#WhatsApp adds feature to bypass internet censors

WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Meta, has introduced a feature to help users bypass attempts to disrupt access to its services, as repressive governments around the world increasingly use internet controls to clamp down on dissent.

The messaging service will allow people to configure the app to access the internet through proxy servers, which function as intermediaries between users and internet services and can help disguise traffic and avoid controls. (Users will have to research their own proxy servers, many of which are provided free by volunteers and organizations around the world.) The company specifically mentioned Iran, which launched a brutal security crackdown — and disrupted residents’ access to WhatsApp and fellow Meta platform Instagram — after anti-government protests broke out in September.

WhatsApp, which is also a sister company of Facebook, is not the first service to support internet users living under censorship. But its movement is significant because it is the most popular messaging service in many countries. The service says it has more than 2 billion users in 180 countries.

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“Our wish for 2023 is that these internet shutdowns never occur,” the company said in a statement, adding that it was hopeful its solution would help in event of shutdowns. WhatsApp also separately announced the launch of its new feature in Persian, the language of Iran.

Park Hyon-do, an Iran expert at South Korea’s Sogang University, said making access to WhatsApp easier for Iranians would help young and internet-savvy protesters by making information more readily available and connecting people with shared grievances. He noted that such moves largely reflected the hopes of those living outside the country to inject more momentum into the protests.

WhatsApp referenced a recent United Nations report on internet shutdowns that mentioned disruptions in Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Sudan, where rights violations and poverty have triggered popular unrest. At least 44 governments imposed internet blackouts in the past five years, according to internet services company Surfshark, adding that regimes were increasingly turning to less disruptive censorship measures, such as controls on specific websites and services.

What your Android phone’s new ‘data safety’ labels mean

Providers of proxy servers and virtual private networks have a history of helping people dodge state-sponsored internet controls. (VPNs and proxy servers have some similarities, but the former also encrypts data.) In 2012, when Tehran imposed a partial internet blackout, the use of such services increased dramatically. Last year, WhatsApp competitor Signal, which was started by an encryption advocate and emphasizes privacy in its marketing, said it would support volunteers in setting up proxy servers for people in Iran.

WhatsApp said people accessing its service via proxy servers would have the same “high level of privacy and security” that is provided to other users, including default end-to-end encryption. But it has also been criticized by privacy advocates for sharing certain customer information with other Meta companies. The platform says it assesses requests from non-U.S. law enforcement to share details of account records based on whether the demands “are consistent with internationally recognized standards including human rights, due process, and the rule of law.

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While WhatsApp’s new feature aims to help people in developing economies circumvent repressive regimes, its corporate sibling Facebook has a history of weak moderation controls that made it vulnerable to abuse and disinformation at the hands of authoritarian governments and other bad actors, The Washington Post has reported. A group of Rohingya refugees sued Facebook for $150 billion in 2021, alleging that its algorithm amplified hate speech and helped perpetuate genocidal actions by the military junta in Myanmar.

In response to a request for comment, a Meta spokesman emphasized that a U.S. judge dismissed the Rohingya plaintiffs’ lawsuit last month. (The plaintiffs were also given the opportunity to refile their complaint.

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Myanmar’s authoritarian government now relies heavily on internet shutdowns to conceal its brutality against democracy activists and other civilians, rights groups say.FWLIEYUVE257MDWVW4HKVEOSAM

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U.S. Hitting steps to avoid debt ceiling

The Biden administration is expected to begin implementing “extraordinary measures” as soon as Thursday to prevent the federal government from breaching its debt limit and hurtling toward default, a grim scenario with the potential to destabilize markets and devastate the economy.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told lawmakers last week that officials will alter certain federal investments to preserve the nation’s credit until summer — largely through technical moves that will buy lawmakers time to reach an agreement on how much the government is allowed to borrow.

Treasury’s moves should give lawmakers until at least June to pass legislation that raises the amount the country can borrow, or suspends that limit, which is currently capped at $31.4 trillion.

Newly emboldened House Republicans are trying to leverage the standoff to extract significant spending cuts, insisting that previous Congresses and administrations have spent too much on social programs. Some GOP lawmakers have even raised the prospect of seeking changes to entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But the White House has said it will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, and Biden has pledged to oppose any attempt to cut entitlements.

