From the LA Times article:
Chinese students have shown an insatiable appetite for attending U.S. colleges — last year alone, more than 235,000 were enrolled at American institutions of higher education. But now, some in China are grousing that the SAT may impose American values on its best and brightest, who in preparation for the exam might be studying the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights instead of “The Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung.”
The U.S. College Board in March announced plans to redesign the SAT to include key U.S. historical documents in one portion of the test, known as the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, by spring 2016.
“The vital issues central to these documents — freedom, justice, and human dignity among them — have motivated numerous people in the United States and around the globe,” the College Board said in a statement. But those are the exact values that the Chinese Communist Party has deemed as threatening to its rule; Chinese activists who have tried to promote such values have been silenced or jailed.
There is much more discussion in the original article.
Last December, the Patent Office issued Patent No. 8,609,158 on a "potent drug" that "rebukes cancer, cancer cells, and kills cancer." According to the patent, this drug cures a litany of other maladies. What is this wonderful invention, you ask? It is a combination of "evening primrose oil, rice, sesame seeds, green beans, coffee, meat, cheese, milk, green tea extract, evening primrose seeds, and wine." As the patent's abstract says, "it works."
There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the person who filed this application. But the patent examiner could and should have rejected it on any number of grounds, including enablement, indefiniteness, and utility. Why would the examiner issue the patent despite its clear infirmities? The answer to that question reveals the fundamental imbalance at the heart of the patent system.
This patent's most obvious flaw is lack of utility -- there's no proof that the invention works. But the system places the burden of proof on the Patent Office, not the person asking for a 20 year monopoly. The examiner likely decided a rejection was not worth the effort -- frankly, we wonder whether the examiner even read the application.
Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon's "1033 program" for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.
[Submitter's Comment: I do object to the term "assault rifle", but that's another discussion ]
The Pentagon's "1033" Program supplies former military weapons to state and local police departments across the country. For years now, some of those weapons just sort of go missing. It seems some may have been parted out, but others have disappeared from the possession of employees, been stolen from police cars or just vanished without explanation.
For example "In Hyattsville, Maryland, the police department was suspended this past April after an M-16 was stolen from an off-duty officer’s patrol car in July 2010. But the department wasn’t even aware of its suspension until Aug. 27, when ABC News called to inquire."
On the other end of the spectrum, "The sheriff of Rising Star, Texas, a town of 800 people, one police officer and no murders this decade, was indicted for selling and pawning $4 million-worth of high-value military equipment, including a machine gun. "
This is just Pentagon supplied weapons ... I wonder what else goes missing?
Other similar reporting:
Firefox OS … includes many of the security and privacy features that Mozilla has built into the Firefox browser over the years, namely support for Do Not Track.
One of the features of Firefox OS is an app permission function that enables users to decide what behaviors they want to allow for a given app. So a user will get a prompt when an app is attempting to perform a certain kind of action and then decide whether to allow it.
"The security model of Firefox OS is based on contextual prompts. So for APIs that are understandable and human meaningful like geolocation, using the camera or recording audio the OS will prompt the user. You can save & remember these choices and later revisit them in the Settings app under 'App Permissions'. You may set them to Allow, Prompt, or Deny," said Frederik Braun, a Mozilla security engineer.
"Starting with Firefox [OS] 2.1, you may activate the developer settings and tick the checkbox near 'Verbose App Permissions'. The typical list in the Settings app will then show you all the permissions an app has and allows you to set them to Allow, Prompt or Deny. This feature, however, only targets the Privileged apps. These are apps that come through the Marketplace. For now, we can not revoke permissions for the built-in apps (the permission set() call throws)," Braun said.
Spotted over at 3ders.org
In Minnesota, contractor Andrey Rudenko is currently working on a project of gargantuan proportions that seems to be stretching and exploring the limits of 3D printing technology. Using a printer that was substantially modified and expanded, he has printed a concrete castle in his own backyard. And at 3 by 5 meters, this concrete structure is the world's first 3D printed concrete castle, and one of the largest objects that has, up till now, ever printed with 3D printing technology.
Also 3dprint has more details on the capabilities of the printer and some additional information from Andrey.
