test, but didn’t score quite as high on the in-ear sound blocking test, partially due to how fiddly they can be to insert. Once you get a good fit, though, they excel. At one point during the testing process, my partner and I were cleaning our apartment and had the dishwasher, AC, and vacuum running simultaneously, and of all the pairs I had on hand, this was the one I reached for when I decided the noise was too much.</p><p>They’re only available in a set of 200, which is a bit irksome if you’re looking to purchase them for a short trip, but each pair is individually wrapped so you can easily take what you need (though that can create a lot of plastic waste in the process). The box also has a small hole punched in it to demonstrate roughly what size to roll the plugs to for insertion, which is a nice clever touch.</p><p>Hi, I’m Rena Behar. As a former researcher and editor at the Wirecutter and strong sleep aficionado, I take my product testing (and sleep comfort) very seriously. I’ve researched products ranging from printers to vibrators and know how to weed through reviews like nobody’s business. I also live on a busy Brooklyn street, so I know how important it is to block out the nighttime noise.</p><p>For objective testing, I slept in each pair for one night, paying attention to comfort, ease of insertion, how well they stayed in, and how much sound was blocked. I also wore each pair in my apartment while trying to do work with Terminator 3 on in the background (it’s astonishing how many earplugs can’t stand up to Arnold’s voice) and while walking around downtown Brooklyn, attempting to drown out construction, traffic, and after-school crowds. I also noted whether there was any difference in effectiveness with a new pair versus reusing a pair. </p><p>A number of Reviewed staffers also tried each pair for about 15 to 20 minutes, noting sound blockage and comfort levels, so we could evaluate which were better across a wider range of ears.</p><p>After I’d worn all of them, I blasted them with my window unit air conditioner on one side and a fan on the other to see how well they might hold up to the elements, given that some Amazon reviewers had complained about their plugs drying out in the box over time. We also rated the level of wear and tear each pair showed — would you be willing to reuse them? — along with portability and overall experience for the subjective factor. </p><p>If you want proper sound blockage, you need to make sure you’re inserting the earplug correctly (all of the packages have instructions on how to do so) and that it fits your ear shape. If you try multiple times and still can’t get a pair to work, you may need to try a different brand. </p><p>These earplugs were tested mainly for sleeping, not for band practice or loud bars. There are other types of earplugs designed to better maintain acoustic integrity if that’s what you’re after. Though it can’t hurt to try these out about town if you’re routinely exposed to high decibel levels, such as the ones you might find standing in a subway tunnel. </p><p>The Mack’s Slim Fit were also a very strong contender, tying for the third-place slot with the Flents and mere fractions of points away from bumping out the 3Ms. These slide into smaller ear canals like a dream, and provided consistently solid sound blockage, scoring first place on our lab sound tests. Their sound testing in the objective tests, however, just wasn’t quite as good, and they were middle of the pack in the office poll.</p><p>If our top picks don’t work for you, both these and the Flents would be a very good next choice to try.</p><p>If you want a set of reusable earplugs that you can easily transport, the Happy Ears Listen are a good choice. The small plastic case keeps them nicely sealed and they’re incredibly stylish (not a phrase frequently used for earplugs). Despite their aesthetic appeal, we have a few objections. </p><p>They aren’t quite as comfortable for side sleeping due to their hard plastic stems. They also scored the lowest on our sound isolation test, even though they placed second on the objective test and tied for first with the 3Ms on the subjective. They come in small, medium, and large to help you find your best fit, but you do have to take your best guess when you order since the sizes are sold separately.</p><p>The Howard Leight Max1 is another set that did well. Their flared base feature is great for in-ear adjustments and judging the depth of insertion. They were more challenging to insert but some Reviewed staffers swear by them, so they’re worth a shot if our other options aren’t a fit.</p><p>Moldex Pura-fit didn’t insert easily and they lost their shape by the morning. They rebounded eventually but we had concerns about their possible reusability and general comfort. They came in last place in our subjective testing, and I could never forget I was wearing them, while somehow still hearing most of what was around me. I consistently struggled to get a reasonable fit despite being able to hear them expanding in my ears, a somewhat bizarre effect.</p><p>Mack’s Ultra Softs is very plump for earplugs, and they’re also an unpleasant beige color. If you have large ear canals and are drawn to the visual appeal of chunks of putty, these may be for you. However, they shouldn’t be your first try, despite being awarded “Amazon’s Choice” if you just search the site for earplugs.</p><p>Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone is a good option if you don’t want to actively insert anything into your ear canal. You just roll up the waxy material and then smooth it over your ear. It’s more comfortable for side sleepers. If it weren’t for the cave-like echo, you could almost forget you’re wearing them. But they don’t block as much sound, and the sticky silicone can pick up hair and pillow fuzz.</p><p>Liberty Duraplugs were among the least comfortable options. My notes included the phrase, “I hate these, they’re just tiny foam, how are they so uncomfortable,” and it proved very challenging to get a good fit. They managed to somehow irritate my ear canals without actually staying in my ears.</p><p>The low performance of the Howard Leight Laser Lites came as a genuine surprise given their popularity in other corners of the internet and generally strong brand following. I woke up at 6 a.m. to yank them out of my ears. They came in fourth in our lab noise reduction test and had the lowest score in the staff survey.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  • Bits: The Week in Tech: Silicon Valley Gets Even More Political

