2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-06-13 18:25:25 UTC
2019-06-13 23:30:01 UTC
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One patient has died and another became seriously ill after fecal transplants inadvertently seeded their innards with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.
The cases highlight the grave risks of what some consider a relatively safe procedure. They also call attention to the mucky issues of federal oversight for the experimental transplants, which the FDA has struggled to regulate. In its warning Thursday, the agency announced new protections for trials and experimental uses of the procedure.
The FDA shared minimal details from the deadly transplants. Its warning only noted that the cases involved two patients who were immunocompromised prior to the experimental transplants and received stool from the same donor. Subsequent to the transplant, the patients developed invasive infections from an E. coli strain that was resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin groups. The E. coli strain carried a drug-defeating enzyme called an extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) [open, DOI: 10.1155/2012/625170] [DX], which generally cleaves a ring common to all the chemical structures of those antibiotics. When unnamed researchers who administered the transplant looked back at the donor stool, they found that the stool contained an identical ESBL-producing E. coli.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
There are a lot of technical details in the article that raise some very interesting questions.
New Hampshire has installed what appears to be the first historical highway marker honoring computer programming, according to the Concord Monitor. The new sign honors BASIC, Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a programming language that was invented at Dartmouth College in 1964.
The sign came about after Concord Monitor journalist David Brooks noted in a column that the state’s 255 historical markers honored things like bridges and historical figures, but that there was “distressingly little celebration of New Hampshire’s technical and scientific accomplishments.” He went on to advocate for the state to install a sign for BASIC and the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System — a precursor to the internet. “They matter at least as much as a covered bridge,” Brooks wrote.
Two mathematicians developed the language: John G. Kemeny, and Thomas E. Kurtz, who wanted to create an easily-accessible programming language for students, and Brooks notes that BASIC “has probably has done more to introduce more people to computer programming than anything ever created.”
Thanks to their efforts, your humble scribe was first able to attempt his hand at programming back oh so many years ago. BASIC whetted my appetite and from there I learned Pascal, FORTRAN, COBOL, and a whole host of other languages and assemblers. How many other Soylentils "cut their teeth" on BASIC and where did it lead you?
Lyrics site Genius has reported dropping traffic since Google introduced its information panel feature for song words in 2014. However, the Wall Street Journal (via The Verge) has today reported that Genius is accusing Google of not only stealing its market share but directly copying content from its pages.
[...] The evidence Genius gives to show that Google is scraping its lyrics is in the form of apostrophes. In 2016 it introduced a system of alternating apostrophes (‘, or U+0027 in Unicode, the dominant form of text processing on the Internet ) with single quotation marks (’, or U+2019). Every song features the same sequence of swapping between the two subtly different marks, which spells out ‘red handed’ when you translate it into Morse code.
[...] Google said in a statement to the WSJ that it didn’t make the lyrics panels itself, but rather licensed the content from other companies, such as LyricFind, who it partnered with in 2016. LyricFind also claims not to have stolen content from Genius, instead using its own team to source song lyrics.
Like some kind of space-age Bingo hall caller, a cloud-based API that publicly streams random numbers arrives today, and is being touted by Cloudflare.
The web-distribution giant is enlisting the help of four other organizations and a handful of researchers to create what it calls the League of Entropy, a project aimed at creating and maintaining tools that output random numbers.
The project combines Cloudflare's own LavaRand lava-lamp-based random number generator with EPFL's URand, UChilie's random number generator, Kudelski Security's ChaChaRand, and Protocol Labs' InterplanetaryRand. The combined systems will funnel their random data into an endpoint called Drand, and every 60 seconds it will output a 512-bit value to the world, so that anyone can fetch the digits and use for their random numbers.
[...] "This global network of servers generating randomness ensures that even if a few servers are offline, the beacon continues to produce new numbers by using the remaining online servers."
This is where it should be noted that the public system will not be recommended in any way, shape, or form for use with cryptographic or security-sensitive tools or applications, for obvious reasons. Those who want a stream of private numbers can link up with Drand or the individual beacons directly rather than stream from the public API.
[...] Rather, Cloudflare sees the public strings being used for things like election auditing or scientific research where officials will want true random numbers that can be verified as untouched from the source. You can find more details of this over on the Cloudflare website by the time you read this.
