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posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @11:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-say-emergency dept.

After some initial confusion about the White House's plans earlier in the week, President Trump has followed the recommendation of the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and declared the opioid crisis to be a national emergency. He has promised to spend "a lot" of time, effort, and money to combat the problem:

Among the other recommendations were to rapidly increase treatment capacity for those who need substance abuse help; to establish and fund better access to medication-assisted treatment programs; and to make sure that health care providers are aware of the potential for misuse and abuse of prescription opioids by enhancing prevention efforts at medical and dental schools.

President Trump also decried a slowdown in federal prosecutions of drug crimes and a reduction in sentence lengths. Activists and policy experts are wary of an enforcement-heavy approach:

Bill Piper, senior director for the Drug Policy Alliance, told CNN Tuesday that stricter enforcement "has never worked" and the President would be "better focusing on the treatment side of things." "A supply side approach to drugs has never worked," Piper said. "That is what has been tried for decades and it has failed for every drug it has applied to, including alcohol during Prohibition. As long as there has been and[sic] demand for drugs, there will be a supply." Trump would not be the first administration to crack down on drug use by focusing on enforcement, but Piper said doing so would play into a desire to "sound tough," not actually solve the problem. "It makes it look like they are doing something even when they are not," Piper said.

Trump also advocated for more abstinence-based treatment to combat the opioid crisis. "The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don't start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off," Trump said. That sort of strategy advocates for targeting kids and young adults with anti-drug messaging, evocative of the "Just Say No" ad campaign of the 1980s and early 1990s.

This crisis is serious, folks:

"It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up, they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There's never been anything like what's happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @09:50PM   Printer-friendly

At Defcon in Las Vegas last month, word rapidly spread that two speakers—members of Salesforce's internal "red team"—had been fired by a senior executive from Salesforce "as they left the stage." Those two speakers, who presented under their Twitter handles, were Josh "FuzzyNop" Schwartz, Salesforce's director of offensive security, and John Cramb, a senior offensive security engineer.

Schwartz and Cramb were presenting the details of their tool, called Meatpistol. It's a "modular malware implant framework" similar in intent to the Metasploit toolkit used by many penetration testers, except that Meatpistol is not a library of common exploits, and it is not intended for penetration testing. The tool was anticipated to be released as open source at the time of the presentation, but Salesforce has held back the code.

[...] Schwartz had reportedly gotten prior approval to speak at Defcon from Salesforce management, and he was working toward getting approval to open-source Meatpistol (which is currently in a very rough "alpha" state but was at use internally at Salesforce). But at the last moment, Salesforce's management team had a change of heart, and it was trying to get the talk pulled. As ZDNet's Zach Whittaker reports, a Salesforce executive sent a text message to Schwartz and Cramb an hour before their scheduled talk, telling the pair not to announce the public release of the code.

[...] A Salesforce spokesperson contacted by Ars would not comment, stating, "We don't comment on matters involving individual employees."

Source: Ars Technica

Also at ZDNet and The Register

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @08:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the puffery-piece dept.

Oregon has joined California, Hawaii, Maine, and New Jersey in raising the minimum age limit for purchasing tobacco and related products to 21:

Oregon is raising the minimum age for buying tobacco and e-cigarettes in the state to 21, bringing its regulations into line with sales of marijuana products.

The new law, signed by Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday and taking effect on Jan. 1, bans under-21s from buying tobacco products and vaping devices, and makes vendors liable for fines for under-age sales.

The current age limit in the state is 18.

Previously: California's Legal Smoking Age Set to Rise to 21

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @06:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the refurbishing-your-model-T-cells dept.

Proinsulin peptide immunotherapy has reportedly been shown to be safe in patients who have newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. The goal is to slow or halt the progression of diabetes, which seems to be more effective the earlier the treatment can be given:

The first trial of a pioneering therapy to retrain the immune system and slow the advance of type 1 diabetes has shown it is safe. The disease is caused by the body destroying cells in the pancreas that control blood sugar levels. The immunotherapy - tested on 27 people in the UK - also showed signs of slowing the disease, but this needs confirming in larger trials. Experts said the advance could one day free people from daily injections.

[...] The trial focused on patients newly diagnosed with type 1 as they still have about a fifth of their beta cells left.

