An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it's always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they're not used carefully. Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy. In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes. In a second report, a patient suffering from the same condition had a halt in the inexorable loss of vision patients usually experience, which may or may not have been related to the treatment. That patient got a different kind of stem cell derived from skin cells as part of a carefully designed Japanese study. The Japanese case marks the first time anyone has given induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to a patient to treat any condition. The report about the three women in their 70s and 80s who were blinded in Florida is renewing calls for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the hundreds of clinics that are selling unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke.
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hey! writes: The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has released a budget "blueprint" which outlines substantial cuts in both basic research and applied technology funding. The proposal includes a whopping 18% reduction in National Institutes of Health medical research. NIH does get a new $500 million fund to track emerging infectious agents like Zika in the U.S., but loses its funding to monitor those agents overseas. The Department of Energy's research programs also get an 18% cut in research, potentially affecting basic physics research, high energy physics, fusion research, and supercomputing. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) gets the ax, as does the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which enabled Tesla to manufacture its Model S sedan. EPA loses all climate research funding, and about half the research funding targeted at human health impacts of pollution. The Energy Star program is eliminated; Superfund funding is drastically reduced. The Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes cleanup programs are also eliminated, as is all screening of pesticides for endocrine disruption. In the Department of Commerce, Sea Grant is eliminated, along with all coastal zone research funding. Existing weather satellites GOES and JPSS continue funding, but JPSS-3 and -4 appear to be getting the ax. Support for transfer of federally funded research and technology to small and mid-sized manufacturers is eliminated. NASA gets a slight trim, and a new focus on deep space exploration paid for by an elimination of Earth Science programs. You can read more about this "blueprint" in Nature, Science, and the Washington Post, which broke the story. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and Agriculture Department took the hardest hits, while the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs have seen their budgets grow.
One of the biggest downsides to wireless charging is the wire necessary to actually charge your device. You generally need to place your wireless charging-enabled device on a compatible charger, which needs to be plugged into a wall. Well, Sony hopes to make the process of wireless charging a bit easier as it has applied for a patent that will allow you to wirelessly charge your phone straight from someone else's phone. Digital Trends reports: The feature could be very useful. Sure, an ideal situation would be if you had access to a power outlet whenever you needed it, but the fact is we've all experienced being out and about and running out of battery. With Sony's new tech, you could essentially just "steal" power from a friend who might have a slightly more charged up device than you. The patent filling itself was discovered by What Future, and the report notes that the tech may not be limited to phones. Instead, Sony could apply it to things like fridges, microwaves, TVs, computers, and really any kind of electronic device. The idea here is that all of you home devices could eventually become sources of wireless energy -- so your phone will almost always be charging if you're at home, without the need for wires.
For those affected by LG's infamous bootloop issue with the G4 and V10, you might find some joy in this: several (upset) owners of these devices have lodged a proposed class-action lawsuit in a California federal court. They claim that a repeating bootloop issue "renders the phones inoperable and unfit for any use." In other words: bricked. Ars Technica reports: Thousands of complaints about the G4 have been highlighted on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. There was even an online petition to "launch a replacement program for defective LG G4s." Not to be outdone, the V10 has been the subject of many online complaints as well. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday said that LG replaced his G4 two times and that his third G4 constantly freezes. The new phone, says the suit, is "manifesting signs of the bootloop defect and is unmerchantable." A year ago, LG acknowledged the problem with the G4 and said it was the result of "loose contact between components." The company began offering replacement devices and fixes. The suit said that even after the January 2016 announcement, "LG continued to manufacture LG Phones with the bootloop defect." The suit claims that both models' processors were inadequately soldered to the motherboard, rendering them "unable to withstand the heat." Initially, the phones begin to freeze, suffer slowdowns, overheat, and reboot at random. Eventually, the suit says, they fail "entirely."
A federal judge in San Francisco slammed a legal settlement that proposed to pay $2.2 million to lawyers, but nothing to consumers who had the contents of their email scanned by Google without their knowledge or permission. From a report: In a 6-page order, Judge Lucy Koh told Google and class action attorneys the proposed settlement was insufficient, in part because it failed to clearly tell consumers what the search giant had done. "This notice is difficult to understand and does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyzes the content of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purpose of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising for the Gmail users," Koh wrote.