Fake photos are a rampant issue in our digital age, but researchers are working hard to restore a greater degree of trust to photography. One team has created a new AI that can detect when faces in photos were manipulated using Photoshop.
The researchers at Adobe and UC Berkeley have published their work in a new paper titled, "Detecting Photoshopped Faces by Scripting Photoshop," explaining how the new method can figure out if Photoshop's Face Aware Liquify feature was used.
[...] While humans were only able to detect the edited faces 53% of the time, the AI managed to correctly catch 99% of them. What's even more impressive is that in addition to figuring out whether and where a photo was manipulated, the AI could also undo those edits and bring that photo back toward its original state.
While GPS tracking can follow your smartphone around a store with a precision of around 5 meters, tracking the phone's bluetooth device allows following its location to within a few centimeters. This relies on tracking built into phone "apps" but there are no easy ways to determine which ones are the culprits.
Most people aren't aware they are being watched with beacons, but the "beacosystem" tracks millions of people every day. Beacons are placed at airports [post-gazette.com], malls [bluetooth.com], subways [citylab.com], buses [nfcworld.com], taxis [mobileeurope.co.uk], sporting arenas [adage.com], gyms [ymcalouisville.org], hotels [mobilemarketer.com], hospitals [amazonaws.com], music festivals [kontakt.io], cinemas [geomarketing.com] and museums [rfidjournal.com], and even on billboards [fastcompany.com].
In order to track you or trigger an action like a coupon or message to your phone, companies need you to install an app on your phone that will recognize the beacon in the store. Retailers (like Target and Walmart) that use Bluetooth beacons typically build tracking into their own apps. But retailers want to make sure most of their customers can be tracked — not just the ones that download their own particular app.
So a hidden industry of third-party location-marketing firms has proliferated in response. These companies take their beacon tracking code and bundle it into a toolkit developers can use.
Earlier on SN:
Now Apps Can Track You Even After You Uninstall Them (2018)
Since becoming fully operational in 1995, Global Positioning System technology has become widely adopted in the United States and abroad. The concept of satellite-based navigation has become so essential that other world powers, including China, Russia, the European Union, India, and Japan, have all started building their own regional or global systems.
Now, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject has assessed the value of this GPS technology to the US economy and examined what effect a 30-day outage would have—whether it's due to a severe space weather event or "nefarious activity by a bad actor." The study was sponsored by the US government's National Institutes of Standards and Technology and performed by a North Carolina-based research organization named RTI International.
[...] In the case of some adverse event leading to a widespread outage, the study estimates that the loss of GPS service would have a $1 billion per-day impact, although the authors acknowledge this is at best a rough estimate. It would likely be higher during the planting season of April and May, when farmers are highly reliant on GPS technology for information about their fields.
[...] "GPS came along at a time of significant evolution in the telecom sector and played a critical role in the digitization of telecom infrastructure and the advent of wireless technology," the study states. "Wireless technology continues to evolve in ways that increase its reliance on highly precise timing, which in turn increases reliance on GPS. Multiple technological trends—from autonomous cars to the internet of things—will be stretching wireless technology to new limits in the coming years."
The study is likely to increase public calls for improved safety and security of the US GPS system, which the Air Force continues to modernize with its new fleet of GPS III satellites. The first of these new satellites, offering positioning and timing information with three times better accuracy and heightened anti-jamming capabilities, launched on a Falcon 9 rocket in December.
That's about $275,000 per minute or $11,500 per second.
I remember when ThinkGeek was in its hey day and often chortled on seeing some of the items on offer. It looks like there are some major changes under way. Their web site is moving under the web site of parent company GameStop. Physical store locations for ThinkGeek will remain open. Selected items will remain available in GameStop stores. Orders from ThinkGeek on or after June 13th, 2019 are final sales -- no returns.
As part of this transformation, there is currently a 50% off everything sale at https://www.thinkgeek.com/
I must confess I had not visited their site in years. What has your experience with them been like?
Hong Kong has a population of nearly 7.5 million people. Last Sunday (June 7) organizers reported that one million of them peacefully protested against a controversial extradition bill. As the protests continued and the government resisted, the protests changed. For now, the government has indefinitely suspended deliberations:
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam acquiesced, at least in part, to massive protests in the city this week as she announced Saturday the controversial extradition bill will be suspended indefinitely.
