FDA Warns Supplement Makers To Stop Touting Cures For Diseases and Cancer
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times:
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday warned 12 sellers of dietary supplements to stop claiming their products can cure diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer to diabetes. At the same time, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency's commissioner, suggested that Congress strengthen the F.D.A.'s authority over an estimated $40 billion industry, which sells as many as 80,000 kinds of powders and pills with little federal scrutiny. These products range from benign substances like vitamin C or fish oil to more risky mineral, herbal and botanical concoctions that can be fatal.
"People haven't wanted to touch this framework or address this space in, really, decades, and I think it's time we do it," Dr. Gottlieb said in an interview. He is particularly concerned about supplements that purport to cure diseases for which consumers should seek medical attention. "We know there are effective therapies that can help patients with Alzheimer's," he said. "But unproven supplements that claim to treat the disease but offer no benefits can prevent patients from seeking otherwise effective care." The companies included TEK Naturals, Pure Nootropics and Sovereign Laboratories. In a letter to TEK Naturals, the F.D.A. and the Federal Trade Commission chastised the company for marketing Mind Ignite as a product "clinically shown to help diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's and even dementia."
Android Phones Can Be Hacked Remotely By Viewing Malicious PNG Image
An innocent-looking image -- sent either via the internet or text -- could open your Android phone up to hacking. "While this certainly doesn't apply to all images, Google
discovered that a maliciously crafted PNG image
could be used to hijack a wide variety of Androids -- those running Android Nougat (7.0), Oreo (8.0), and even the latest Android OS Pie (9.0)," reports CSO Online. From the report:
The latest bulletin lists 42 vulnerabilities in total -- 11 of which are rated as critical. The most severe critical flaw is in Framework; it "could enable a remote attacker using a specially crafted PNG file to execute arbitrary code within the context of a privileged process." Although Google had no report of the security flaws being actively exploited, it remains to be seen if and how long it will take before attackers use the flaw for real-world attacks. Android owners were urged to patch as soon as security updates becomes available. But let's get real: Even if your Android still receives security updates, there's no telling how long it will be (weeks or months) before manufacturers and carriers get it together to push out the patches.
Texas Lawmaker Wants To Ban Mobile Throttling In Disaster Areas
Bobby Guerra, a Democratic member of the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives,
filed a bill last week that
would prohibit wireless carriers from throttling mobile internet service in disaster areas. "A mobile Internet service provider may not impair or degrade lawful mobile Internet service access in an area subject to a declared state of disaster," the bill says. If passed, it would take effect on September 1, 2019. Ars Technica reports:
The bill, reported by NPR affiliate KUT, appears to be a response to Verizon's throttling of an "unlimited" data plan used by Santa Clara County firefighters during a wildfire response in California last year. But Guerra's bill would prohibit throttling in disaster areas of any customer, not just public safety officials. Wireless carriers often sell plans with a set amount of high-speed data and then throttle speeds after a customer has passed the high-speed data limit. Even with so-called "unlimited" plans, carriers reserve the right to throttle speeds once customers use a certain amount of data each month.
Despite the Verizon/Santa Clara incident, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has taken no action to prevent further incidents of throttling during emergencies. Pai's repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules allows throttling as long as the carrier discloses it, and the commission is trying to prevent states from imposing their own net neutrality rules.
Google Docs Gets an API For Task Automation
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Google today announced the general availability of a new API for Google Docs that will allow developers to automate many of the tasks that users typically do manually in the company's online office suite. The API has been in developer preview since last April's Google Cloud Next 2018 and is now available to all developers. As Google notes, the REST API was designed to help developers build workflow automation services for their users, build content management services and create documents in bulk. Using the API, developers can also set up processes that manipulate documents after the fact to update them, and the API also features the ability to insert, delete, move, merge and format text, insert inline images and work with lists, among other things.
The canonical use case here is invoicing, where you need to regularly create similar documents with ever-changing order numbers and line items based on information from third-party systems (or maybe even just a Google Sheet). Google also notes that the API's import/export abilities allow you to use Docs for internal content management systems.