    Bits: The Week in Tech: Silicon Valley Gets Even More Political

    s news without addressing the controversy over the Trump administration’s recently halted policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. The story dominated the news, seeping into nearly every area of coverage — including, of course, tech.</p><p>So why are businesses getting political? For one, we live in a highly politicized time with a deeply polarizing president, and platforms like Twitter have made it easier for brands to weigh in directly.</p><p>In the case of tech executives, their increased activism might also in part reflect their growing power and importance. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook have such large global businesses that they have become almost stateless entities themselves.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  • Tech Tip: Locked Out of Your iPhone? Here’s What to Do

    Tech Tip: Locked Out of Your iPhone? Here’s What to Do

    r data, but if you forget your passcode and can’t unlock the phone, you can still regain control.</p><p>However, all of these measures can also lock out the gadget’s rightful owner if the passcode is forgotten or entered incorrectly too many times. If that happens, your phone displays the “disabled” message.</p><p>Even if you cannot remember the passcode, you should be able to get the iPhone working again. But to do that, you usually have to erase its contents first and then restore a backup of your personal information on the device. </p><p>If you used Apple’s iTunes program on your Mac or Windows computer to synchronize and back up the iPhone, you can use iTunes to ditch the passcode and restore your data. Start by connecting the iPhone to the computer you used for backing it up and let iTunes sync up with it. Click the iPhone icon in the iTunes window and select the Restore iPhone button. </p><p>For the latest versions (the iPhone X, iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus), quickly press and let go of the Volume Up button, and then do the same thing with the Volume Down button. Next, press and hold down the iPhone’s Side button until the Recovery Mode screen with an iTunes icon appears.</p><p>On the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus models, press and hold down the Volume Down and Side buttons simultaneously until the phone boots into the Recovery Mode screen. If you have an iPhone 6s or older model (or an iPad or iPod Touch), press and hold down the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button on the top or side until the Recovery Mode screen appears.</p><p>You will most likely be asked to enter your Apple ID name and password as part of the restoration process, especially if the Activation Lock setting was enabled. If you have been backing up the phone to your iCloud account, your contacts and other data should download again to the phone.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  • Uber driver was streaming Hulu show before fatal self-driving crash