The study only included 27 participants and has been described as "unconvincing":

"It's an encouraging report, but unconvincing," Kenneth McCormick, MD, director, division of pediatric endocrinology at Children's of Alabama, Birmingham, told Medscape Medical News, noting differences among the groups. "The placebo group at baseline required higher insulin doses and had more elevated glycated hemoglobin, there was significant overlap in data among the groups, and there's a significant difference between the initial insulin dose per kilogram between adults and children."

Metabolic and immune effects of immunotherapy with proinsulin peptide in human new-onset type 1 diabetes (open, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf7779) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @05:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.

Can you hear me now?

An astronaut wandering the moon next year could use a smartphone to call home. A German startup is preparing to set up the first telecommunication infrastructure on the lunar surface.

The German company Part Time Scientists, which originally competed for the Google Lunar X Prize race to the moon, plans to send a lander with a rover in late 2018 to visit the landing site of Apollo 17. (Launched in 1972, this was NASA's final Apollo mission to the moon.) Instead of using a complex dedicated telecommunication system to relay data from the rover to the Earth, the company will rely on LTE technology — the same system used on Earth for mobile phone communications.

"We are cooperating with Vodafone in order to provide LTE base stations on the moon," Karsten Becker, who heads embedded electronics development and integration for the startup, told

Try to get free bandwidth on the Moon, I dare you.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @03:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the color-me-surprised dept.

Consumer Reports has revoked its recommendation of Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets due to poor reliability compared to other brands, as reported by its subscribers:

Consumer Reports is removing its "recommended" designation from four Microsoft laptops and cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor predicted reliability in comparison with most other brands.

To judge reliability, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers about the products they own and use. New studies conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center estimate that 25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership.

Microsoft objects:

"Microsoft's real-world return and support rates for past models differ significantly from Consumer Reports' breakage predictability," Microsoft said in an emailed statement. "We don't believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners' true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation."

Also at CNN, CNBC, and Reuters.

Update: Microsoft blog post.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @02:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the hurry-up-and-stop dept.

Google is struggling to discuss the recent diversity memo controversy internally:

Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, canceled a scheduled all-hands staff meeting—moments before it was scheduled to begin—meant to address concerns over a controversial essay published by former employee James Damore.

In an email to staff, Pichai explained that questions from employees had been leaked and that, in some cases, specific employees' identities were revealed, exposing them to harassment and threats. Instead of today's large-scale meeting, which was to be livestreamed to Google's 60,000 employees worldwide, smaller groups will meet sometime in the future.

"We had hoped to have a frank open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally," Pichai said in the email.

Also at CNET.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @12:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the CRISPR-critters dept.

Two teams of scientists have used CRISPR to create genetically modified ants for the first time. Another team used an insect brain hormone to alter ant behavior:

The gene-editing technology called CRISPR has revolutionized the way that the function of genes is studied. So far, CRISPR has been widely used to precisely modify single-celled organisms and, more importantly, specific types of cells within more complex organisms. Now, two independent teams of investigators are reporting that CRISPR has been used to manipulate ant eggs—leading to germline changes that occur in every cell of the adult animals throughout the entire ant colony. The papers appear August 10 in Cell.

"These studies are proof of principle that you can do genetics in ants," says Daniel Kronauer, an assistant professor at The Rockefeller University and senior author of one of the studies. "If you're interested in studying social behaviors and their genetic basis, ants are a good system. Now, we can knock out any gene that we think will influence social behavior and see its effects."

Because they live in colonies that function like superorganisms, ants are also a valuable model for studying complex biological systems. But ant colonies have been difficult to grow and study in the lab because of the complexity of their life cycles.

The teams found a way to work around that, using two different species of ants. The Rockefeller team employed a species called clonal raider ants (Ooceraea biroi), which lacks queens in their colonies. Instead, single unfertilized eggs develop as clones, creating large numbers of ants that are genetically identical through parthogenesis. "This means that by using CRISPR to modify single eggs, we can quickly grow up colonies containing the gene mutation we want to study," Kronauer says.

orco Mutagenesis Causes Loss of Antennal Lobe Glomeruli and Impaired Social Behavior in Ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.001) (DX)

An engineered orco mutation produces aberrant social behavior and defective neural development in ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.06.051) (DX)

The neuropeptide corazonin controls social behavior and caste identity in ants (open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.07.014) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @11:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-in-my-safe-space dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

With Governor Roy Cooper (D) taking no action on the bill, the state of North Carolina has enacted the Restore Campus Free Speech Act, the first comprehensive campus free-speech legislation based on the Goldwater proposal. That proposal, which I [Stanley Kurtz (Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center)] co-authored along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher of Arizona's Goldwater Institute, was released on January 31 and is now under consideration in several states. It's fitting that North Carolina should be the first state to enact a Goldwater-inspired law.