An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you buy a product from Samsung's online store, your name, address, order information and other data may be accessible to anyone who cares to look. Matt Metzger, a self-described "application security engineer" who said he has worked in shipping-industry compliance, wrote Wednesday on Medium about an accidental discovery. Metzger said he ordered a TV from the Samsung online store and was sent a URL to track his delivery. When he followed the URL, he discovered that his tracking number was the same one used for someone else's previous delivery and that he could see sensitive information, such as the person's name and items ordered, without any security measures getting in the way. Metzger also discovered that more information was attached in a TIFF file to his own order after the delivery was completed. The file included his full name, address and signature.Samsung told CNET it is aware of the issue and is looking into it.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the U.S. and around the world, but there's an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing. The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world's next radical shift in how goods are produced. That's because the robot makers -- as in, the robots that make the robots -- could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe. As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall focuses on building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfillment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon. "The robots are coming," Rendall said. "After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people's interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor and there's an appetite for automation that we haven't seen before." While Rendall described himself as one of the optimists, who believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, he said there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust. "China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing," he said, adding that the country is driving "an overwhelming amount" of growth. The difference, he added, is how China is responding to automation, which is by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford's assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.
dcblogs quotes a report from Computerworld: Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are warning that China is "extremely likely" to take leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020, unless the U.S. acts quickly to increase spending. China's supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also U.S. leadership in high-tech manufacturing. If China succeeds, it may "undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy," according to a report titled U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and other agencies. The report stems from a workshop held in September that was attended by 60 people, many scientists, 40 of whom work in government, with the balance representing industry and academia. "Meeting participants, especially those from industry, noted that it can be easy for Americans to draw the wrong conclusions about what HPC investments by China mean -- without considering China's motivations," the report states. "These participants stressed that their personal interactions with Chinese researchers and at supercomputing centers showed a mindset where computing is first and foremost a strategic capability for improving the country; for pulling a billion people out of poverty; for supporting companies that are looking to build better products, or bridges, or rail networks; for transitioning away from a role as a low-cost manufacturer for the world; for enabling the economy to move from 'Made in China' to 'Made by China.'"
tsu doh nimh writes: Brian Krebs has a readable and ironic story about a phishing-as-a-service product that iPhone thieves can use to phish the Apple iCloud credentials from people who have recently had an iPhone lost or stolen. The phishing service -- which charged as much as $120 for successful phishing attempts targeting iPhone 6s users -- was poorly secured, and a security professional that Krebs worked with managed to guess several passwords for users on the service. From there, the story looks at how this phishing service works, how it tracks victims, and ultimately how one of its core resellers phished his own iCloud account and inadvertently gave his exact location as a result. An excerpt from the report via Krebs On Security: "Victims of iPhone theft can use the Find My iPhone feature to remotely locate, lock or erase their iPhone -- just by visiting Apple's site and entering their iCloud username and password. Likewise, an iPhone thief can use those iCloud credentials to remotely unlock the victim's stolen iPhone, wipe the device, and resell it. As a result, iPhone thieves often subcontract the theft of those credentials to third-party iCloud phishing services. This story is about one of those services..."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: An initiative, fronted by Danish law firm Njord and backed by known international copyright trolls Guardaley, made headlines when it began targeting the customers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget, the provider that was previously ordered to block The Pirate Bay. At the time it was unclear how many people the law firm had in its sights but the situation has become more clear following a recent legal development. Sweden's new Patent and Market Court, that was formed last year to handle specialist copyright complaints, handed down a ruling on Friday. It grants Njord and its partners the right to force ISP Telia to hand over the personal details of subscribers behind thousands of IP addresses, despite the ISP's objections. Telia says that although it places great value on its subscribers' right to privacy, complying with a court order is a legal requirement. In all, subscribers behind 5,300 Telia IP addresses will be affected, with claims that each unlawfully downloaded and shared a range of movie titles including CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal and September of Shiraz. All have featured in previous Guardaley trolling cases in the United States. It's not known how many of the 5,300 IP addresses Telia will be able to match to subscribers, or whether each IP address will identify a unique subscriber, but it's safe to say that thousands of households will be affected. "There is probable cause of infringement of copyright in the films in that they were unlawfully made available to the public via file sharing networks," the Court wrote in its judgement. "The applicants' interest in having access to the information outweighs any opposing interests, including the interest of the individual [subscribers] to remain anonymous." A Telia press spokesperson told SVT: "We believe that our customers' privacy is incredibly important, but now we must comply with this court decision."
