By Lauren Hockenson, Giga Om
Facebook on Thursday announced the final phase of removing an old privacy feature from the social media platform. The feature, which allows users to be hidden from search, will finally be taken away for users who have it enabled.
The feature, called "Who can look up your Timeline by name?" was removed from Privacy settings last year (noted in a December blog post) for those who didn't have it enabled. When enabled, the setting removes the ability for users to access a Timeline profile via search, even when a user puts in the exact name of the person he or she is locating. Now, users that still have that feature enabled will begin to see removal notices from Facebook, indicating that they will be present and visible in Graph Search along with the rest of the Facebook user base.
Facebook says in the blog post that the feature is a vestigial precaution that reaches back before the platform had a sophisticated search algorithm. When Facebook search acted as a mere directory, removing oneself from search made it more difficult for strangers to access a given profile. But now, as Open Graph opens up to search more settings and there is greater visibility of Timelines for friends of friends, the importance of finding a person through search has diminished while controlling the content on any given Timeline has become more important. Facebook says that the feature also caused hiccups in the user experience:
"People told us that they found it confusing when they tried looking for someone who they knew personally and couldn't find them in search results, or when two people were in a Facebook Group and then couldn't find each other through search."Of course, the sunsetting of this feature for those who care about it the most only stresses the importance of checking and updating Facebook privacy settings often. Now, it's more important to consider the content of the Timeline itself: a "private Timeline" is only such when content is marked explicitly "Friends Only." As Facebook continues to make search easier, it's important to keep in mind how these changes impact social media privacy at large.
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans failed to move forward Tuesday with a piecemeal approach to fund popular parts of the federal government to lessen the impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years.
House and Senate Republicans had offered short-term funding plans to keep open national parks, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and other government services in the nation's capital. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. said the piecemeal approach would "continue to move the ball down the field" towards finding an agreement to resume full government funding.
But the GOP efforts failed to win the necessary support in the House to advance to the Senate. The votes fell well short of the two-thirds threshold needed to suspend House rules.
The Senate had already warned that the plan would meet fate there as every previous attempt by the House to amend the stopgap funding bill. In that chamber, Democrats maintain the only way to end the shutdown is for the House to allow a vote on a stopgap measure to fund the government through mid-November that does not include legislation affecting President Obama's health care law.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said she did not support funding the government in "bits and pieces."
"We're the entire United States of America. You keep the whole government going, that's what you're supposed to do," she said. "All they have to do in the House is let the House vote on the Senate (bill) and let the House work it's will."
The White House agreed. "These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government. If House Republicans are legitimately concerned about the impacts of a shutdown — which extend across government from our small businesses to women, children and seniors — they should do their job and pass a clean CR to reopen the government," said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats were not against debating some of the proposals that Republicans offered in the weeks leading up to the shutdown on the Affordable Care Act. He cited as an example a proposal to repeal a 2.3% tax on medical devices enacted to help pay for the law. However, Durbin said Democrats would not negotiate on the stopgap spending bill, or on a pending vote to increase the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit.
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"After the CR and the debt ceiling, I have been open to that," Durbin said, "Doing this with a gun to your head, as we've said over and over again, is not the appropriate way to bargain."
House Republicans huddled in private earlier Tuesday, and lawmakers showed no signs of losing cohesion on the first day of the shutdown. Republicans are bullish about the politics of a shutdown and they have reason to be, said David Wasserman, an analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
"Democrats have always believed a shutdown would finally make voters pay attention to how 'extreme' House Republicans are. So far there's not a ton of evidence that the game has changed," Wasserman said.
By: Jayne O'Donnell , USA TODAY
Wal-Mart pleads guilty and settles charges that it dumped hazardous waste in sewage systems, among other violations.
Wal-Mart Stores settled a decade-long investigation into its hazardous waste practices Tuesday when it pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay $81 million, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
In cases filed in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Water Act by illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials at its retail stores across the United States. The company also pleaded guilty in Kansas City, Mo., to violating federal law governing the proper handling of pesticides that had been returned by customers at stores across the country.
When combined with previous actions brought by California and Missouri, Wal-Mart will pay a total of more than $110 million to resolve cases alleging violations of federal and state environmental laws.
'This case is as big as Wal-Mart is," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Johns, chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes section in Los Angeles. "This conduct is alleged to have taken place at every single Walmart in the country."
Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The practices started at an unknown date and continued until January 2006. That meant hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level — including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system — or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product-return centers located throughout the United States.
"By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Wal-Mart admitted trucking more than 2 million pounds of regulated pesticides and other products from its return centers to Greenleaf, a recycling facility in Neosho, Mo., between July 2006 and February 2008. Prosecutors say the products were processed for reuse and resale, but lax oversight caused regulated pesticides to be mixed together and offered for sale in violation of FIFRA.
In 2010, the company agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle similar allegations made by California authorities that led to the overhaul of its hazardous waste compliance program nationwide. The state investigation began eight years ago when a San Diego County health department employee saw a worker pouring bleach down a drain.
In another instance, officials said a Solano County boy was found playing in a mound of fertilizer near a Walmart garden section. The yellow-tinted powder contained ammonium sulfate, a chemical compound that causes irritation to people's skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
"We have fixed the problem," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said. "We are obviously happy that this is the final resolution."
Court documents show the illegal dumping occurred in 16 California counties between 2003 and 2005. Federal prosecutors said the company didn't train its employees on how to handle and dispose of hazardous materials at its stores.
In addition to sewage systems, the waste also was improperly taken to one of several product-return centers throughout the United Sates without proper safety documentation.
Buchanan said employees are better trained on how to clean up, transport and dispose of dangerous products such as fertilizer that are spilled in the store or have damaged packaging.
For instance, workers are armed with scanners that tell them whether a damaged package is considered to contain a hazardous material and are trained on how to handle it, she said. Wal-Mart also says it has created nearly 50 dedicated environment compliance staff, with elevated management authority;
Johns says Wal-Mart should have known better — sooner.
"We prosecute mom-and-pop stores for this type of conduct," he says. "If there's anyone who has the resources to comply with the law, it's Wal-Mart."
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