Amazon Is Buying Mesh Router Company Eero
announced that it's acquiring Eero, the maker of mesh home routers. "Amazon says buying Eero
will allow the company to 'help customers better connect smart home devices,'" reports The Verge. "It will certainly make Alexa-compatible gadgets easier to set up if Amazon also controls the router technology. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed." From the report:
Eero kicked off a wave of "smart" mesh router setups designed to overcome the coverage issues and dead zones of traditional routers. Instead of a single router device, multiple access points are used to blanket an entire home or apartment with a strong Wi-Fi signal. The system works as advertised, and it's all controlled with an intuitive smartphone app. Google, Samsung, Linksys, Netgear, and other electronics companies have since followed Eero's lead and released their own mesh bundles.
It sounds as though the Eero brand will live on after the acquisition -- at least in the near term. "By joining the Amazon family, we're excited to learn from and work closely with a team that is defining the future of the home, accelerate our mission, and bring Eero systems to more customers around the globe," said Nick Weaver, Eero's co-founder and CEO. Amazon isn't saying much about its future plans for Eero; might we see an Alexa-enabled router? An Echo that doubles as a Wi-Fi access point sounds nice. The report notes that Amazon will now have "more valuable data on consumers and advance Amazon's growing dominance of the smart home." Last year, Amazon
acquired smart doorbell and camera maker Ring and
bought Blink in 2017.
Microsoft Teases HoloLens 2
expected to announce the next generation HoloLens headset at an already announced event on February 24, and the company's doing a bit more to stoke the flames," reports TechCrunch. One of the key people behind the
original HoloLens, Alex Kipman,
tweeted a video showing "vague forms of chips and cables [that] take shape out of melted ice, rocks and air," reports TechCrunch. From the report:
The original headset was ahead of the mixed reality wave, but now that AR is starting to catch on all over the industry, the timing could be right for a big second-generation launch. Reports have suggested a Qualcomm 850 chip and new Project Kinect Sensors. The headset is also said to be cheaper and smaller than its developer-focused predecessor, which could put Microsoft in prime position to push augmented reality forward.
Amy Klobuchar Calls For Net Neutrality 'Guarantee' In 2020 Presidential Announcement
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said she
wanted to "guarantee" net neutrality for all Americans during her 2020 presidential campaign kickoff speech. "[T]he senator bringing it up in her announcement marked perhaps the most high-profile stage the issue has had in terms of recent presidential politics," reports The Daily Dot. From the report:
The Minnesota senator brought up the issue among other technology platform goals, including privacy and cybersecurity. "Way too many politicians have their heads stuck in the sand when it comes to the digital revolution. 'Hey guys, it's not just coming. It's here.' If you don't know the difference between a hack and Slack, it's time to pull off the digital highway," she said. "What would I do as president? We need to put some digital rules of the road into law when it comes to people's privacy."
She added: "For too long the big tech companies have been telling you, don't worry, we've got your back," she said. "While your identities, in fact, are being stolen and your data is being mined. Our laws need to be as sophisticated as the people who are breaking them. We must revamp our nation's cybersecurity and guarantee net neutrality for all. And we need to end the digital divide by pledging to connect every household to the internet by 2022, and that means you, rural America." Other Democrats seeking the 2020 nomination have shown support for net neutrality in the past. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
tweeted late last month about reports suggesting that telecom investments have not risen since the FCC's controversial repeal of net neutrality, calling the decision "another handout to big corporations & telecom giants."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also told a crowd in Iowa last month that she believed "in net neutrality the same way I believe everybody should have access to electricity,"
according to the Washington Post.
Doomsday Docker Security Hole Uncovered
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
One of the great security fears about containers is that an attacker could infect a container with a malicious program, which could escape and attack the host system. Well, we now have a security hole that could be used by such an attack: RunC container breakout, CVE-2019-5736. RunC is the underlying container runtime for Docker, Kubernetes, and other container-dependent programs. It's an open-source command-line tool for spawning and running containers. Docker originally created it. Today, it's an Open Container Initiative (OCI) specification. It's widely used. Chance are, if you're using containers, you're running them on runC.