“I don’t see why you would continue the past behavior,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the issue should not be used as a “political football.” “In the past, there has been bipartisan cooperation to address the debt ceiling, and that’s how it should be.”

Yellen has said a default could cause “irreparable harm to the U.S. economy.” Federally backed debt is the backbone of domestic and global markets. A failure to make good on U.S. borrowing could set off panic on Wall Street and spark millions of job losses.

House Republicans prepare an emergency plan for breaching the debt limit

The United States has never defaulted on its debt. But it has repeatedly come close, particularly in 2011, amid the rise of the conservative tea party movement in the House. Those Republicans’ clashes with then-president Barack Obama resulted in months of political brinkmanship, generated panic globally, and yielded a decade of significant caps on domestic spending, which Democrats have long decried as damaging.

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Under Biden, congressional Republicans have tried to hold up efforts to address the debt ceiling, prompting an array of experts to emphasize the costs of a potential failure. In one September 2021 standoff, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said a prolonged crisis could have catalyzed a full-scale recession in the United States, wiping out billions of dollars in economic growth and eliminating as many as 6 million jobs.

House Republicans have begun planning a set of instructions for the Treasury if lawmakers and Biden cannot reach a debt ceiling agreement, The Washington Post reported earlier this month. That plan was part of an agreement that helped McCarthy secure votes from the hard-right House Freedom Caucus to win the speakership.

The debt ceiling fight puts McCarthy in a tenuous position, though. His caucus risks wearing the blame for a national default and the economic catastrophe that would follow. But even fringe members of the Republican conference could force the speaker’s hand: McCarthy agreed to a rules package that significantly depleted his authority, and which would allow only one member to force a vote that could remove him from power.

What is the debt ceiling, and what happens if the U.S. hits it?

The White House has few options to act unilaterally to avoid a debt ceiling crisis. According to some legal scholars, the president could simply continue borrowing money, drawing on an obscure passage in the Constitution that declares: “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” Some experts argue that the clause makes it unconstitutional for the U.S. to default on its debt, or for Congress to establish a debt limit. But that concept would surely face a legal challenge if the White House opted for it.

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Biden could also order the U.S. Mint to strike a $1 trillion coin and deposit the token into the Federal Reserve, creating new funds to make credit payments. The White House briefly considered that idea during the 2021 debt ceiling crunch, but ultimately decided against it. Yellen called the coin a “gimmick.”

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Work Advice: Lawmakers’ dress code dustup has lessons for everyone

As inclusive as I try to be, I’m as limited as anyone by unconscious bias. Take, for example, my latest response to a young-looking man wanting to look more mature.

“I found your advice wanting for people like me,” said David Barrett, a retiree in Ellicott City, Md., and self-described “brown-skinned, African American male.” Barrett spent his long career in information technology navigating workplace-style advice that was written with White men in mind. “I have no trouble with hair in my face or sunscreen,” he said in an email.

He’s got a point. When discussing anti-aging measures, my melanin-deficient mindset settled on sunscreen, but “skin care” would have better covered the spectrum. (Although even darker skin is susceptible to melanoma, so let’s all keep some SPF in the mix.) I could have dug deeper to find sources with advice on hairstyles specific to Black men.

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I’m sharing this mea culpa as a segue to a broader issue: dress codes. Specifically, how to accommodate and respect the traditions and mores of a diverse group when setting a common standard for workplace attire.

The Missouri House of Representatives recently considered updating its dress code to require female lawmakers to wear “business attire, including jackets” on the floor and lower gallery of the House. Previously, the code required only “a blazer or sweater” with a dress, skirt, or slacks.

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On paper, the change looks innocuous, and more in line with the existing rule for men: “business attire, including coat, tie, dress trousers, and dress shoes or boots.” But context matters.

The proposal generated backlash for exclusively targeting women and the extent to which they cover themselves. You may recall a similar uproar in the U.S. Congress in 2017 when congresswomen successfully fought for their right to bear arms after House leadership tried to enforce a rule prohibiting female reporters and lawmakers from appearing in sleeveless attire.

Then and now, attempts to impose and enforce restrictions on how women present themselves tend to spark concerns that more consequential restrictions on women are in the works. Given the national political atmosphere in 2017 and the present fight for birth control and abortion rights, that sensitivity is not unreasonable.