"The original urgency to pass the bill in this legislative year is perhaps no longer there," Lam said at a press conference. "After repeated internal deliberations over the last two days, I now announce that the government has decided to suspend the legislative amendment exercise."
[...] Thousands of mostly-young protesters shut down Hong Kong's Legislative Council complex and paralyzed parts of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Wednesday. Riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the throngs of demonstrators, who hurled bottles, umbrellas and other objects at them.
At least 72 people were injured, including 22 police officers. Eleven people were arrested for disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, assaulting officers and riot-related activities stemming from Wednesday's protests, authorities said.
Heavy rain prevented most organizers from carrying out fresh demonstrations the following day. Still, the president of the Legislative Council cancelled all planned sessions again Thursday and Friday, pushing debate on the bill to next week.
Under the extradition law amendment, any country -- including China -- could request the extradition of an individual to their home country from Hong Kong for trial. Many who oppose the proposed legislation fear that China could use it to arrest political dissidents.
Does any other country have such an open extradition policy?
[*] One million people represents over 13% of the population of Hong Kong. That is quite the protest! To get a protest of the same scale in the United States, you would need 18.5 million people: the combined populations of the four most-populated cities: New York, NY (8.4M), Los Angeles, CA(3.9M), Chicago, IL(2.7M), and Houston, TX(2.3M) plus #10 San Jose, CA (1M).
Security researchers have discovered an ongoing cryptojacking campaign which infects unpatched computers of businesses from all over the world with XMRig Monero miners using Equation group's leaked exploit toolkit.
The cybercriminals behind this cryptomining campaign use the NSA-developedEternalBlue and EternalChampion SMB exploits to compromise vulnerable Windows computers, exploits which were leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacker group in April 2017.
While Microsoft patched the security flaws these tools abused to break into Windows machines [1, 2, 3], there are still a lot of exposed computers because they haven't been updated to newer OS versions not being impacted by these very dangerous vulnerabilities.
[...] The hackers are using a "shotgun" method of attack, choosing to compromise any vulnerable machine they can find and not stopping to cherry-pick as it happens in the targeted attacks conducted by experienced malicious actors which usually impact companies.
This shows that "entry-level cybercriminals are gaining easy access to what we can consider “military-grade” tools — and are using them for seemingly ordinary cybercrime activity."
[...] An auto-spreading EternalBlue-based backdoor and a variant of the Vools Trojan is used as the main tool to deploy roughly 80 variants of the XMRig cryptocurrency miners on infected computers, using five different mining configurations with similar usernames and identical passwords.
The cryptominer binary is always dropped in the infected system's system32 or SysWOW64 folders, with the miner variant being the one which decides what folder is chosen to drop the XMRig payload.
"We will impose costs on you until you get the point." (National Security Advisor John Bolton, Wall Street Journal conference, Tuesday June 11)
Since at least 2012, the United States has been injecting malware into the control systems of the Russian electricity grid, reports the New York Times.
While the campaign originally started as a reconnaissance mission, it became more aggressive under new authorities granted to United States Cyber Command.
As a result, under a "defend forward" policy,
American strategy has shifted more toward offense ... with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.
The new authorities can be found in two documents, the National Security Presidential Memoranda 13 (classified) and the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, in which
Congress affirms that the activities or operations referred to in subsection (a), when appropriately authorized, include the conduct of military activities or operations in cyberspace short of hostilities (as such term is used in the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148; 50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.)) or in areas in which hostilities are not occurring, including for the purpose of preparation of the environment, information operations, force protection, and deterrence of hostilities, or counterterrorism operations involving the Armed Forces of the United States.
These activities are now considered a routine matter, for which only Secretary of Defense approval is needed. With section (c) of SEC. 1632. of the Act specifying that the "clandestine military activity or operation in cyberspace shall be considered a traditional military activity", the Secretary is not even required to brief the President.
One can't help to think of a couple of other milestones targeting power networks: stuxnet (2009), the Ukraine power grid attacks of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 involving Industroyer (2016) and note that, ultimately, such attacks did not remain restricted to the original target area.
Comcast yesterday was ordered to refund nearly 50,000 customers and pay a $9.1 million fine when a judge ruled that it violated Washington state consumer protection law hundreds of thousands of times.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Comcast in August 2016, accusing the nation's largest cable company of tricking customers into buying a "near-worthless 'protection plan' without disclosing its significant limitations."
Buying the $5-per-month plan ostensibly prevented customers from having to pay each time a Comcast technician visited their home to fix problems covered by the plan. But in reality, the plan did not cover the vast majority of wiring problems, the AG's lawsuit said. Moreover, Washington state attorneys said that Comcast led customers to believe that they needed to buy a Service Protection Plan (SPP) to get services that were actually covered for free by the company's "Customer Guarantee."
In yesterday's ruling (pdf), King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw found that "Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times when it charged tens of thousands of Washingtonians for its Service Protection Plan without their consent," Ferguson's announcement said. Each wrongful monthly charge was a separate violation, so there were multiple violations per customer.
Washington state attorneys sought more than $171 million, asking the judge to order Comcast to pay $88 million in restitution to customers and $83 million in fines.
The $9.1 million fine Comcast was ordered to pay is a fraction of the amount sought by Washington. But Comcast's refunds to customers are separate from the fine, and it's not clear exactly how much they'll amount to.
If this just another "cost of doing business" or do you think this will actually change things?
An international team of scientists, led by Penn State researchers, have identified genes that may help farmers, especially ones in low- and middle-income countries, breed chickens that can resist one of the biggest disease threats facing poultry today.
In the study, the researchers found that a set of genes differentially expressed in two breeds of chickens can fight off, in varying degrees, Newcastle disease, a virus that hampers poultry production worldwide.
Identifying the genes that help chickens survive Newcastle disease could help design breeding strategies that produce flocks that are more resilient and more productive, according to Vivek Kapur, professor of animal science and the Huck Distinguished Chair in Global Health, associate director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and an Institute for CyberScience associate, all at Penn State.
"These local ecotypes of chickens have been running around backyards for hundreds of years, even in the face of constant exposure to Newcastle disease, so, evolutionarily, there's something innate that has enabled them to survive in this environment where the disease is endemic," said Kapur. "Yet, birds that are bred for high productivity as is the case in high-income countries -- they put on weight very quickly, produce a lot of eggs -- their survival in the presence of infectious diseases was not selected for because there is usually a tradeoff between increased resistance to disease and egg or meat production. Using genomics and sophisticated analytical tools, we asked the question whether there are differences in specific genes expressed in backyard chickens that markers for lower susceptibity to Newcastle disease virus infection."
[...] The researchers, who reported their findings in a recent issue of Scientific Reports, used an innovative technique to study the innate immune response of two breeds of chickens, the Fayoumi and Leghorn. Rather than using animal studies, or cell lines, the researchers used chicken embryos. Because the immune system of the chicken becomes viable in the egg prior to hatching, the researchers have a window to study the immune system's genes, which offers several advantages over other methods, said Schilling.
[...] While Newcastle disease is not considered a major threat in the United States currently, that could change for Americans who are raising chickens as hobbyists and for major poultry production facilities, according to the researchers. A recent outbreak of Newcastle disease in Southern California caused the deaths of more than 1.2 million chickens.
Anti-vaccine advocates received a blow in New York Thursday as state lawmakers banned non-medical exemptions based on religious beliefs—and there may be more blows coming.
Also on Thursday, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy to step up its fight against such non-medical exemptions. The AMA, the country's largest physicians' group and one of the largest spenders on lobbying, has always strongly support pediatric vaccination and opposed non-medical exemptions. But under the new policy changes, the association will now "actively advocate" for states to eliminate any laws that allow for non-medical exemptions.
"As evident from the measles outbreaks currently impacting communities in several states, when individuals are not immunized as a matter of personal preference or misinformation, they put themselves and others at risk of disease," AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, M.D. said in a statement. "The AMA strongly supports efforts to eliminate non-medical exemptions from immunization, and we will continue to actively urge policymakers to do so."
The religious exemption ban in New York comes at a critical time. The state is at the forefront of a nationwide resurgence of measles, with active outbreaks that have sickened hundreds and splintered into other states.
"This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement after signing the ban on religious exemptions. "While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health, and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks."
Sudden outbreak of common sense?