Go to Andrey's homepage for more pictures of the castle construction, news links and printer details.
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have identified one way the Ebola virus dodges the body's antiviral defenses, providing important insight that could lead to new therapies, in research results published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
In work performed at Beamline 19ID at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source, the researchers developed a detailed map of how a non-pathogenic Ebola protein, VP24, binds to a host protein that takes signaling molecules in and out of the cell nucleus.
Their map revealed that the viral protein takes away the host protein’s ability to carry an important immune signal into the nucleus. This signal helps activate the immune system's antiviral defenses, and blocking it is believed to contribute significantly to the virus’s deadliness.
Unfortunately, the report is shown in full above and there is no detail or further discussion in the linked article. It remains of interest, of course, because it shows that progress is being made in the effort to find an effective cure for the disease. Your thoughts?
A researcher has refined an attack on wireless routers with poorly implemented versions of the Wi-Fi Protected Setup that allows someone to quickly gain access to a router's network:
The attack exploits weak randomization, or the lack of randomization, in a key used to authenticate hardware PINs on some implementations of Wi-Fi Protected Setup, allowing anyone to quickly collect enough information to guess the PIN using offline calculations. By calculating the correct PIN, rather than attempting to brute-force guess the numerical password, the new attack circumvents defenses instituted by companies.
While previous attacks require up to 11,000 guesses—a relatively small number—and approximately four hours to find the correct PIN to access the router's WPS functionality, the new attack only requires a single guess and a series of offline calculations, according to Dominique Bongard, reverse engineer and founder of 0xcite, a Swiss security firm.
"It takes one second," he said. "It's nothing. Bang. Done."
The problem affects the implementations provided by two chipset manufacturers, Broadcom and a second vendor whom Bongard asked not to be named until they have had a chance to remediate the problem. Broadcom did not provide a comment to Ars.
Because many router manufacturers use the reference software implementation as the basis for their customized router software, the problems affected the final products, Bongard said. Broadcom's reference implementation had poor randomization, while the second vendor used a special seed, or nonce, of zero, essentially eliminating any randomness.
The experiment is testing the idea that the universe is actually made up of tiny "bits", in a similar way to how a newspaper photo is actually made up of dots. These fundamental units of space and time would be unbelievably tiny: a hundred billion billion times smaller than a proton. And like the well-known quantum behaviour of matter and energy, these bits of space-time would behave more like waves than particles.
The Femilab Holometer is designed to characterize the nature of spacetime itself, and if successful would mean that our basic assumptions about space and time are wrong. The device has just begun to record data and is expected to have gathered enough information to settle the question within a year.
Paul Thurrott reports that despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant says it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. "Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal," a Microsoft statement says. Judge Loretta Preska ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. "Let there be no doubt that Microsoft's actions in this controversial case are customer-centric," says Thurrott. "The firm isn't just standing up to the US government on moral principles. It's now defying a federal court order."
This is the first time a technology company has resisted a US search warrant seeking data that is held outside the United States. In the view of Microsoft and many legal experts, federal authorities have no jurisdiction over data stored outside the country. It says that the court order violates Ireland's sovereignty and that prosecutors need to seek a legal treaty with Ireland in order to obtain the data they want. Microsoft was stung by revelations last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and has been at pains to prove to customers that it does not allow the U.S. government unchallenged access to personal data on its servers. The case has been closely watched by Microsoft’s competitors, which have filed briefs in support of the tech giant’s efforts to beat back the search warrant, reflecting industry concern that compliance with US requests for data held abroad could alienate foreign governments. They face increasing pressure abroad to shore up customer privacy.
Foreign Policy Magazine reports that a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria has captured a black Dell laptop in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib close to the border with Turkey that contained 35,347 files that turned out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. Most disturbing however, is that the ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize bubonic plague from infected animals. "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states. The document includes instructions for how to test the weaponized disease safely, before it is used in a terrorist attack. "When the microbe is injected in small mice, the symptoms of the disease should start to appear within 24 hours," the document says.
