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Researchers Scientifically Create Video Games To Benefit Cognitive Function

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For those of us of a certain age, where you're the right age to have grown up with video games as a staple of your youth entertainment experience while your parents basically grew up without them, the generational divide when it comes to gaming could not possibly be more stark. It is my belief that a great deal of the ongoing debate about whether there are harmful effects from playing video games is probably about to simply disappear as that parental generation begins to shove off this mortal experience. Gaming, after all, has been blamed for all sorts of things, even as research is starting to trickle in which suggests that video gaming in particular may have health benefits and is otherwise part of a healthy staple of entertainment experiences.That research will only get better and more prevalent as both video games become a larger staple of entertainment consumption in our culture and as a younger generation of researchers with an interest in the topic come of age. One example of that can be seen in the work done by NYU professor Jan Plass, who's team didn't even both trying to tackle whether video games are good or bad for people, but instead took a scientific approach to simply create games that are designed to benefit cognitive behavior.

University professors from New York and California designed and developed three digital games – available online and in the iOS and Google Play app stores – to help its users’ brains work more efficiently. While some digital games falsely claim to improve cognitive skills, these three games have actually proven to. Evidenced through a series of research studies, these games can help users boost memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility.“Can games actually have positive effects on players? We believe they can, and we designed three games to support learners in developing cognitive skills that researchers have identified as essential for success in daily life, executive functions,“ said Jan L. Plass, Paulette Goddard Professor of Digital Media and Learning Sciences at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development and co-creator of the games.
Those executive functions are inhibitory control (attention span), working memory (cognitive processing), and cognitive flexibility (multi-tasking). Each game specifically works backwards from the goal of improving those functions and consists of tasks specifically meant to train the brain.What does this show? Well, at a bare minimum it demonstrates that the effect a game has on a person has nothing to do with the medium itself and has everything to do with the construction of the game and what it is designed to achieve. This isn't terribly nuanced and likely seems obvious to most of us, but it is certainly a refutation of the trope that "video games are bad" that far too many people still have. Games aren't bad. Games are games. Just as there is good television and books, as well as "bad" or empty calorie television and books, so too is it with video games.And, to be clear, the science indicates that these games work.
In addition to developing the games, Plass, Homer and Mayer published eight research articles reporting on the effectiveness of these games.“We found replicated evidence across multiple experiments that playing our games for two hours causes improvements in executive function skills as compared to a control group that plays an unrelated game,” said Mayer. “This is one of the few scientific experiments showing the benefits of game-based training on executive function skills such as being able to shift from one task to another or being able to keep track of a series of events. This work shows the benefits of designing games based on the cognitive theory of game-based training.”
Whatever is true about video games, it sure isn't that they are "bad", full stop. Instead, there are different kinds of games that create different kinds of cognitive effects. If we could all approach the topic with that as the baseline from now on, the conversations we have will be far more productive.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Jan-2020
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Houston Officer Behind Deadly Botched Raid Hit With Two Felony Murder Indictments

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Former Houston PD officer Gerald Goines is going to face murder charges. At least he's alive to face them. The victims of Goines' botched no-knock raid -- Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas -- don't have the luxury of watching justice be done. The residents of the house were killed by police officers performing a raid targeting heroin that never existed, utilizing a warrant filled with lies based on statements made by a confidential informant who didn't exist, and drugs pulled from a cop car console.Goines is facing both state and federal charges. And the charges are still coming in. Multiple investigations are still ongoing. Nearly 14,000 cases linked to the now-disbanded Squad 15 (of the Narcotics Division) are under review by the District Attorney's office and dozens of pending cases have already been dismissed.The charges brought against Goines late last year are now officially backed by an indictment, as Jacob Sullum reports for Reason.

