2017-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2017-10-21 10:49:55 UTC
(SPIDs: [719..756]) 2017-10-21 08:18:05 UTC
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Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agency announced this week that the source code for one of its malware detection and analysis tools has been made public.
The Python-based tool released as open source by the spy agency is named Assemblyline and it was created within the CSE's Cyber Defence program. The organization says this is one of the tools it uses to protect the country's computer systems against advanced cyber threats.
Assemblyline allows defenders to automate the analysis of malicious files. The analysis process, which has been compared to a conveyor belt, involves assigning a unique identifier to files as they travel through the system, looking for signs of malicious functionality and extracting features for further analysis, generating alerts for malicious files and assigning them a score, and sending data to other protection systems so that identified threats can be neutralized.
[...] The CSE is not the only spy agency to release open source tools. Last year, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) made available CyberChef, a tool that allows both technical and non-technical people to analyze encryption, compression and decompression, and data formats.
When NASA scientists want to follow the path of the Curiosity rover on Mars, they can don a mixed-reality headset and virtually explore the Martian landscape.
Starting today, everyone can get a taste of what that feels like. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, collaborated with Google to produce Access Mars, a free immersive experience. It's available for use on all desktop and mobile devices and virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets. That includes mobile-based virtual reality devices on Apple and Android.
The experience was adapted from JPL's OnSight software, which assists scientists in planning rover drives and even holding meetings on Mars. Imagery from NASA's Curiosity rover provided the terrain, allowing users to wander the actual dunes and valleys explored by the spacecraft. Since being rolled out to JPL's scientists in 2015, OnSight has made studying Martian geology as intuitive as turning your head and walking around.
Access Mars lets anyone with an internet connection take a guided tour of what those scientists experience. A simple walkthrough explains what the Curiosity rover does and details its dramatic landing in 2012. Users also can visit four sites that have been critical to NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission: Curiosity's landing site; Murray Buttes; Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills. Additionally, the rover's latest location on lower Mt. Sharp will be periodically updated to reflect the mission's ongoing progress.
This I would try VR for.
Exposure to polluted air, water and soil caused nine million premature deaths in 2015, according to a report published Thursday in The Lancet.
The causes of death vary — cancer, lung disease, heart disease. The report links them to pollution, drawing upon previous studies that show how pollution is tied to a wider range of diseases than previously thought.
Those studies observed populations exposed to pollutants and compared them to people not exposed. The studies have shown that pollution can be an important cause of diseases — many of them potentially fatal — including asthma, cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, birth defects in children, heart disease, stroke and lung disease.
The nine million figure adds up to 16 percent of all deaths worldwide, killing three times more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Pollution is responsible for 15 times more deaths than wars and all other forms of violence. "No country is unaffected," the report notes. But 92 percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Air pollution deaths in Southeast Asia are expected to double by 2050.
Effective immediately, the new release of Ubuntu, 17.10, aka 'Artful Aardvark' has been released!
This release will be supported for 9 months (until 2018) for Long Term Support, stick with release 16.04, instead.
Official flavors (e.g. Kubuntu) are also released.
See the above release notes for a full list of changes and where you can get a copy.
[Full disclosure: the majority of SoylentNews' servers run Ubuntu 16.04 LTS though we have taken steps towards moving to Gentoo.]
The customized version of GNOME that Ubuntu 17.10 uses is very much in the mould of the (now defunct) Unity desktop, so it won't be to everyone's tastes.
Many different creatures have roamed the Earth over the years, and scientists now have a better idea of when saber-tooth cats were around... quite possibly at the same time as humans:
Researchers who've analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from ancient samples representing two species of saber-toothed cats have a new take on the animals' history over the last 50,000 years. The data suggest that the saber-toothed cats shared a common ancestor with all living cat-like species about 20 million years ago. The two saber-toothed cat species under study diverged from each other about 18 million years ago.
"It's quite crazy that, in terms of their mitochondrial DNA, these two saber-toothed cats are more distant from each other than tigers are from house cats," says Johanna Paijmans at the University of Potsdam in Germany.
Paijmans and colleagues reconstructed the mitochondrial genomes from ancient-DNA samples representing three Homotherium from Europe and North America and one Smilodon specimen from South America. One of the Homotherium specimens under investigation is a unique fossil: a 28,000-year-old mandible recovered from the North Sea.
"When the first anatomically modern humans migrated to Europe, there may have been a saber-toothed cat waiting for them," Paijmans says.
Why do I have a sudden urge to sing the theme song to The Flintstones?
Journal Reference: Johanna L.A. Paijmans, et al. Evolutionary History of Saber-Toothed Cats Based on Ancient Mitogenomics. Current Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.033
Privacy of medical results obtained in a clinical setting are protected in the US by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). But what about non-clinical medical data gathered by phone apps and wearables such as a FitBit? Not so much. According to a new report, Rice expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data your personal health data may be at risk:
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates only a fraction of those. Americans should be concerned about how these apps collect, save and share their personal health data, she said.