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For the record, I’m indifferent to bare shoulders at work, especially in hot swampy summer locales. I just favor blazers because I work in a world where (1) squared-off shoulders convey authority and (2) the thermostat is too freaking low.

Although the Missouri lawmaker who proposed the jacket rule, Rep. Ann Kelley (R), is a woman, that didn’t dissuade two of her female colleagues across the aisle from questioning her interpretation of appropriate business attire, calling her out for wearing a pink sequined top to work.

“So what is appropriate, and why do you get to decide?” Rep. Ashley Aune (D) demanded to know. It’s an excellent two-part question for any group trying to set standards for workplace attire: What is “appropriate?” And who gets to make that call?

There’s a difference between dressing for a setting and dressing for effect. Some years ago, a style coach kindly but firmly advised me that my flared pant legs, cardigans, and sparkly bohemian accessories — all perfectly appropriate in my office — did not give the vibe of a polished professional. Workers hoping to get ahead in any industry have to make the same distinction between merely dressing for their settings and going beyond to achieve a desired effect: to win confidence, look authoritative and project “executive presence.

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Employers and legislative leaders have the right to set dress codes to establish group coherence and identity. But they get into trouble when they design rules that focus too heavily on effects that have little to do with the requirements of the setting — for example, trying to make female employees girlier or less distracting to some people, or forbidding certain hairstyles or garb that doesn’t “fit the culture.” (Read: Match the race, gender, or societal background of the ones writing the rules.)

In some settings, everyone has to project the same effect for safety or efficiency, or branding reasons. Strict conformity quells confusion and keeps everyone focused on the work. That’s the principle behind uniforms and codes where the rules are downright Levitical: no denim, no visible tattoos, no jewelry, no exposed flesh from shoulder to the elbow. If maintaining a particular effect is important to the business, the rules need to be transparent about that, instead of relying on vague terms like “appropriate” and “professional,” which are open to individual interpretation.

But in most workplaces, public or private, the purpose of the dress code is simply to establish a minimum collective standard that still allows for a diversity of expression, beliefs, and needs. Smart rule-makers will consider the effect on people covered by those rules, solicit general input to make the wording detailed and inclusive — ideally before laying down accidental land mines — and enforce the rules consistently.

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Ultimately, although the Missouri House adopted the jacket rule, it did concede a dissenting lawmaker’s point, adding cardigans as a less expensive, more adaptable option.

Incidentally, Missouri legislators are at least consistent in enforcing their vaguely worded standards regardless of party or sex. Just last year, a state senator who appeared on the floor in overalls — something not prohibited by any written rule — was stripped of his committee assignments by the leadership of his party. When you dress for effect, sometimes the effect is not the one you expect.

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How 10,000 sheep and their Peruvian Works

Wyoming may be known as the cowboy state, but for photographer Alex Benja it was the shepherds that caught his eye.

“I was driving down a dirt road, ” he recalled, “and suddenly there were 2,000 sheep in front of me, with shepherds.”

These shepherds, primarily from Peru, were accompanying a herd that totals 10,000 sheep on their annual 300-mile round-trip migration as the seasons change — following the greenest pastures.

Benja’s photographs in the deserts and mountains of Southwest Wyoming underscore the hidden costs of the United States’ $700 million sheep farming industry, which supplies grocery stores’ shelves with lamb and retailers’ clothing racks with wool fabrics.

The industry has declined dramatically since the end of World War II, when U.S. sheep numbered around 50 million. As synthetic fibers grew in popularity and demand for lamb and mutton meat faded, operations dwindled. The USDA estimates there are roughly 5 million sheep now in the United States.

Wyoming is the fourth largest sheep producer in the country. The full herd of 10,000 animals that Benja followed belongs to a family operation that’s been running for five generations, Julian Land & Livestock.

The sheepherders, as they are known out West — nodding to the open land, the massive herds, and the large ranch operations, as opposed to the smaller shepherd farm flocks of the East — have to be fully nomadic. Working through tough, three-year stints on employment visas, the immigrant sheepherders look over the animals as they follow what’s known as the green wave.