    Uber driver was streaming Hulu show before fatal self-driving crash

    sion.</p><p>A 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, released late on Thursday in response to a public records request, said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up just a half second before the car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night.</p><p>According to the report, Vasquez could face charges of vehicular manslaughter. Police said that, based on testing, the crash was “deemed entirely avoidable” if Vasquez had been paying attention.</p><p>Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming television shows and movies, which showed Vasquez’s account was playing the television talent show “The Voice” the night of the crash for about 42 minutes, ending at 9:59 p.m., which “coincides with the approximate time of the collision,” the report says.</p><p>It is not clear if Vasquez will be charged, and police submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney’s office because of a conflict and that office could not be reached late Thursday.</p><p>Vasquez could not immediately be reached for comment and Reuters could not locate her attorney.</p><p>The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but Uber, like other self-driving car developers, requires a backup driver in the car to intervene when the autonomous system fails or a tricky driving situation occurs.</p><p>Vasquez looked up just 0.5 seconds before the crash, after keeping her head down for 5.3 seconds, the Tempe Police report said. Uber’s self-driving Volvo SUV was traveling at just under 44 miles-per-hour.</p><p>Last month, an Uber spokeswoman said the company was undergoing a “top-to-bottom safety review,” and had brought on a former federal transportation official to help improve the company’s safety culture. The company prohibits the use of any mobile device by safety drivers while the self-driving cars are on a public road, and drivers are told they can be fired for violating this rule.</p><p>Police said a review of video from inside the car showed Vasquez was looking down during the trip, and her face “appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down.” The report found that Vasquez “was distracted and looking down” for close to seven of the nearly 22 minutes prior to the collision.</p><p>Tempe Police Detective Michael McCormick asked Hulu for help in the investigation, writing in a May 10 email to the company that “this is a very serious case where the charges of vehicular manslaughter may be charged, so correctly interpreting the information provided to us is crucial.” Hulu turned over the records on May 31.</p><p>According to a report last month by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the crash, Vasquez told federal investigators she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the car and that neither her personal nor business phones were in use until after the crash. That report showed Uber had disabled the emergency braking system in the Volvo, and Vasquez began braking less than a second after hitting Herzberg.</p><p>Herzberg, who was homeless, was walking her bicycle across the street, outside of a crosswalk on a four-lane road, the night of March 18 when she was struck by the front right side of the Volvo.</p><p>The police report faulted Herzberg for “unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk.”</p><p>In addition to the report, police released on Thursday a slew of audio files of 911 calls made by Vasquez, who waited at the scene for police, and bystanders the night of the crash; photographs of Herzberg’s damaged bicycle and the Uber car; and videos from police officers’ body cameras that capture the minutes after the crash, including harrowing screams in the background.</p><p>The crash dealt Uber a major setback in its efforts to develop self-driving cars, and the company shuttered its autonomous car testing program in Arizona after the incident. It says it plans to begin testing elsewhere this summer, although in some cities it will have to first win over increasingly wary regulators.</p><p> News Corp. is a network of leading companies in the world of diversified media, news, and information services. </p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  •  EU lawmakers miffed over new Facebook snub

    EU lawmakers miffed over new Facebook snub

    fusing to comply with their request to send two senior officials to testify at a hearing into the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.</p><p> The EU parliament's Civil Liberties Committee wants to question Facebook's chief privacy officer and the vice presidents for advertisements and global public policy.</p><p> The committee said Friday that global public policy vice president Joel Kaplan will attend Monday's hearing, but he will only be accompanied two members of Facebook's public policy team.</p><p> Committee Chairman Claude Moraes said "we had expected to hear from other speakers."</p><p> Moraes said "it will be up to members to see if Facebook's answers will be sufficient, convincing and trustworthy."</p><p> Initially, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined to appear before the assembly but finally attended last month.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  •  African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