According to Aleksa Sarai, a SUSE container senior software engineer and a runC maintainer, security researchers Adam Iwaniuk and Borys Popawski discovered a vulnerability, which "allows a malicious container to (with minimal user interaction) overwrite the host runc binary and thus gain root-level code execution on the host. The level of user interaction is being able to run any command (it doesn't matter if the command is not attacker-controlled) as root." To do this, an attacker has to place a malicious container within your system. But, this is not that difficult. Lazy sysadmins often use the first container that comes to hand without checking to see if the software within that container is what it purports to be. Red Hat technical product manager for containers, Scott McCarty, warned: "The disclosure of a security flaw (CVE-2019-5736) in runc and docker illustrates a bad scenario for many IT administrators, managers, and CxOs. Containers represent a move back toward shared systems where applications from many different users all run on the same Linux host. Exploiting this vulnerability means that malicious code could potentially break containment, impacting not just a single container, but the entire container host, ultimately compromising the hundreds-to-thousands of other containers running on it. While there are very few incidents that could qualify as a doomsday scenario for enterprise IT, a cascading set of exploits affecting a wide range of interconnected production systems qualifies...and that's exactly what this vulnerability represents."
Microsoft: 70 Percent of All Security Bugs Are Memory Safety Issues
Around 70 percent of all the vulnerabilities in Microsoft products
addressed through a security update each year are memory safety issues; a Microsoft engineer revealed last week at a security conference. From a report:
Memory safety is a term used by software and security engineers to describe applications that access the operating system's memory in a way that doesn't cause errors. Memory safety bugs happen when software, accidentally or intentionally, accesses system memory in a way that exceeds its allocated size and memory addresses. Users who often read vulnerability reports come across terms over and over again. Terms like buffer overflow, race condition, page fault, null pointer, stack exhaustion, heap exhaustion/corruption, use after free, or double free -- all describe memory safety vulnerabilities. Speaking at the BlueHat security conference in Israel last week, Microsoft security engineer Matt Miller said that over the last 12 years, around 70 percent of all Microsoft patches were fixes for memory safety bugs.
Tobacco Use is Soaring Among US Kids, Driven By E-cigarettes
Public health officials Monday said there's a growing epidemic of tobacco products currently used by children -- 4.9 million high school and middle school kids used tobacco products in 2018
up from 3.6 million in 2017 -- mainly due to a growth in e-cigarette usage. From a report:
For the fifth year in a row, e-cigs were the most popular product amongst high school students, but in 2018 it reached unprecedented epidemic levels, with the addition of another 1.5 million kids, said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Current users" are defined as people who've used a tobacco product in past 30 days. "Frequent users" are defined as people who've used the product for more than 20 out of the past 30 days.
Software Engineer Loses Life Savings in Quadriga Imbroglio
Tong Zou wasn't a stereotypical crypto bro bent on accumulating flashy trophies such as Lamborghinis when he deposited his life savings into Quadriga CX's digital exchange. The 30-year-old software engineer, who'd been working in California for seven years, just wanted to save a few bucks on transfer fees after deciding to move to Vancouver. It
proved to be a C$560,000 ($422,000) mistake. From a report:
"It's all my savings, so I'm just living on what little I have left and trying to start over," Zou said in a phone interview Friday from Vancouver, where he has been living out of an AirBnB for the past month. "It pretty much took everything away from me." Zou is one of Quadriga's 115,000 clients who are out of luck after the sudden death of the firm's founder left C$190 million in cryptocurrencies protected by his passwords unretrievable. The exchange has halted operations and was granted protection from creditors on Feb. 5 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.
Young People Who Play Video Games Have Higher Moral Reasoning Skills
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Young people who play video games, including violent titles, display more developed moral reasoning skills than their non-gaming peers, a study has found. Researchers from Bournemouth University asked 166 adolescents aged between 11 and 18-years old about their video game habits and questions designed to measure their moral development -- the thought process behind determining what is right or wrong. The children and teenagers who said they played more video games from a wide variety of genres had increased moral reasoning scores, including titles containing violent content. Violent games were found to have a positive relationship with moral reasoning while mature content was more likely to produce a negative one, the report published in published in journal Frontiers in Psychology found.