"Because officers lied, people died," Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg said today at a press conference where she announced a grand jury indictment of two former Houston narcotics officers who were involved in a January 2019 drug raid that killed a middle-aged couple in their home. The indictment confirms the state charges filed last August against Gerald Goines, who is accused of lying to obtain the warrant for the raid, and Steven Bryant, who is accused of subsequently backing up Goines' false portrayal of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers.
Yes, it's incredibly easy to obtain a grand jury indictment. But the success rate drops precipitously when it's a cop being charged. This isn't a testament to the trustworthiness of grand jury proceedings, but rather an indication of just how irredeemable Officer Goines' actions were.It's impossible to know how many people's rights were violated by Officer Goines and the PD's Narcotic Division, but we can say definitively Goines caused the death of two people who had nothing in their house but a small amount of drugs for personal use. They were never dealers and did not use heroin. But Goines used a bunch of lies to turn a couple who had been married for 21 years into dangerous drug dealers, and instigated a no-knock raid that resulted in multiple injured cops and two dead Houston residents.Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo took over a troubled police department and promised greater officer accountability. He has failed to turn things around since his arrival in 2007. A narcotics unit doesn't become a flagrant abuser of rights overnight. It's something that steadily gets worse in the absence of accountability. Because no one felt compelled to engage in meaningful oversight, 14,000 cases linked to a single squad are now being reviewed for further evidence of illegality and misconduct.Acevedo failed this test as well. He initially offered his support for an officer now charged with murder. Police officials complain all the time about people drawing assumptions before all the facts are in, but they are the first to offer their support of officers' actions before all the facts are in. The facts are in. And the facts make the entire department look awful. Goines isn't an aberration. He's just the one who got caught.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Jan-2020
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Court Sides With Nintendo Over RomUniverse In Atttempt To Dismiss The Former's Lawsuit

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As most of you will know, a year or so ago saw Nintendo suddenly flip a litigious switch and begin going after all the ROM sites that had existed for a decade or more. The timing suggests that the company may have made this move out of a misguided attempt to support its release of several retro consoles that contained many of the games that the public could also simply get for free on these ROM sites. I say misguided because it's not as though Nintendo's aggression suddenly made free online ROMs unavailable. They are all still very much there through various means, but Nintendo's retro consoles sold like gangbusters anyway, because half the appeal in the product is the ease of use and the other half is in having the cool looking retro console next to the television.Most sites simply folded up and caved. RomUniverse, run by Matthew Storman, was one of the few that attempted to fight back. Despite the site making not just Nintendo Roms available, but also all kinds of other copyrighted media, Storman tried to crowdfund his legal defense before pivoting to representing himself in court. We're still in the early stages of the litigation. Storman sought a dismissal of the case by arguing that First Sale doctrine meant Nintendo had no claim to the Roms being offered on his site coupled with claiming to be a neutral service provider protected by DMCA safe harbors. We said at the time that the move was unlikely to work.And we were right. The court has now ruled for Nintendo against the motion to dismiss, stating that at best the claims that Storman makes are not properly made at this stage of the litigation, along with some comments that the claims probably aren't going to get Storman where he wants to go anyway.

After considering the arguments from both sides, US District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall has sided with Nintendo. In a ruling released yesterday, she denies the various arguments presented by Storman. RomUniverse’s operator wanted the case dismissed based on failure to state a claim, lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficient service of process, and failure to join a party. None of these arguments convinced the court.Storman, for example, argued that Nintendo is not the owner of previously purchased games because consumers have the right to sell, destroy, or give them away. The Judge didn’t address this in detail but concluded that Nintendo’s copyright registrations are sufficient at this stage.
On the DMCA safe harbor claims specifically, the court acknowledges that it cannot determine whether RomUniverse meets the criteria for those provisions at this stage of the trial, at which no evidence has been presented. Nintendo's entire case here is that Storman's site doesn't act as a third party service provider. Asking the court to find otherwise when Nintendo hasn't been allowed to present evidence yet would make no sense. And, as the court goes on to note, Nintendo sued for trademark infringement and unfair competition claims as well, and DMCA safe harbors don't protect from those claims.
Therefore, the Court would be required to look beyond the pleadings to determine whether Defendant is a service provider who satisfies the statutory requirements for protection pursuant to the DMCA's safe harbors, which is improper on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
As to Storman's claim that First Sale doctrine means that Nintendo failed to join the actual owners of the games that are the basis of the ROMs on his site, the court points out that's not how any of this works at this stage. Nintendo has alleged that Storman's site is liable and arguing that Nintendo also has to sue everyone else isn't very convincing.
Defendant argues Plaintiff has "failed to join the true and essential owners of copies known only to Plaintiff, or unknown." As discussed supra, Plaintiff sufficiently alleges ownership and "the owner of copyright ...has the exclusive rights to ...reproduce the copyrighted work in copies [and] to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work." 17 U.S.C. § 106(1)-(2). Therefore, Defendant fails to demonstrate there are persons subject to service of process which, in their absence, would prevent the Court from providing complete relief among the existing parties or persons claiming an interest in the subject of this action. See Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 19. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant's motion to dismiss based on failure to join an indispensable party pursuant to Rule ~12)~b)~~)•
And so the motion to dismiss is denied. We've made the point several times now that Nintendo has better ways to deal with ROM sites than this sort of litigation. That is still true. But none of that changes the fact that Storman and RomUniverse have a mountain to climb if it wants to successfully defend itself from this lawsuit.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Jan-2020
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California's Ban Of Facial Recognition Tech Killed Off San Diego's Mostly Useless Biometric Program