As the seasons turn, grass, plants, and edible things start to green up, moving higher and higher in elevation. The animals follow the action upward as the snow melts, hanging around the mountain tops in lush green areas with ample streams. Come fall, they make the reverse journey, and climb back down to the winter grazing lands.

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Benja made multiple, month-long trips to visit the sheepherders.

The sheepherders, who make about $1,800 per month, live outdoors in remote environments, without running water or electricity. Solar panels that charge their phones provide the only connection to their families and the outside world.

No permanent structures exist on the grazing route since the herd moves about every three days. The sheepherders sleep on wheeled shacks that can accommodate two people.

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Tips to Mitigate Common Software Development Challenges

Software development is a complex and complicated process that may be hampered by a variety of obstacles. Developers must be able to overcome these hurdles to designing software that fulfills the demands of the customer and operates as intended.

Poor project management, data privacy rules, cyber threats, a short budget, and other factors may all influence the success of your software development project. You may minimize the following software development issues and their possible consequences by knowing them and ensuring the project’s success.

Tips to Solve Software Development Challenges

Here are some top tips to address the common software development challenges that businesses face:

Cybercrime and System Hacking

Software development teams are concerned about cyber security. A cyber-attack may have devastating consequences, including data loss, compromised data being used against other platforms, and financial loss. As a consequence, software development services teams must be proactive to safeguard their data and programs from cyber-attacks. This may be difficult, particularly given the constant emergence of new cybersecurity threats.

To address this issue, software development teams should use a variety of approaches to safeguard their program and data. Firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems are examples of such measures. They should also use encryption and authentication, and keep their software up to date with the most recent security fixes.

Budgeting and Finance

Staying under budget is one of the most typical issues in software development. When it comes to software, there are typically many unknowns that may make project cost estimation challenging.

Furthermore, many customers have a misunderstanding of what goes into software development and may overestimate the expenses required. Running out of funds in the budget before the software is ready might cause severe delays or even the termination of a project. A failure to communicate with stakeholders is perhaps the biggest cause of bad budgeting. Stakeholders must understand the project’s expectations and needs. If their instructions are vague, needs will often alter over the project, thus depleting the budget.

To avoid going over budget, software development must be meticulously planned from start to finish, which means stakeholders must identify needs and expectations from the start. Furthermore, projects might go over budget when the team encounters challenging and time-consuming technological hurdles. Planning for probable problems will make it simpler to deal with them without breaking the bank.

Data Analysis

Data is essential for the success of any software development project. Software development teams may get significant insights into their client base by interpreting data acquired through software use or other sources.

These insights may be used to enhance the product, select where to concentrate their efforts, and decide which features to add or eliminate. However, this might be problematic if software development teams are unable to adequately evaluate data. In certain circumstances, this may be owing to the large amount of data being gathered, or to a lack of tools or knowledge.

To address this difficulty, you may wish to add a data scientist to your team who can assist with data analysis.  However, if you don’t want to recruit a new team member, software engineers may still construct their algorithms or utilize third-party tools to analyze large datasets. Software development teams may overcome the issue of evaluating massive data by using the appropriate tools and methodologies.

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AI Implementation and Automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved into a critical component of software development. AI can assist software development teams in automating processes, speeding up product development, and improving product quality.

However, as useful as AI might be in removing time-consuming, repetitive chores, over-reliance on AI can be problematic. If your team employs AI for more complex activities that involve human thinking and reasoning, mistakes may occur. To guarantee that any AI solutions integrated into the software development process are utilized effectively, quality assurance testing processes must be established to spot any unforeseen flaws.

Software development teams may guarantee that their AI solutions perform properly and produce the required outcomes by developing quality assurance testing techniques.

Continuity of Experience Across Multiple Platforms

The software development business is always evolving. Software maintenance and support services are responsible for developing software that operates across numerous platforms, such as computers, mobile devices, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT).

As a consequence, software development teams must comprehend how their program will function across various technologies and ensure that it delivers a consistent user experience across several platforms. To overcome this obstacle, your team must design your product to be responsive on many devices, test it on several platforms, and utilize the appropriate development tools.

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Software developers may guarantee that their software is user-friendly and fulfills the expectations of today’s customers by taking the required efforts to design software that gives users a seamless experience across numerous platforms.