Millions of records from a commercial corporate database have been leaked. ZDNet reports: The database, about 52 gigabytes in size, contains just under 33.7 million unique email addresses and other contact information from employees of thousands of companies, representing a large portion of the US corporate population. Dun & Bradstreet, a business services giant, confirmed that it owns the database, which it acquired as part of a 2015 deal to buy NetProspex for $125 million. The purchased database contains dozens of fields, some including personal information such as names, job titles and functions, work email addresses, and phone numbers. Other information includes more generic corporate and publicly sourced data, such as believed office location, the number of employees in the business unit, and other descriptions of the kind of industry the company falls into, such as advertising, legal, media and broadcasting, and telecoms.
From Pew Research's new report: More than a quarter (28%) of smartphone owners say they do not use a screen lock or other security features to access their phone. And while a majority of smartphone users say they have updated their phone's apps or operating system, about 40% say they only update when it's convenient for them. Meanwhile, some users forgo updating their phones altogether: Around one-in-ten smartphone owners report they never update their phone's operating system (14%) or update the apps on their phone (10%).
The Justice Department is set to announce Wednesday, reports the Washington Post, the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From the report: The indictments target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians. The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges have not yet been announced. The indictments are part of the largest hacking case brought by the United States.
According to Motherboard, a court of appeals in Washington D.C. ruled that an American citizen can't sue the Ethiopian government for hacking into his computer and monitoring him with spyware. "The decision on Tuesday is a blow to anti-surveillance and digital rights activists who were hoping to establish an important precedent in a widely documented case of illegitimate government-sponsored hacking." From the report: In late 2012, the Ethiopian government allegedly hacked the victim, an Ethiopian-born man who goes by the pseudonym Kidane for fear for government reprisals. Ethiopian government spies from the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) allegedly used software known as FinSpy to break into Kidane's computer, and secretly record his Skype conversations and steal his emails. FinSpy was made by the infamous FinFisher, a company that has sold malware to several governments around the world, according to researchers at Citizen Lab, a digital watchdog group at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, who studied the malware that infected Kidane's computer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Kidane didn't have jurisdiction to sue the Ethiopian government in the United States. Kidane and his lawyers invoked an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which says foreign governments can be sued in the U.S. as long as the entire tort on which the lawsuit is based occurred on American soil. According to the court, however, the hacking in this case didn't occur entirely in the U.S. "Ethiopia's placement of the FinSpy virus on Kidane's computer, although completed in the United States when Kidane opened the infected email attachment, began outside the United States," the decision read. "[It] gives foreign governments carte blanche to do whatever they want to Americans in America so long as they do it by remote control," Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group who represented Kidane in this first-of-its-kind lawsuit, told Motherboard.