On Oct. 26 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will host a gathering of national experts to discuss "Data Privacy in the Digital Age." Ostherr, who is a professor of English and director of Rice's Medical Futures Lab, has been doing research on health and medical media for over 20 years, from "old" media like celluloid films used for medical education to "new" media like smartphone apps. She will present "Trust and Privacy in the Ecosystems of User-Generated Health and Medical Data" during a panel discussion.
[...] She said apps that make medical or therapeutic claims are considered a medical device and must go through the FDA procedures for approval and regulation. For some companies, that process is worth the time and effort, because their product could become covered by insurance.
But the vast majority of apps provide "helpful hints" in response to user-entered data, such as ideas for alleviating symptoms of a migraine.
[...] "If your app carefully sidesteps claiming any kind of medical intervention, then it's a health and wellness app and not a medical device — and it is not regulated," Ostherr said.
Regardless of whether an app is regulated, Ostherr said, they are all "capturing tons of personal data, some of which would be classified as personal health information if it were subject to oversight by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act."
The last two of eight prototypes for President Donald Trump's proposed border wall took shape Thursday at a construction site in San Diego.
The prototypes, including one built by Israeli defense firm Elta, form a tightly packed row of imposing concrete and metal panels, including one with sharp metal edges on top.
[...] The models, which cost the government up to $500,000 each, were spaced 30 feet (9.1 meters) apart. Slopes, thickness and curves vary. One has two shades of blue with white trim. The others are gray, tan or brown — in sync with the desert.
Bidding guidelines call for the prototypes to stand between 18 and 30 feet (5.5 and 9.1 meters) high and be able to withstand at least an hour of punishment from a sledgehammer, pickaxe, torch, chisel or battery-operated tools.
Features also should prevent the use of climbing aids such as grappling hooks, and the segments must be "aesthetically pleasing" when viewed from the US side.
What will we do when we can't send our junk to China?
The dominant position that China holds in global manufacturing means that for many years China has also been the largest global importer of many types of recyclable materials. Last year, Chinese manufacturers imported 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, the EU, the US and Japan.
However, in July 2017, China announced big changes in the quality control placed on imported materials, notifying the World Trade Organisation that it will ban imports of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of the year. This campaign against yang laji or "foreign garbage" applies to plastic, textiles and mixed paper and will result in China taking a lot less material as it replaces imported materials with recycled material collected in its own domestic market, from its growing middle-class and Western-influenced consumers.
The impact of this will be far-reaching. China is the dominant market for recycled plastic. There are concerns that much of the waste that China currently imports, especially the lower grade materials, will have nowhere else to go.
Developers that want to stop cheaters in their Windows games are getting a little additional system-level help from Microsoft via TruePlay, a new API being rolled out through Windows 10's Fall Creators Update.
The feature, which is now documented on the Windows Dev Center, lets developers easily prioritize a game as a protected process, cutting off some of the most common cheating methods by essentially preventing outside programs from looking at or altering the game's memory. TruePlay also "monitor[s] gaming sessions for behaviors and manipulations that are common in cheating scenarios," looking at usage patterns on a system level to find likely cheaters.
[...] Windows users will have to explicitly opt in to TruePlay monitoring through a system setting, which first showed up in preview builds as "Game Monitor" back in June. Users that don't opt in won't be able to play games with TruePlay implemented, though; as the settings page notes, "turning this off may limit the games you can play."
Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook to ask ten questions about Apple's recent removal of VPN apps from its Chinese app store:
Two US senators have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company reportedly removed VPN apps from the company's store in China. "If these reports are true," the senators wrote, "we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the Internet."
[...] On or around July 29, Apple removed many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese app store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers were informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.
"We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines," Apple informed the affected VPNs.
[...] Now, in a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy express concern at the move by Apple, noting that if reports of the software removals are true, the company could be assisting China's restrictive approach to the Internet.
"VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chines[sic] government's censorship and surveillance of the Internet."
Leahy and Cruz were cosponsors of the USA Freedom Act.
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the second in a radically new class of treatments that genetically reboot a patient's own immune cells to kill cancer.
The new therapy, Yescarta, made by Kite Pharma, was approved for adults with aggressive forms of a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, who have undergone two regimens of chemotherapy that failed.
The treatment, considered a form of gene therapy, transforms the patient's cells into what researchers call a "living drug" that attacks cancer cells. It is part of the rapidly growing field of immunotherapy, which uses drugs or genetic tinkering to turbocharge the immune system to fight disease. In some cases the treatments have led to long remissions.
"The results are pretty remarkable," said Dr. Frederick L. Locke, a specialist in blood cancers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and a leader of a study of the new treatment. "We're excited. We think there are many patients who may need this therapy."