    African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

    med Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park before the nearly two-decade civil war that started in the 1970s. As up to a million people lost their lives to violence and famine, much of the park's wildlife also was wiped out — including the wild dogs, an endangered species vulnerable to snares and disease.</p><p> Now they have been re-introduced to Gorongosa, carnivores unleashed on plant eaters as part of an intricate conservation project that aims to restore a diverse ecosystem at the southern end of Africa's Great Rift Valley.</p><p> It's complicated. Architects of the project — a joint venture between a non-profit group founded by American philanthropist Greg Carr and the Mozambican government — are wrestling with big picture ideas about what restoration even means in a world whose wild places face intensifying pressure from human encroachment and climate change.</p><p> "We can't go back to what exactly it was," said Marc Stalmans, science director at the 4,067-square-kilometer (1,570-square-mile) park. "Has the environment changed over the last 50 years in a way that certain previous states can no longer be attained?"</p><p> Anti-poaching efforts have helped populations of sable, hippo, elephant and other species to begin recovering. But there is more to it than trying to revive the natural order.</p><p> In its heyday, before the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, the park drew celebrities like John Wayne and Gregory Peck to central Mozambique. However, it was located in one of the poorest areas in a country ranked among the world's poorest, and black Mozambicans were excluded from meaningful involvement, according to warden Pedro Estevao Muagura.</p><p> He said education, farming and other programs designed by Carr's Gorongosa Restoration Project to help the 200,000 people living around the park are critical to success within its boundaries. About two-thirds of the project's $12 million budget this year is being spent outside the park; major donors include the United States Agency for International Development.</p><p> "To me, restoration means to recover what was destroyed. Not only to recover, but to improve. The center of everything, what we are doing, is the people," Muagura said at the park's main camp at Chitengo, where a bullet-pocked wall segment still stands as a reminder of the civil war.</p><p> Baboons wander the camp and are plentiful outside its fence. Leopards, a particular threat to baboons, were thought to have been exterminated in Gorongosa. On March 29, however, a Mozambican guide driving with Finnish and American tourists at night spotted a male leopard in a possible sign that the elusive species is returning.</p><p> More lion cubs have been born in the park. And on an April morning, the newly arrived wild dogs — six females and eight males — trotted and lazed in a large enclosure where they were getting to know each other, establishing a hierarchy before being released into the wild on June 16.</p><p> The tawny, big-eared predators were darted and delivered to Gorongosa by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a group that intensively manages the species in South Africa, promoting genetic diversity by moving males around fenced, relatively small wildlife areas that are not connected to each other.</p><p> "We try to mimic natural processes," said David Marneweck, head of the group's carnivore conservation program. The wild dogs will keep herbivore populations healthy by targeting old or weak animals, he said.</p><p> The work at Gorongosa was praised by Stuart Pimm, a Duke University conservation scientist who is not involved and said the reintroduction of key predators will restore "the sort of mix of species that you would expect" even if it is difficult to predict the exact impact on various species of flora and fauna.</p><p> Gorongosa's team is expanding restoration research, this year deploying flood meters to monitor water levels and their duration "as these have a major influence on the vegetation production and animal movements," according to Stalmans, the science director. They are also searching for fossils to get an idea of species and the environment in the Gorongosa area in the very distant past, which could help inform decisions about its future.</p><p> "Ecosystems come back and there's restoration, but they're almost never the same as they were before," said Rene Bobe, an Oxford University paleobiologist.</p><p> "So what comes back is something new," said Bobe, a Chilean who has also worked on paleontological projects in Kenya and Ethiopia. "You cannot go back in time, in a way. We see this in the fossil record, happening over and over again."</p><p> Gorongosa's new pack of wild dogs, meanwhile, is settling well. The "alpha" female is pregnant and is probably looking for a safe den to give birth, said Paola Bouley, the park's associate director of carnivore conservation. The groundwork for reintroduction of the species began long ago with intensive efforts by rangers to curb poaching and make the habitat safer for animals, she said.</p><p> "That's an important lesson in restoration," Bouley said. "A system has to be ready to receive these species so we succeed not just for one month, or one year, but for 10 years and onwards."</p><p> Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris</p><p> The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  •  African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

