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Google's AMP project is not uncontroversial. Users often love it because it makes mobile sites load almost instantly. Publishers often hate it because they feel like they are giving Google too much control in return for better placement on its search pages. Now Google proposes to bring some of the lessons it learned from AMP to the web as a whole. Ideally, this means that users will profit from Google's efforts and see faster non-AMP sites across the web (and not just in their search engines).
Publishers, however, will once again have to adopt a whole new set of standards for their sites, but with this, Google is also giving them a new path to be included in the increasingly important Top Stories carousel on its mobile search results pages.
"Based on what we learned from AMP, we now feel ready to take the next step and work to support more instant-loading content not based on AMP technology in areas of Google Search designed for this, like the Top Stories carousel," AMP tech lead Malte Ubl writes today. "This content will need to follow a set of future web standards and meet a set of objective performance and user experience criteria to be eligible."
Researchers say they may have worked out why there is a natural loss of muscle in the legs as people age - and that it is due to a loss of nerves. In tests on 168 men, they found that nerves controlling the legs decreased by around 30% by the age of 75. This made muscles waste away, but in older fitter athletes there was a better chance of them being 'rescued' by nerves re-connecting. The scientists published their research in the Journal of Physiology.
As people get older, their leg muscles become smaller and weaker, leading to problems with everyday movements such as walking up stairs or getting out of a chair.
A group linked to Luis Elizondo, the former leader of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, as well as other former military and government officials, has released a video showing a 2015 UFO encounter involving U.S. Navy pilots:
A newly-released video which shows U.S. Navy pilots encountering an unidentified flying object (UFO) in 2015 has garnered calls for more research into what these mysterious objects could be. "What the f--- is that thing?" one pilot can be heard saying in the video. "Wow, what is that, man?" the pilot adds. "Look at that flying!"
The footage was released Friday by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science (TTSA), a private scientific research and media group. It is led by Dr. Hal Puthoff, a NASA and U.S. Department of Defense adviser and James Semivan, a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency service member. The clip is said to be "an authentic DoD video that captures the high-speed flight of an unidentified aircraft at low altitude" and "reveals a previously undisclosed Navy encounter that occurred off the East Coast in 2015," according to a statement from TTSA.
From my work with To the Stars Academy, which seeks to raise private funds to investigate incidents like the 2004 Nimitz encounter, I know they continue to occur, because we are being approached by military personnel who are concerned about national security and frustrated by how the Defense Department is handling such reports. I am also familiar with the evidence as a former Pentagon intelligence official and a consultant who began researching the issue after the Nimitz incident was brought to my attention. On several occasions, I have met with senior Pentagon officials, and at least one followed up and obtained briefings confirming incidents such as the Nimitz case. But nobody wants to be "the alien guy" in the national security bureaucracy; nobody wants to be ridiculed or sidelined for drawing attention to the issue. This is true up and down the chain of command, and it is a serious and recurring impediment to progress.
According to the report, ethical problems remain even when a user voluntarily consents to their CPU being used for mining, as the user might not fully understand that to which they are signing. While they might benefit from a lack of ads or higher quality video streaming on the site, they could also be stuck with "higher energy bills, along with accelerated device degradation, slower system performance, and a poor web experience."
Also, economics are addressed to a more limited extent. From the actual report:
While visits to parked domains are considerably shorter than an average website, the data spans a period of three months and gives some insight into the profitability of cryptojacking. During the experimental period of about 3 months, they accumulated 105 580 user sessions for an average of 24 seconds per session. For the period examined, the revenue was 0.02417 XMR (Monero's currency) which at the time of writing is valued at $7.69 USD.
In other words, cryptojacking burns a lot of electricity, slows down the CPU, degrades the web experience, and in return pays the malfeasants a pittance.
From Arxiv.org : A First Look at Browser-based Cryptojacking (warning for PDF).
The Pokemon Company is teaming up with a city in Singapore to raise crime awareness.
The Jurong division of the Singapore Police Force launched a week long Pokemon-themed crime prevention campaign on Saturday, March 10th. The event, which coincides with school holidays in Singapore, is designed to teach kids how to prevent crime.
The centerpiece of the campaign are Pokemon game booths at a mall in Jurong West, along with an invasion of oversized Pikachu mascots. Kids can get pictures with Pikachu and watch them dance, while learning some handy lessons about crime in the process.
What will Pikachu/The Pokémon Company teach kids about crime?
The Singapore Police Force hopes to pass along three messages to children (and their parents) with the new Pokemon campaign:
- Don't take dimly lit shortcuts.
- Don't buy counterfeit goods.
- Don't use your phone while driving.
Also at The Star.
Professor Steve Bellovin at the computer science department at Columbia University in New York City writes in his blog about early design decisions for Usenet. In particular he addresses authentication and the factors taken into consideration given the technology available at the time. After considering the infeasiblity of many options at the time, they ultimately threw up their hands.
That left us with no good choices. The infrastructure for a cryptographic solution was lacking. The uux command rendered illusory any attempts at security via the Usenet programs themselves. We chose to do nothing. That is, we did not implement fake security that would give people the illusion of protection but not the reality.
For those unfamiliar with it, Usenet is a text-based, worldwide, decentralized, distributed discussion system. Basically it can be likened to a bulletin board system of sorts. Servers operate peer to peer while users connect to their preferred server using a regular client-server model. It was a key source of work-related discussion, as well as entertainment and regular news. Being uncensorable, it was a key source of news during several major political crises around the world during the 1980s and early 1990s. Being uncensorable, it has gained the ire of both large businesses and powerful politicians. It used to be an integral part of any ISP's offerings even 15 years ago. Lack of authentication has been both a strength and a weakness. Professor Bellovin sheds some light on how it came to be like that.
Despite weaknesses, Usenet gave rise to among many other things the now defunct Clarinet news, which is regarded to be the first exclusively online business.
The fear that CRISPR-based genome repair for preventing or treating genetic diseases will be derailed by "editing gone wild" has begun to abate, scientists who are developing the technique say. Although there are still concerns that CRISPR might run amok inside patients and cause dangerous DNA changes, recent advances suggest that the risk is not as high as earlier research suggested and that clever molecular engineering can minimize it.
"Progress is being made at a pretty stunning rate," said biochemist David Liu, of Harvard University and the Broad Institute, who has developed several versions of CRISPR. A parade of new discoveries, he said, "suggests that it's possible to use these genome-editing tools and not make unintended edits."
Many groups are trying to do better, and now, a team led by chemist David Liu at Harvard University has engineered a version of CRISPR that potentially is both more dexterous and more precise.
[...] The new work, reported online in the 28 February issue of Nature, modifies the Cas9 enzyme, creating at least four times as many potential docking sites. In theory, this could allow researchers to, say, cripple or replace many parts of genes associated with human disease that CRISPR currently cannot touch.
Evolved Cas9 variants with broad PAM compatibility and high DNA specificity (DOI: 10.1038/nature26155) (DX)
For the first time, researchers have discovered strains of a deadly, multidrug-resistant bacterium that uses a cryptic method to also evade colistin, an antibiotic used as a last-resort treatment. That's according to a study of US patients published this week by Emory University researchers in the open-access microbiology journal mBio.
The wily and dangerous bacteria involved are carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae or CRKP, which are already known to resist almost all antibiotics available, including other last-line antibiotics called carbapenems. The germs tend to lurk in clinical settings and can invade the urinary tract, bloodstream, and soft tissues. They're members of a notorious family of multidrug-resistant pathogens, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which collectively have mortality rates as high as 50 percent and have spread rapidly around the globe in recent years. A 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that there were more than 9,300 CRE infections in the US each year, leading to 600 deaths. Both the CDC and the World Health Organization have listed CRE as one of the critical drug-resistant threats to public health, in need of "urgent and aggressive action."