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California's ban on use of facial recognition tech by law enforcement showed the state's government is willing to get out ahead of potential privacy issues. The tech is as popular as it is unproven. Law enforcement agencies strongly believe facial recognition will help it apprehend criminals more efficiently, but the available data simply doesn't back up this belief.The tech is still pretty lousy at recognizing faces, kicking out false positives at an alarming rate. This also means it's not recognizing faces it should be recognizing -- the criminals and terrorists government agencies are convinced it will catch. They're also prone to bias, more likely to misidentify minorities, which results in increased targeting of demographics already heavily over-represented in most law enforcement agencies' paperwork.California's new ban affects mobile tech used by state agencies. This includes body cameras, smartphones, and tablets. That was enough to kill the San Diego's multiple facial recognition programs. The San Diego PD used 1,300 cameras to build a database of 65,000 images over the course of seven years. These images were matched against a much larger database run by the San Diego Sheriff's DepartmentThe program went into effect without the public being informed.

Introduced in 2012 by the countywide San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) without any public hearing or notice, the Tactical Identification System (TACIDS) gave law enforcement officials access to software that focuses on unique textures and patterns in the face—ear shape, hair, skin color—using the distance between the eyes as a baseline. In less than two seconds, the software compares those unique identifiers to a mugshot database of 1.8 million images collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office.
The San Diego PD used this database more frequently than any other agency with access to it, which included federal agencies like ICE. According to the PD, its increased access rate was mostly altruistic.
[T]he department used facial recognition scans more than 8,000 times in 2018, almost double the number in 2016, which it says was largely due to the formation of a new division, Neighborhood Policing Division (formed in March of 2018), aimed at addressing the issue of homelessness. SDPD equipped officers in the new division with TACIDS devices to help identify homeless people, who often do not have identification.
The SDPD did not say whether this use of the database actually resulted in correctly-identified homeless people. But the statement it did give Fast Company suggests its thousands of queries were mostly dead ends.
“While facial recognition could be a useful tool, we do not foresee the three-year moratorium on mobile face recognition use by law enforcement as having much of an impact on our department,” says Lieutenant Justin White, media relations director for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
This statement is far more telling. While certain California law enforcement officials are bemoaning the ban, the San Diego PD must have already known the tech was over-hyped. If it worked as advertised, the local law enforcement agencies would have delivered a steady stream of success stories. But when something is a constant disappointment -- and you've decided you're going to use it anyway -- you avoid creating a paper trail.
Lieutenant White of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said they have not been tracking TACIDS successes in arrests and prosecutions, so they do not have any statistics. Neither does the SDPD, according to spokesperson Lieutenant Shawn Takeuchi.
That's the burial of bad news. There's no reason to give critics of sketchy surveillance programs any more ammunition than they already have to work with. The moratorium will have almost no effect on law enforcement in the state -- something that few agencies are willing to publicly acknowledge. They want the tech even though it has proven -- over the course of seven years -- to have added nothing to their ability to do their job.

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posted at: 12:00am on 22-Jan-2020
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