He added, "These patients don't have other options."
About 3,500 people a year in the United States may be candidates for Yescarta. It is meant to be given once, infused into a vein, and must be manufactured individually for each patient. The cost will be $373,000.
A series of volcanic eruptions may have helped bring about the downfall of the last Egyptian dynasty 2,000 years ago.
By suppressing the monsoons that swelled the Nile River each summer, triggering flooding that supported the region's agriculture, the eruptions probably helped usher in an era of periodic revolts [open, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00957-y] [DX], researchers report online October 17 in Nature Communications. That upheaval ultimately doomed the dynasty that ruled Egypt's Ptolemaic Kingdom for nearly 300 years until the death of Cleopatra.
[...] Manning and colleagues pored over historical texts from Ptolemaic Egypt, comparing periods of unrest with the volcanic record in the ice cores. Eruptions coincided with the onset of many recorded revolts. Political instability, famine and drought may have come to a head around 44 B.C., when Italy's Mount Etna erupted explosively. The Ptolemaic dynasty soon came to a close in 30 B.C. with Cleopatra's suicide.
Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers will each invest $5 million in a tech partnership called TitletownTech in Green Bay, Wisconsin:
In an unusual pairing of a giant tech company and a football team, Microsoft and the Green Bay Packers are trying to spur innovation in Wisconsin by forming a $10 million partnership that will make investments, give workspace to startups and encourage innovation among local businesses.
Called TitletownTech and located next to the Packer's Lambeau Field, it will include an 18-week accelerator for companies, a venture capital fund that will invest in those startartups and a lab to help existing business to inject innovation into their firms.
"By combining the Green Bay Packers' deep engagement in this community and our expertise in helping businesses digitally transform, we believe TitletownTech will be a valuable resource for Wisconsin and a model for fostering economic development in other parts of the country," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, in a statement.
The TitletownTech building is planned to open next fall.
A study has found that pregnant women exposed to air pollution (as inferred by their residential addresses, not lung biopsies or something) give birth to babies with shorter telomeres, considered a sign of premature aging damage:
"Reducing exposure to air pollution is a good thing, for both the parents and for the unborn baby," said Pam Factor-Litvak, author of an accompanying editorial and a public health researcher at Columbia University in New York. "Prenatal exposure to air pollution is associated with a host of adverse outcomes," Factor-Litvak said by email.
For the study, Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Diepenbeek, Belgium, and colleagues examined telomere length from samples of cord blood and placental tissue for 641 newborns in the Flanders region. They also looked at mothers' exposure to pollutants known as PM 2.5, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that can include dust, dirt, soot and smoke and are often found in traffic exhaust.
Some previous research has linked exposure to traffic fumes and air pollution to higher odds of infertility as well as an increased risk of delivering underweight or premature babies. Prior research has also linked shorter telomeres to an increased risk of a variety of chronic health problems in adults, including heart disease and cancer.
Also at CleanTechnica.
Prenatal Air Pollution and Newborns' Predisposition to Accelerated Biological Aging (open, DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3024) (DX)
Editorial: Environmental Exposures, Telomere Length at Birth, and Disease Susceptibility in Later Life (DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3562) (DX)
A Government Accountability Office report has found that the U.S. is unlikely to produce enough Plutonium-238 for NASA missions about a decade from now. The isotope has been used in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) on missions such as Voyager, Cassini, and the Mars Science Laboratory:
Another GAO report notes: "[...], DOE currently maintains about 35 kilograms (kg) [77 pounds] of Pu-238 isotope designated for NASA missions, about half of which meets power specifications for spaceflight. However, given NASA's current plans for solar system exploration, this supply could be exhausted within the next decade."
[...] To address the plutonium problem, in 2011 NASA provided funding to the Department of Energy (DOE) to restart domestic production of the substance. The program is called the Pu-238 Supply Project. So far, the Project has produced ∼3.5 ounces (100 grams) of Pu-238. DOE identified an interim goal of producing 10 to 17.5 ounces (300 to 500 grams) of new Pu-238 per year by 2019. The goal is to produce 1.5 kilograms of new Pu-238 per year—considered full production—by 2023, at the earliest.
GAO is questioning the Supply Project's ability to meet its goal of producing 1.5 kilograms of new Pu-238 per year by 2026. For one thing, the oversight agency's interviews with DOE officials revealed that the agency hasn't perfected the chemical processing required to extract new Pu-238 from irradiated targets to meet production goals.
Only one DOE reactor is currently qualified to make Pu-238:
NASA's plutonium will be produced at two of these reactors, but only one of them is currently qualified to make Pu-238. GAO reported that initial samples of the new Pu-238 did not meet spaceflight specifications because of impurities. However, according to DOE, the samples can be blended and used with existing Pu-238.