Hawaii Lawmakers Chewing on Ban of Plastic Utensils, Bottles and Food Containers
Plastic bags are out. Plastic straws are on their way out. Now Hawaii lawmakers want to take things a big step further. From a report:
They're considering an outright ban on all sorts of single-use plastics common in the food and beverage industry, from plastic bottles to plastic utensils to plastic containers. Senate Bill 522 has already passed through two committees and is on its way to two more. Supporters say it's an ambitious and broad measure that would position Hawaii as a leader in the nation -- and ensure that Hawaii's oceans have a fighting chance as the global plastic pollution problem worsens. But others worry about the practicality of such a proposal.
It's the Real World -- With Google Maps Layered on Top
Google has started to roll out
augmented reality navigation feature in its Maps app for some users. The company
told the Wall Street Journal that the walking-focused feature will be available shortly, but only to Local Guides (community reviewers) at first. The feature will need "more testing" before it's available to everyone else, Google said. Still, this suggests AR route-finding is much closer to becoming a practical reality. Google Maps uses GPS to get a basic idea of where you are, and then relies on the camera to get a much more exact location with 3D arrows hovering over the places you need to turn. Notably, though, Google doesn't want you to rely too heavily on AR to get around.
Developer Releases Windows 95 OS as an App For Windows 10, macOS and Linux
writing for BetaNews:
The company that
aimed to put humanity on the red planet has
met an unfortunate, but wholly-expected end.
Mars One Ventures, the for-profit arm of the Mars One mission was declared bankrupt back in January, but wasn't reported until a keen-eyed Redditor found the listing. It was the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, previously the founder of green energy company Ampyx Power. Lansdorp's aim was to start a company that could colonize one of our nearest neighbors. Mars One was split into two ventures, the non-profit Mars One Foundation and the for-profit Mars One Ventures. The Swiss-based Ventures AG was declared bankrupt by a Basel court on January 15th and was, at the time, valued at almost $100 million. Mars One Ventures PLC, the UK-registered branch, is listed as a dormant company with less than $25,000 in its accounts. There is no data available on the non-profit Mars One Foundation, which funded itself by charging its commercial partner licensing fees. Speaking to Engadget, Bas Lansdorp said that the Foundation is still operating, but won't be able to act without further investment. Lansdorp declined to give further comment beyond saying that he was working with other parties "to find a solution."
Trump Administration Unveils Order To Prioritize and Promote AI
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday will sign an executive order asking federal government agencies to
dedicate more resources and investment into research, promotion and training on artificial intelligence (AI),
Reuters reports, citing a senior administration official said. From the report:
Under the American AI Initiative, the administration will direct agencies to prioritize AI investments in research and development, increase access to federal data and models for that research and prepare workers to adapt to the era of AI. There was no specific funding announced for the initiative, the administration official said on a conference call, adding that it called for better reporting and tracking of spending on AI-related research and development. The initiative aims to make sure the United States keeps its research and development advantage in AI and related areas, such as advanced manufacturing and quantum computing. Trump, in his State of the Union speech last week, said he was willing to work with lawmakers to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future, calling it a "necessity."
Russia To Disconnect From the Internet as Part of a Planned Test
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reports. From a report:
The reason for the experiment is to gather insight and provide feedback and modifications to a proposed law introduced in the Russian Parliament in December 2018. A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet. In addition, Russian telecom firms would also have to install "technical means" to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia's telecom watchdog.
Wayward Satellites Test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American:
In August 2014 a rocket launched the fifth and sixth satellites of the Galileo global navigation system, the European Union's $11-billion answer to the U.S.'s GPS. But celebration turned to disappointment when it became clear that the satellites had been dropped off at the wrong cosmic "bus stops." Instead of being placed in circular orbits at stable altitudes, they were stranded in elliptical orbits useless for navigation. The mishap, however, offered a rare opportunity for a fundamental physics experiment. Two independent research teams -- one led by Pacome Delva of the Paris Observatory in France, the other by Sven Herrmann of the University of Bremen in Germany -- monitored the wayward satellites to look for holes in Einstein's general theory of relativity.