That's what we knew about CRKP before this week.
In the new study, the Emory researchers discovered two strains of CRKP—isolated from the urine of patients in Atlanta, Georgia—that can also resist colistin. But they do so in a poorly understood, surreptitious way. At first, they appear vulnerable to the potent antibiotic in standard clinical tests, but with more advanced testing and exposure to the drug, they reveal that they can indeed survive it. In mice, the strains caused infections that couldn't be cured by colistin and the mice died of the infections. Mice infected with typical CRKP were all saved with colistin.
Burger-flipper has job safety from the AI automation robots. Test runs of Flippy the Burger Flipping robot apparently didn't last more than a day, before Flippy was let go. Apparently he wasn't fast enough, lacked social skills and other workers had to work around him and his giant burger flipping arm. Flippy 2.0 (or whatever) will probably return one day with new burger flipping artificial intelligence, an improved arm and one of them funny Hawkings-like voice boxes so he can chit-chat with the other co-workers.
"Mostly it's the timing," he said. "When you're in the back, working with people, you talk to each other. With Flippy, you kind of need to work around his schedule. Choreographing the movements of what you do, when and how you do it."
The San Francisco Chronicle reports
A San Francisco technology company laid off a group of software engineers as they were trying to join a labor union, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Communications Workers of America [CWA] claims Lanetix, which makes cloud-based software for transportation and logistics companies, violated federal labor laws by cutting 14 software engineers in January in San Francisco and Arlington, Va.
Most of the engineers were fired [January 26], about 10 days after they filed a petition seeking union representation, according to the complaint filed by the CWA's Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. A hearing to determine a date to hold the union vote was scheduled for [February 1].
[...] While unions have made inroads in representing Silicon Valley bus drivers, security officers, food service workers, and custodians, the Lanetix case could break new ground because union activity is still unusual for software engineers, who are generally highly paid and in short supply, labor lawyers said.
[...] there are [reasons other than gripes about pay, whereby] unions can attract higher-paid tech workers, including "if you feel mistreated by the company or if you feel there's favoritism going on or lack of job security", said labor law attorney Steve Hirschfeld, founding partner of Hirschfeld Kraemer of San Francisco.
"There's a myth that if you're a highly paid employee, you either can't join a union or wouldn't be interested", Hirschfeld said.
The Lanetix case is "significant because it is a tech company and they're well-paid engineers", he said. "That's still a rarity today for that group of employees to be organized. (But) the feeling among many tech workers is that they're viewed as being expendable."
[...] The Lanetix engineers signed union cards to join the CWA's Washington-Baltimore News Guild. (The Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents some San Francisco Chronicle employees, is also affiliated with the CWA.) According to the complaint filed with the board, the union said Lanetix began "threatening and coercing employees" for engaging in union activities starting in November. The complaint said one engineer was fired for participating in group discussions on Slack, an internal messaging service.
The union filed a petition with the board on Jan. 16 to represent the workers. The company terminated "all engineers and senior engineers in retaliation for demanding recognition", the complaint said.
The engineers were called into a meeting and told of layoffs due to the company's lackluster fourth quarter performance, CWA organizer Melinda Fiedler told Bloomberg Law.
"By the time they left that meeting, their computers were gone", Fiedler said.
Cet Parks, executive director of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said the workers were told the company was moving engineering offices to Europe.
App developer Panic Inc. knew it had a network problem when customers began complaining about trouble downloading and updating Panic apps.
"Geez, your downloads are really slow!" was the common complaint that started coming in a few months ago, Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser explained in a blog post titled, "The Mystery of the Slow Downloads."
But once the mystery cleared up, it all made sense. Panic and its users were the innocent victims of a longstanding network interconnection battle between cable ISP Comcast and Cogent, which operates a global network that carries traffic across the Internet.
The situation will only get worse once the Net Neutrality appeal process is complete.