"Nothing on the ISIS laptop, of course, suggests that the jihadists already possess these dangerous weapons. And any jihadi organization contemplating a bioterrorist attack will face many difficulties," write Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa. Al Qaeda tried unsuccessfully for years to get its hands on such biological weapons, and the United States has devoted massive resources to preventing terrorists from making just this sort of breakthrough. "The real difficulty in all of these weapons ... [is] to actually have a workable distribution system that will kill a lot of people," said Magnus Ranstorp. "But to produce quite scary weapons is certainly within [the Islamic State's] capabilities." The documents found on the laptop of the jihadist, meanwhile, leave no room for doubt about the group's deadly ambitions.
The BBC's On The Money programme has an hour long overview of the UK energy industry, covering the current state of energy generation, the transition to renewable sources, and the future of generation including the likely mix of sources, microgeneration, fracking and others.
Although this is a Business (and UK) Centric programme, it's a good overview of the topic without the usual political hype or rhetoric that seems to accompany these debates, and a relatively good mix of views as to the costs and benefits of new generation techniques in a place many of us wouldn't necessarily look (although the gratuitous musical clips can be annoying — nothing is perfect).
This being the weekend, something in a lighter vein:
Pizza is essentially the perfect food. Well, so long as you aren't lactose intolerant or have problems with gluten. NPR spotted a study of why different cheeses diverge in looks and taste when baked. Seriously. In a paper called "Quantification of Pizza Baking Properties of Different Cheeses, and Their Correlation with Cheese Functionality," researchers found that, among other things, the reason why mozzarella is so unique of a topping has to do with the way it's prepared. The cheese bubbles and browns because of its inherent elasticity due to stretching. In contrast, cheddar isn't as ideal because it isn't very elastic, thus it doesn't bubble as well. The same apparently goes for Edam and Gruyere, too.
Using a 30-year-old brain stimulation technique, scientists have successfully boosted memory performance in healthy adults by zapping a specific bunch of neurons. While it’s unclear at this stage whether the effects will be long-lasting, the researchers are hopeful it could one day be used to treat patients with conditions that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s. The study has been published in Science.
Brain zapping might sound horrifying, but transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that’s been studied as a potential treatment for various disorders since the 1990s. TMS involves using magnets that are carefully positioned on the scalp to induce weak electric fields; these transient fields then stimulate nearby neurons in the outer layer of the brain called the cortex. Although researchers aren’t exactly sure why it works, it does appear to have positive effects on some patients with depression. The possibility that this technique could affect neuronal circuits involved in memory, however, had not been previously investigated.
Here is a link to the original Northwestern University release.
This weekend, the developers behind OpenBazaar plan to release a beta version of the software designed to let anyone privately and directly buy and sell goods online with no intermediary. They describe it as “pseudonymous, uncensored trade.” Rather than hosting its commerce on any server, OpenBazaar installs on users’ PCs, and allows them to list products in a file stored in a so-called “distributed hash table,” a database spread across many users’ machines. Everything will be paid in bitcoin. The result of that peer-to-peer architecture, they hope, will be a marketplace that no one—–no government, no company, not even the OpenBazaar programmers—can regulate or shut down.
But Patterson and OpenBazaar founder Brian Hoffman adamantly insist OpenBazaar isn’t designed for selling narcotics, guns, or other contraband. They see their invention as a freer, more democratic eBay or Craigslist, with no seller fees and no one to arbitrarily change the rules or censor products. “We’re not the ‘Super Silk Road.’ We’re trying to replace eBay in a better form,” says Patterson. “We recognize that people may choose to use that technology in a way we see as distasteful, immoral, and illegal, but we’re giving them the option to engage in a kind of human interaction that doesn’t exist right now.”
Mexican Judge Pulls Monsanto's GMO Soybeans Permit to Protect Honey Production
Mexican beekeepers are celebrating a victory over biotech giant Monsanto after a judge in the state of Yucatán overturned a permit forbidding the company from planting its Roundup-ready GMO soybeans.
In his decision, the judge said he was convinced that there was enough scientific evidence to link GMO soybeans with the threats to bee populations, including the mysterious illness called colony collapse disorder.
According to the Guardian, the permit had originally allowed Monsanto to plant GMO soybeans in seven states on more than 625,000 acres of land even despite "protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology." In the ruling, the judge noted that honey production and GMO soybeans cannot coexist in a sustainable fashion.