    African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

    med Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park before the nearly two-decade civil war that started in the 1970s. As up to a million people lost their lives to violence and famine, much of the park's wildlife also was wiped out — including the wild dogs, an endangered species vulnerable to snares and disease.</p><p> Now they have been re-introduced to Gorongosa, carnivores unleashed on plant eaters as part of an intricate conservation project that aims to restore a diverse ecosystem at the southern end of Africa's Great Rift Valley.</p><p> It's complicated. Architects of the project — a joint venture between a non-profit group founded by American philanthropist Greg Carr and the Mozambican government — are wrestling with big-picture ideas about what restoration even means in a world whose wild places face intensifying pressure from human encroachment and climate change.</p><p> "We can't go back to what exactly it was," said Marc Stalmans, science director at the 4,067-square-kilometer (1,570-square-mile) park. "Has the environment changed over the last 50 years in a way that certain previous states can no longer be attained? Did animals move across a much larger landscape during certain seasons, and is this no longer possible nowadays with increased human densities and expanded agriculture?"</p><p> Anti-poaching efforts have helped populations of sable, hippo, elephant and other species to begin recovering. But there is more to it than trying to revive the natural order.</p><p> In its heyday, before the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, the park drew celebrities like John Wayne and Gregory Peck to central Mozambique. However, it was located in one of the poorest areas in a country ranked among the world's poorest, and black Mozambicans were excluded from meaningful involvement, according to warden Pedro Estevao Muagura.</p><p> He said education, farming and other programs designed by Carr's Gorongosa Restoration Project to help the 200,000 people living around the park are critical to success within its boundaries. About two-thirds of the project's $12 million budget this year is being spent outside the park; major donors include the United States Agency for International Development.</p><p> "To me, restoration means to recover what was destroyed. Not only to recover, but to improve. The center of everything, what we are doing, is the people," Muagura said at the park's main camp at Chitengo, where a bullet-pocked wall segment still stands as a reminder of the civil war.</p><p> He spoke over breakfast as a vervet monkey loitered nearby, eyeing Muagura's food; staff keep a slingshot handy in case the monkeys get too aggressive, though a sign assures guests that there is no intent to harm them.</p><p> Baboons also wander the camp and are plentiful outside its fence. Leopards, a particular threat to baboons, were thought to have been exterminated in Gorongosa. On March 29, however, a Mozambican guide driving with Finnish and American tourists at night spotted a male leopard in a possible sign that the elusive species is returning.</p><p> "I knew there were other leopards in the park, but no one believed me," said a delighted Tato Alexandre Joao, a worker at Chitengo camp.</p><p> Joao once was a poacher — in 2004, he caught a leopard in a snare, and sold the skin to feed his 10 children. He has since renounced illegal hunting, and now tends the swimming pool and does other jobs.</p><p> More lion cubs have been born in the park. And on an April morning, the newly arrived wild dogs — six females and eight males — trotted and lazed in a large enclosure where they were getting to know each other, establishing a hierarchy before being released into the wild on June 16.</p><p> The tawny, big-eared predators were darted and delivered to Gorongosa by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a group that intensively manages the species in South Africa, promoting genetic diversity by moving males around fenced, relatively small wildlife areas not connected to each other.</p><p> "We try to mimic natural processes," said David Marneweck, head of the group's carnivore conservation program. The wild dogs — which use stamina and coordination to wear down fleeing prey, unlike lions and leopards that ambush in explosive sprints — will keep herbivore populations healthy by targeting old or weak animals, he said.</p><p> Observing the wild dogs from a vehicle, Carr and Marneweck discussed the potential for conflict between the wide-ranging carnivores and people.</p><p> "Let's say you have a relatively busy road. Will the dogs recognize that as a boundary, or do we hope they do?" asked Carr, a former technology entrepreneur who spends about half the year in Mozambique and is working to expand Gorongosa's conservation area into wildernesses up to the Zambezi river, to the northeast.</p><p> "Big rivers, they do," Marneweck said. "Large mountains."</p><p> "We sort of have three natural boundaries," Carr said. "But then going to the west, you run into humans pretty quick. Do they stay clear of humans, though?"</p><p> "They try and avoid people at all costs," Marneweck replied. Though he added: "If they go there, they're going to eat some livestock."</p><p> The work at Gorongosa was praised by Stuart Pimm, a Duke University conservation scientist who is not involved and said the reintroduction of key predators will restore "the sort of mix of species that you would expect" even if it is difficult to predict the exact impact on various species of flora and fauna.</p><p> Conservationists can sometimes overthink recovery efforts, Pimm said.</p><p> He calls it a "Sistine Chapel debate," citing the aftermath of the late-20th century restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes at the Vatican. Much as opinions of that work were divided — some criticized it as garish, while others praised it as as vivid — conservationists disagree over whether restorations really restore biospheres, or create something that is less than genuine.</p><p> The introduction of predators can have unexpected consequences. Some experts have described a kind of chain reaction in Yellowstone National Park in the United States after the mid-1990s reintroduction of gray wolves there, saying stressed elks grazed less easily and had fewer offspring because of the presence of carnivores, which in turn contributed to new tree growth. Others say it is difficult to prove this phenomenon, known as "landscape of fear," and that drought and human activity could also influence the environment.</p><p> "People are still arguing" about the impact of wolves at Yellowstone, said Rolf Peterson, a wildlife ecologist at Michigan Technological University.</p><p> An Associated Press team that visited Gorongosa in April flew over the park in a helicopter, spotting hippos and crocodiles splashing in a floodplain, a herd of more than 100 buffalo and numerous waterbuck (a 2016 census counted more than 45,000). On an afternoon drive, several elephants were seen in an area dense with palm trees. Conservationist say elephants, which are intelligent with strong family bonds, were often hostile and aggressive to people for years after the civil war, a legacy of the trauma of ivory trafficking.</p><p> As night fell during the drive, a civet cat scurried in front of the vehicle, its eyes bright in the headlights. The darkness was alive with the trill of insects.</p><p> Gorongosa's team is expanding restoration research, this year deploying flood meters to monitor water levels and their duration "as these have a major influence on the vegetation production and animal movements," according to Stalmans, the science director. They are also searching for fossils to get an idea of species and the environment in the Gorongosa area in the very distant past, which could help inform decisions about its future.</p><p> "Ecosystems come back and there's restoration, but they're almost never the same as they were before," said Rene Bobe, an Oxford University paleobiologist whose finds include a fragment of a shark tooth, an indication that there was sea life millions of years ago in what is today an inland area.</p><p> "So what comes back is something new," said Bobe, a Chilean who has also worked on paleontological projects in Kenya and Ethiopia. "You cannot go back in time, in a way. We see this in the fossil record, happening over and over again."</p><p> Gorongosa's new pack of wild dogs, meanwhile, is settling well. The "alpha" female is pregnant and is probably looking for a safe den to give birth, said Paola Bouley, the park's associate director of carnivore conservation. The groundwork for reintroduction of the species began long ago with intensive efforts by rangers to curb poaching and make the habitat safer for animals, she said.</p><p> "That's an important lesson in restoration," Bouley said. "A system has to be ready to receive these species so we succeed not just for one month, or one year, but for 10 years and onwards."</p><p> At a recent ceremony, students at Gorongosa bestowed names in the local Sena language on the African wild dogs. The names include Ndarassica — "I am lost" — and Ndapiona — "I am found."</p>