Conclusion

As a profitable business specialty, software development is a no-nonsense job fraught with difficulties, beginning with project planning and finishing with selling a final product. However, if you want to avoid downfalls and failures on the way to obtaining a top-notch product, it is prudent to hire a qualified outsourcer who will see the project through as well as deliver high-quality software that will not burn a hole in your pocket but will serve as a steady source of revenue for years to come.

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How to Plan the Perfect Weekend Away

If you want to spend quality time with your loved ones, have an adventure, or recharge your mind and body, then you should go on a weekend getaway. Read on to learn how to plan your weekend gateway:

  1. What Do You Want from Your Weekend Gateway?

Deciding what you want from your weekend gateway can help you plan the perfect getaway for you. Therefore, you will need to consider your hobbies, the destination, and even the time of the year. Take your time to think about how you want your weekend gateway to look like.

Do you want a laid-back or an action-packed weekend getaway? There are some amazing entertainment hotels in the UK. Do you want to use your car, train, or plane to travel to your destination? If you have an idea of the weekend gateway you want, you will choose the perfect destination.

  1. Create Your Budget

Create your budget before picking the destination. Accommodation, travel, and spending money vary depending on the destination. If you can decide on your budget, you will be able to pick an affordable destination. Creating your budget can help choose the perfect destination.

You do not need a big budget to enjoy your weekend gateway. If you have a small budget, you can travel to a nearby city. You will still have fun in the city.

  1. How Do You Choose the Perfect Destination for Your Weekend Gateway?

If you have already decided to go to a certain place, you will not have a problem choosing the destination for your weekend gateway. If you want to visit a certain attraction or city, you can now begin your research on the destination.

However, if you do not have an idea of where you want to go, you can select any type of break, such as theme park, coast, countryside, city, etc. Then, research these destinations. If you will use a plane to travel, you can look for the best deals on flights.

Remember, do not just focus on where are you going. You also need to consider the things you can do at the destination. You may find affordable accommodation in a certain place. However, there is nothing to enjoy in that place. So, you have to consider both the activities and location before choosing the destination for your weekend gateway.

  1. When Do You Want to Go On Your Weekend Gateway?

You probably want to go on your weekend gateway when you are free and have the money to spend on your weekend gateway. However, all weekends are not the same. Weekends are busy and more expensive during the holiday season. And some destinations are expensive during certain seasons.

If you work flexible hours, you can go on your weekend getaway outside of holiday weekends or school holidays. You will spend less money. And you will not have to deal with a crowd.

  1. Research Your Destination Before Travel

Once you choose your destination, you can research the destination before traveling. Researching your destination will pay off in the end.

You will need to research the best places to eat and stay and the transportation options in that location. Can you walk? You may find the best deal on a hotel. However, if you have to spend more time and money on public transport, then you do not have to choose that hotel. You do not want to spend more money on Uber or taxis.

Safe international travel G20 Event web

You also need to research the things you want to do. Write down the list of these things and add extras. If you have more free time, you can do the extras.

Do not forget to check out the top restaurants, bars, and cafes in that location. The other things to research are walks, parks, and beaches. You should also research free things to do at the destination.

  1. Select and Book Accommodation Early

Some people love to stay as spontaneous and flexible as possible when they are traveling. However, if you want to go on a weekend getaway, you may not have enough time to find accommodation when you reach your destination.

Selecting and booking accommodation early can make your weekend getaway relaxing. You can stay in one place throughout the weekend. It takes time and costs money to move about.

You do not have to book a hotel. For example, if you want to go to a coastal or rural location, then you can choose between campsites, guesthouses, and cottages. It is also easy to find Airbnb rentals in almost all destinations.

If you book your accommodation early, you are more likely to get the best rates.

  1. Plan Each Day

You will only have a few days to enjoy your getaway. Therefore, you need to make the most of your weekend gateway. That is why you need to plan each day. Writing down your must-do activities, attractions, tours, restaurants, etc., can help you plan each day. You will need to consider the travel time and the opening and closing times of these attractions.

If you are not sure about the weather of your destination, then you can plan your day the night before. This is because you will have the most up-to-date weather forecast.

If you just want to sit and relax on your weekend gateway, then you can spend some time at a café. It is best to make a plan that suits your needs.

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