[...] The North Carolina Restore Campus Free Speech Act achieves most of what the Goldwater proposal sets out to do. It ensures that University of North Carolina policy will strongly affirm the importance of free expression. It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers whom members of the campus community wish to hear from. It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others, and ensures that students will be informed of those sanctions at freshman orientation. It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself. And it authorizes a special committee created by the Board of Regents to issue a yearly report to the public, the regents, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @09:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the bacon++ dept.

eGenesis Bio, a startup co-founded by George Church and Luhan Yang, has used CRISPR/Cas9 to inactivate Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus (PERV) in piglets. It is one step towards the creation of pig organs that could be transplanted into humans:

"This is the first publication to report on PERV-free pig production," Yang, who is chief scientific officer at Egenesis, said in a news release. [...] There are two huge hurdles to getting animal-organ transplants to successfully work in humans — a process known as xenotransplantation. The first, Yang told Business Insider in March, is the virology, or the fact that pigs carry genes encoded with viruses that could transmit disease to humans — that's the PERV genes that Egenesis is working to deactivate.

The second hurdle, she said, is the immunology. Since the pig organ would be foreign to the body, the person's immune system might try to kick it out, rejecting the organ. Those proved too challenging for a slew of researchers going after this subject in the 1990s [open, DOI: 10.4103/0970-1591.33729] [DX]. Ideally, CRISPR will help tackle those issues "that were insurmountable before," Yang said. "We think the advancement of gene editing can help us address both of them," Yang said.

Also at MIT and The New York Times (picture of cute piglets ready for harvest).

Inactivation of porcine endogenous retrovirus in pigs using CRISPR-Cas9 (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4187) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @07:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the acquiring-stinkeye-next dept.

Intel has completed its acquisition of Mobileye, and is planning to build a fleet of 100 "Level 4" autonomous vehicles:

Fresh off its acquisition of auto-visual company Mobileye, Intel announced today that it will build a fleet of Level 4, fully self-driving vehicles for testing in the US, Israel, and Europe. The first vehicles will hit the road later this year, and the fleet will eventually scale to more than 100 automobiles.

The cars will be Level 4 autonomous, meaning that they will be capable of handing most driving situations themselves, whereas Level 5 is largely theoretical and covers complete automation in any condition.

Intel announced plans to acquire Israel-based Mobileye for $15.3 billion back in March. That deal just closed on Tuesday, spurring the chipmaker to begin making aggressive moves in the emerging self-driving market that Intel itself predicted will come to be worth over $7 trillion. Intel previously said it will spend $250 million over the next two years on the development of autonomous vehicles.

Also at Intel Newsroom.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday August 11 2017, @06:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the Game-On! dept.

Tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess, Go, poker. Artificial intelligence rolled over each of these games like a relentless tide. Now Google's DeepMind is taking on the multiplayer space-war videogame StarCraft II. No one expects the robot to win anytime soon. But when it does, it will be a far greater achievement than DeepMind's conquest of Go—and not just because StarCraft is a professional e-sport watched by fans for millions of hours each month.

DeepMind and Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind StarCraft, just released the tools to let AI researchers create bots capable of competing in a galactic war against humans. The bots will see and do all all the things human players can do, and nothing more. They will not enjoy an unfair advantage.

DeepMind and Blizzard also are opening a cache of data from 65,000 past StarCraft II games that will likely be vital to the development of these bots, and say the trove will grow by around half a million games each month. DeepMind applied machine-learning techniques to Go matchups to develop its champion-beating Go bot, AlphaGo. A new DeepMind paper includes early results from feeding StarCraft data to its learning software, and shows it is a long way from mastering the game. And Google is not the only big company getting more serious about StarCraft. Late Monday, Facebook released its own collection of data from 65,000 human-on-human games of the original StarCraft to help bot builders.

[...] Beating StarCraft will require numerous breakthroughs. And simply pointing current machine-learning algorithms at the new tranches of past games to copy humans won't be enough. Computers will need to develop styles of play tuned to their own strengths, for example in multi-tasking, says Martin Rooijackers, creator of leading automated StarCraft player LetaBot. "The way that a bot plays StarCraft is different from how a human plays it," he says. After all, the Wright brothers didn't get machines to fly by copying birds.