A startup called Swarm Technologies has had its authorization for an upcoming satellite launch revoked by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after it flew four satellites on an Indian rocket without receiving authorization from the FCC:
On 12 January, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket blasted off from India's eastern coast. While its primary cargo was a large Indian mapping satellite, dozens of secondary CubeSats from other countries travelled along with it. Seattle-based Planetary Resources supplied a spacecraft that will test prospecting tools for future asteroid miners, Canadian company Telesat launched a broadband communications satellite, and a British Earth-observation mission called Carbonite will capture high-definition video of the planet's surface.
Also on board were four small satellites that probably should not have been there. SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4 were briefly described by the Indian space agency ISRO as "two-way satellite communications and data relay" devices from the United States. No operator was specified, and only ISRO publicly noted that they successfully reached orbit the same day.
[...] The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm's application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.
On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm's system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.
The concept uses satellites to send Internet of Things (IoT) device data to the Internet. Solar-powered gateways would collect data from nearby IoT devices, and beam it to a SpaceBEE satellite using VHF radio. The data would then be beamed down to Internet-connected ground stations.
The company was denied approval to launch 10 cm × 10 cm × 2.8 cm sized SpaceBEEs due to the craft being too small to reliably track using the United States Space Surveillance Network.
Intel's first Optane products hit the market almost a year ago, putting the much-awaited 3D XPoint memory in the hands of consumers. Today, Intel broadens that family with the Optane SSD 800p, pushing the Optane brand closer to the mainstream.
The new Optane SSD 800p is an M.2 NVMe SSD using Intel's 3D XPoint memory instead of flash memory. The 800p is based on the same hardware platform as last year's Optane Memory M.2 drive, which was intended primarily for caching purposes (but could also be used as a boot drive with a sufficiently small operating system). That means the 800p uses a PCIe 3 x2 link and Intel's first-generation 3D XPoint memory—but more of it, with usable capacities of 58GB and 118GB compared to just 16GB and 32GB from last year's Optane Memory. The PCB layout has been tweaked and the sticker on the drive no longer has a foil layer to act as a heatspreader, but the most significant design changes are to the drive firmware, which now supports power management including a low power idle state.
Prices are $129 and $199.
Also at ZDNet.
The Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto, reports finding indications of use of Sandvine/Procera Networks Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) devices to deliver malware.
- Through Internet scanning, we found deep packet inspection (DPI) middleboxes on Türk Telekom's network. The middleboxes were being used to redirect hundreds of users in Turkey and Syria to nation-state spyware when those users attempted to download certain legitimate Windows applications.
- We found similar middleboxes at a Telecom Egypt demarcation point. On a number of occasions, the middleboxes were apparently being used to hijack Egyptian Internet users' unencrypted web connections en masse, and redirect the users to revenue-generating content such as affiliate ads and browser cryptocurrency mining scripts.
- After an extensive investigation, we matched characteristics of the network injection in Turkey and Egypt to Sandvine PacketLogic devices. We developed a fingerprint for the injection we found in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt and matched our fingerprint to a second-hand PacketLogic device that we procured and measured in a lab setting.
- The apparent use of Sandvine devices to surreptitiously inject malicious and dubious redirects for users in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt raises significant human rights concerns.
The report concludes with a call to make HTTPS ubiquitous. However, the report fails to mention the flaws in the certificate model itself used by HTTPS. That is another can of worms.
Eight members of a German far-right group were sentenced to jail Wednesday on terrorism and attempted murder charges for a series of explosives attacks targeting refugees and anti-fascist activists.
Based in Germany's ex-communist east, the so-called "Freital group" had sought to create "a climate of fear" at the height of Germany's refugee and migrant influx in 2015, the court was told.
Its leaders Timo Schulz and Patrick Festing were sentenced to 10 and nine-and-a-half years prison respectively. The other six received custodial terms of between four and eight-and-a-half years.