    1 June 22, 2018
  •  Trapped campers, swimming bears in Montana as floods hit US

    Trapped campers, swimming bears in Montana as floods hit US

    and Montana, including 140 children and counselors stuck in a mountain bible camp for two days, as severe storms swept the Rockies and the Midwest.</p><p> Campers attending the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible near the small town of Augusta were lifted out Thursday after a washed-out road cut off the only exit. Montana was just drying out from spring flooding caused by near-record snowfall over the winter when a storm unleashed rain over the past three days.</p><p> Texas also saw deluges all week. The soaking in both states comes in stark contrast to the tinder-dry conditions of the American Southwest, which is experiencing drought and an early wildfire season.</p><p> Floodwaters running through two cabins and staff housing woke up the Montana campers Tuesday, counselor Dustin Steele said.</p><p> "The dryers were going constantly trying to keep the sleeping bags and clothes dry," he said Thursday from the airport in Great Falls, shortly after campers were dropped off to meet their families. "It was hectic, but it was good."</p><p> They had enough food and supplies to stay until Friday but the decision was made to get them out. The Montana Army National Guard flew in two Chinook helicopters and made two trips each with about 30 campers and their luggage, Steele said.</p><p> The 25-minute flight "was actually pretty loud," said Steele, 19. "You could hardly hear the person next to you."</p><p> Officials in far South Texas also used helicopters Thursday to rescue residents from flooded areas.</p><p> Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Johnny Hernandez said residents were being rescued by land and air in the Mission area, along the border with Mexico. First lady Melania Trump arrived in nearby McAllen as she made an unannounced visit to a facility housing migrant children.</p><p> Thunderstorms that have moved across Texas this week also have brought heavy rains to areas that less than a year ago were hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, including the Corpus Christi area and the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, east of Houston.</p><p> Forecasters say the rain was expected to move out of far South Texas by Friday but much of the central and southeast U.S. will be at risk of severe storms as the weekend approaches.</p><p> Meanwhile, great swaths of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado were experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, forcing recent closures of national forests and other public lands because of fire danger.</p><p> In Montana, the remnants of Hurricane Bud met up with moisture from the Pacific Ocean to create a storm that hung over the western half of the state for the last three days, said National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Syner in Great Falls.</p><p> "I can't point to any single thing that would make us an anomaly in the western half of the U.S.," Syner said. "We had a record winter season, and we had a storm track that just continued to bring weather systems over Montana."</p><p> That led to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain falling on the Rocky Mountain Front, causing waterways to overflow and wash out roads, bridges and even sweeping away wildlife.</p><p> The mother of one of the campers, Teresa Lane, had an adventure of her own when she and her 9-year-old daughter spotted a grizzly bear that had been swept away by a fast-running creek on her ranch near Augusta.</p><p> "I thought it was a dead cow originally — it was something big and black and floating," Lane said. "Then it flipped around, and it looked at me, and I said, 'Tiffany, it's a bear!'"</p><p> She and her daughter followed the bear for about a quarter-mile as it tried to get out. When it finally did, it limped and appeared agitated before running away.</p><p> In western Pennsylvania, residents and business owners were cleaning up after a storm dumped nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain, killing at least one person and prompting scores of evacuations as powerful floodwaters carried off cars and damaged buildings.</p><p> Flooding in Minnesota and South Dakota caused some road closures. The Argus Leader newspaper in South Dakota reported that a woman was rescued when her pickup became stranded in floodwaters east of Sioux Falls.</p><p> In northwest Iowa, several roads were inundated and basements swamped by heavy rain.</p><p> Associated Press journalists Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Juan A. Lozano of Houston contributed to this report.</p>

    1 June 22, 2018

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