According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rex Tillerson used an email alias of "Wayne Tracker" to communicate with other Exxon executives about climate change while serving as CEO of Exxon Mobil. "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been leading an investigation of Exxon Mobil centered on whether the company misled investors by publicly arguing against the reality of climate change even though its executives knew the science was accurate," reports Ars Technica. "The investigation was triggered by news reports describing climate research the company undertook in the 1970s and 1980s, which affirmed the work of other climate scientists and showed that greenhouse gas emissions were causing climate change. Exxon buried that work and spent the next couple decades claiming that the science was unclear, although it has recently publicly acknowledged reality." From the report: The e-mails that were provided allowed the attorney general to figure out that Tillerson used the account between 2008 and 2015 at least, but it didn't appear on Exxon's list of accounts for which records were preserved. The letter also mentions 34 other e-mail accounts "specifically assigned to top executives, board members, or assistants" that the attorney general thinks should have been included. In a statement, an Exxon spokesperson explained, "The e-mail address, Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com, is part of the company's e-mail system and was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." The Office of the Attorney General's letter claims that "Exxon has continuously delayed and obstructed the production of documents from its top executives and board members, which are crucial to OAG's investigation into Exxon's touted risk-management practices regarding climate change."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The makers of the We-Vibe, a line of vibrators that can be paired with an app for remote-controlled use, have reached a $3.75 million class action settlement with users following allegations that the company was collecting data on when and how the sex toy was used. The We-Vibe product line includes a number of Bluetooth-enabled vibrators that, when linked to the "We-Connect" app, can be controlled from a smartphone. It allows a user to vary rhythms, patterns and settings -- or give a partner, in the room or anywhere in the world, control of the device. Since the app was released in 2014, some observers have raised concerns that Internet-connected sex toys could be vulnerable to hacking. But the lawsuit doesn't involve any outside meddling -- instead, it centers on concerns that the company itself was tracking users' sex lives. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois in September. It alleges that -- without customers' knowledge -- the app was designed to collect information about how often, and with what settings, the vibrator was used. The lawyers for the anonymous plaintiffs contended that the app, "incredibly," collected users' email addresses, allowing the company "to link the usage information to specific customer accounts." Customers' email addresses and usage data were transmitted to the company's Canadian servers, the lawsuit alleges. When a We-Vibe was remotely linked to a partner, the connection was described as "secure," but some information was also routed through We-Connect and collected, the lawsuit says.
A security loophole that would allow someone to add extra steps to the counter on your Fitbit monitor might seem harmless. But researchers say it points to the broader risks that come with technology's embedding into the nooks of our lives. John Markoff, writes for the NYTimes: On Tuesday, a group of computer security researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina will demonstrate that they have found a vulnerability that allows them to take control of or surreptitiously influence devices through the tiny accelerometers that are standard components in consumer products like smartphones, fitness monitors and even automobiles. In their paper, the researchers describe how they added fake steps to a Fitbit fitness monitor and played a "malicious" music file from the speaker of a smartphone to control the phone's accelerometer. That allowed them to interfere with software that relies on the smartphone, like an app used to pilot a radio-controlled toy car. "It's like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words" and enter commands rather than just shut down the phone, said Kevin Fu, an author of the paper, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan and the chief executive of Virta Labs, a company that focuses on cybersecurity in health care. "You can think of it as a musical virus."
Germany plans a new law calling for social networks like Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 mln). From a report: "This (draft law) sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation on Tuesday. Failure to comply could see a social media company fined up to 50 million euros, and the company's chief representative in Germany fined up to 5 million euros. Germany already has some of the world's toughest hate speech laws covering defamation, slander, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, backed up by prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. It now aims to update these rules for the social media age.
From a report on BBC: A Facebook executive has admitted to MPs its moderating process "was not working" following a BBC investigation. BBC News reported 100 posts featuring sexualised images and comments about children, but 82 were deemed not to "breach community standards." Facebook UK director Simon Milner told MPs the problem was now fixed. He was speaking to the Commons Home Affairs committee alongside bosses from Twitter and Google as part of an investigation into online hate crime. The BBC investigation reported dozens of posts through the website tool, including images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When journalists went back to Facebook with the images that had not been taken down, the company reported them to the police and cancelled an interview, saying in a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation."
Justice Dept. officials say that details of a hacking tool used to access a terrorist's iPhone should not be released because it may still be "useful" to federal investigators. From a report: The government is fighting a case against three news organizations, including the Associated Press, which are fighting to release details of the hacking tool that FBI agents used to unlock a passcode-protected phone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Details of the hacking tool have remained classified, not least because the Justice Dept. believes the tool may could still be used by the FBI in similar cases. "Disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security as it would allow hostile entities to discover the current intelligence gathering methods used, as well as the capabilities and limitations of these methods," said David Hardy, section chief of the FBI's records management division, in a court filing released late Monday.