Churchill guesses it will be five years before a StarCraft bot can beat a human. He also notes that many experts predicted a similar timeframe for Go—right before AlphaGo burst onto the scene.

Have any Soylentils here experimented with Deep Learning algorithms in a game context? If so how did it go and how did it compare to more traditional opponent strategies?


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @04:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the glass-half-full-or-half-empty dept.

According to a poll conducted by two academic authors and published by The Washington Post, 52 percent of Republicans said they would back a postponement of the next election if Trump called for it.

If Trump and congressional Republicans proposed postponing the election to ensure only eligible citizens could vote, support from Republicans rises to 56 percent.

Pollsters found 47 percent of Republicans think Trump won the popular vote.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @03:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the gives-fireeye-a-whole-new-meaning dept.

Research to be presented at the 2017 USENIX Security Symposium has shown how DNA sequencing software can theoretically be hacked using malware embedded into synthesized DNA:

Researchers at the University of Washington have shown that by changing a little bit of computer code they can insert malware into a strand of DNA that, when read by DNA sequencing software, allows them to remotely control a computer or cause it to suddenly crash.

In a related analysis, the group evaluated the security of 13 software programs commonly used for DNA analysis, and found 11 times as many vulnerabilities as are present in other types of software.

The "hack" required the team to add a buffer overflow vulnerability into the open source program fqzcomp, so it doesn't reflect a real world risk. But there may be other issues at labs:

Anyone who creates an account at DNA research institutes could also submit sequencing files that could be malicious. Additionally, since bioinformatics software isn't commonly targeted by hackers, the software isn't generally hardened to attacks. They also note patching difficulties since DNA analysis software packages are often aren't[sic] managed in a central code repository.

Quick, let's edit our genomes to add malware!

This research came too late to be used in a CSI script.

Computer Security, Privacy, and DNA Sequencing: Compromising Computers with Synthesized DNA, Privacy Leaks, and More

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Friday August 11 2017, @01:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the happy-or-unaware dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Microsoft claims seven out of ten Windows 10 users are happy with Redmond gulping loads of telemetry from their computers – which isn't that astounding when you realize it's a default option.

In other words, 30 per cent of people have found the switch to turn it off, and the rest haven't, don't realize it's there, or are genuinely OK with the data collection.

Ever since Windows 10 was released, folks have been complaining the operating system is far too grabby and that it allows Redmond to collect huge volumes of intelligence on its users. In April the software giant responded by simplifying the collection.

There's basically two levels in Windows 10 from the Creators Update onwards: basic and full – the full setting includes everything in the basic level plus a load more. Full is the default for Win 10 Home and Pro, otherwise there's basic. Windows 10 Enterprise and Education have full and basic, plus an extra level called security, which transmits a little less about your system than basic.

Essentially, if you're on Home or Pro, you can't tell your OS to not phone home. And, sure, this information – from lists of hardware and apps installed to pen gestures – is useful to Microsoft employees debugging code that's running in the field. But we're all adults here, and some folks would like the option to not have any information leaving their systems.

"... and we welcome your feedback in helping us make [Creators] the best Windows ever," [Marissa] Rogers concluded.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Friday August 11 2017, @12:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the no-bill-of-rights-for-you dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

Can the government ban the text of the First Amendment itself on municipal transit ads because free speech is too "political" for public display? If this sounds like some ridiculous brain teaser, it should. But unfortunately it's not. It's a core claim in a lawsuit we filed today challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) restrictions on controversial advertising.

[...] Earlier this year, following President Trump's repeated commentary denigrating journalists and Muslims, the ACLU decided to remind everyone about that very first promise in the Bill of Rights: that Congress shall make no law interfering with our freedoms of speech and religion. As part of a broad advertising campaign, the ACLU erected ads in numerous places, featuring the text of the First Amendment. Not only in English, but in Spanish and Arabic, too — to remind people that the Constitution is for everyone.

The ACLU inquired about placing our ads with WMATA, envisioning an inspirational reminder of our founding texts, with a trilingual twist, in the transit system of the nation's capital. But it was not to be: Our ad was rejected because WMATA's advertising policies forbid, among many other things, advertisements "intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions" or "intended to influence public policy."

You don't have to be a First Amendment scholar to know that something about that stinks.


Also at NPR.

Original Submission #1   Original Submission #2