Einstein's theory predicts time will pass more slowly close to a massive object, which means that a clock on Earth's surface should tick at a more sluggish rate relative to one on a satellite in orbit. This time dilation is known as gravitational redshift. Any subtle deviation from this pattern might give physicists clues for a new theory that unifies gravity and quantum physics. Even after the Galileo satellites were nudged closer to circular orbits, they were still climbing and falling about 8,500 kilometers twice a day. Over the course of three years Delva's and Herrmann's teams watched how the resulting shifts in gravity altered the frequency of the satellites' super-accurate atomic clocks. In a previous gravitational redshift test, conducted in 1976, when the Gravity Probe-A suborbital rocket was launched into space with an atomic clock onboard, researchers observed that general relativity predicted the clock's frequency shift with an uncertainty of 1.4 x 10-4. The new studies, published last December in Physical Review Letters, again verified Einstein's prediction -- and increased that precision by a factor of 5.6. So, for now, the century-old theory still reigns.
New Images of the Distant Ultima Thule Object Have Surprised Scientists
Iwastheone shares a report from Ars Technica:
Back in early January, when scientists pulled down their first batch of data from the New Horizons spacecraft, they celebrated an odd snowman-shaped object in the outer Solar System. From this first look, it appeared as though Ultima Thule, formally named 2014 MU69, consisted of two spheres in contact with one another -- a contact binary. Now that scientists have downloaded more data from the distant spacecraft, however, our view of Ultima Thule has changed. A sequence of images captured as New Horizons moved away from the object in the Kuiper Belt at a velocity of 50,000 km/hour, taken about 10 minutes after closest approach, show a much flatter appearance. After analyzing these new images, scientists say the larger lobe more closely resembles a large pancake, and the smaller lobe looks a bit like a walnut. The new photos reveal a dramatically different object because they were taken from a different angle than the images that were downloaded first. As planetary scientist Alex Parker
noted on Twitter, "The larger lobe looks to have a shape similar to some of the pancake moons of Saturn, like Atlas." However, Saturn's moons were believed to have formed near the gas giant, in the midst of its rings, rather than in deep space.
New Long-Spined Dinosaur With 'Mohawk of Large Spikes' Discovered In Patagonia
"Researchers in Argentina have
discovered a new Sauropod with unusually long spikes protruding forward from its body," writes Slashdot reader
dryriver. The findings have been
published in the journal Scientific Reports. ScienceAlert reports:
Living 140 million years ago in the early Lower Cretaceous, the newly discovered herbivore Bajadasaurus pronuspinax had a thing for growing spikes. It was part of the Sauropod family, but looked a little like a small Brontosaurus crossed with a porcupine. "The sauropods are the big dinosaurs with long necks and long tails, but specifically this is a small family within the sauropods which were about 9 or 10 meters in length," paleontologist Pablo Gallina from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina told Agencia EFE. Bajadasaurus was a species of this small family, called Dicraeosauridae, all of which have similar spines on their necks. When the researchers discovered the fossils of this previously unknown dinosaur in Patagonia, Argentina, the remains included not only most of the skull, but a whole spine bone. This gave the researchers the chance to investigate what these spines might have been used for. "We believe that the long and sharp spines -- very long and thin -- on the neck and back of Bajadasaurus and Amargasaurus cazaui (another dicraeosaurid) must have been to deter possible predators," explained Gallina to AFP.'
Insects Could Vanish Within a Century At Current Rate of Decline, Says Global Review
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
The world's insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a "catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems," according to the first global scientific review. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century. The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are "essential" for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.
Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: "The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet. The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanization and climate change are also significant factors. "One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects," the study says, noting a recent study in Puerto Rico where there was a
98% fall in ground insects over 35 years. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit.