Monthly Archives: February 2016

LEGO Is Investing Millions To Ditch Their Oil-Based Plastics In Search Of Environmentally Friendly Alternative


LEGO’s toy dominance over the last half century has been built on petroleum-based plastics. The toy company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars 
dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials to manufacture LEGO elements as well as packaging materials.

By 2030, the Danish-based toy company says that their plastic bricks will no longer be made from the oil-based plastic in the 60 billion blocks LEGO produces each year.

Roar Trangbaek, press officer for the LEGO Group said,

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Lasers might push spacecraft all the way to Mars in just 3 days

This could be possible using a ‘photonic propulsion’ system, says NASA scientist Philip Lubin. A massive laser based on Earth would fire bursts of photons into the ‘sail’ of the spacecraft and accelerated it up to 26% the speed of light, which is unheard of in space flight. But that’s only for a tiny object with a 1 meter solar sail. Larger, more practical crafts, would be accelerated to between 1-3% the speed of light, which is still fantastic.

Spacecraft are launched from Earth by converting the chemical energy in rocket fuel into thrust. This process is inefficient, Lubin says, when compared to electromagnetic acceleration. This technology is currently used in research facilities to accelerate particles close to the speed of light. Transferring this technology that can achieve relativistic speed from the micro to the macro world has proven to be quite a challenge.

Lubin and colleagues have now received a proof-of-concept grant from NASA to assess whether or not a photonic propulsion system for long distance space applications is viable.

Though photons have no mass, they do have momentum and energy. Once these reflect of a receiver, which could look something like a very thin sail, some of that energy is transferred, pushing the craft. While this pressure is minute, the catch is that it builds momentum over time.


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How Meditation And Prayer Rewire Your Brain

Whether you see meditation or prayer as the gateway to enlightenment or just a way to stay more focused at work, one thing that’s certain is that the practice comes with a whole host of physical and mental health benefits.

But what’s behind those benefits has been less clear. What’s going on in the brain when we’re sitting silently and focusing on the breath?

For the fifth episode of Next Level Living, a 10-part HuffPost Originals video series on the science behind our everyday habits, we asked scientists about what meditation and prayer do to the brain and body to create benefits like reduced stress levels, improved sleep, and, for some, mystical experiences.

“The more you do a practice like meditation or prayer, your brain physically gets thicker and it functionally works better,” Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neurotheologist and director of research at Philadelphia’s Myrna Byrd Center of Integrative Medicine, said in the video.

continue to video and the rest of the article

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Police To Google: Make Our Site More Secure By Delisting It

Having trouble keeping your secure website secure? Why not try a DMCA takedown request?

Of all the things DMCA takedowns have been used for (mainly removing infringing material, censorship), I’ve yet to see one deployed as an ad hoc extension of a cop shop’s IT department.

The Idaho State Police would apparently like Google to forget all about its publicly-accessible login page for its evidence database.

We have a private login page that is not on any internet webpage. It is law enforcement sensitive and we are trying to minimize the attempts to hack the site. We would appreciate Google not indexing the site.

It’s still indexed, although you have to perform a very specific search to see it. The URL takes you to the login page for access to its LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) database. That’s it.


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A 74-year old man has attracted a lot of attention from across China over the last few weeks, for his incredible dedication to his surprising lifelong mission: counting all the bricks of the Great Wall of China.

Zhāng Ming-húa is the son of a melon farmer from the Gansu Province, who joined the Red Guards in 1966, when he was only sixteen years old.

In December 1968, in the midst of all the turmoil of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he met Chairman Mao Zedong and was given a rather singular and unusual mission He was asked to count the bricks of the Great Wall, in order to inspire greatness in modern-day Chinese by showing them the accomplishments of their ancestors.

Mr Zhāng has devoted his entire life to fulfilling his mission, and he has now almost completed his task. He has only 418.7 kilometers of wall left to count, out of a total of 21,196 km (13,171 miles), and hopes to finish in less than two and a half years.

He says he was honored to receive such an important mission and says his main concern in life is to be able to finish before he dies.


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Lawmaker who recited words of lobbyist took payday lender donations

Rep. David Scott of Georgia may have pulled back the curtain a bit last week on the impact of campaign contributions.

During a House hearing entitled “Short-term, Small Dollar Lending: The CFPB’s Assault on Access to Credit and Trampling of State and Tribal Sovereignty,” Scott, a Democrat, joined with Republicans in criticizing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is in the early stages of drafting rules to regulate some of the practices of the payday loan industry.

And with his attack — lifted a little too literally from text written by a lobbyist for the lenders — Scott was taking the side of an industry that has given him more than $72,000 since his election to the House in 2002. The bulk of that money was contributed during the Great Recession, which prompted lawmakers to develop the Dodd-Frank Act and rein in predatory lending practices to consumers. In 2008, as the global financial crisis came to a head, the payday loan industry gave Scott more than $17,000, as shown in the table below.


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Don’t teach “sensitive topics” or anger students, Houston professors are warned after gun law passed

Don't teach "sensitive topics" or anger students, Houston professors are warned after "campus carry" gun law passed(Credit: 9387388673 via Shutterstock)

“Be careful discussing sensitive topics,” professors at the University of Houston were warned in a faculty meeting about the new “campus carry” gun policy.

An unofficial forum of professors suggested that teachers may want to “drop certain topics from your curriculum,” and “not ‘go there’ if you sense anger,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

A new Texas law will allow people to carry concealed handguns on university campuses.

Jeffrey Villines, a Ph.D. student in the university’s English department, shared a photo of what he said is a slide from a “recent campus carry dialogue at UH, in response to faculty concerns about dangers from armed students.”
Reflecting on the presentation, Villines says “teachers cannot forbid firearms in class, or even ask who is carrying one.” He claims the school would be “fined $10k for violations.”

A spokesperson at the University of Houston stressed in a message to Salon that this slide was not created by the university’s Campus Carry Workgroup and “is not official policy.” The spokesperson also indicated that the university’s draft policy is expected to be released in the next week.


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Raw Honey Garlic Lemon Shots! Simple Recipe To Supercharge Your Immune System

Raw Honey Garlic Lemon Shots

1 lemon (preferably organic)
1-2 cloves of garlic (depends on size of cloves)
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of honey (preferably Manuka but at least Raw)

Step 1
– Cut a lemon in halves

Step 2 – Squeeze all the lemon juice out of one half and place in a small bowl. Keep the half you extracted the juice from for Step 6 (store the other half for later use).

Step 3 – Chop the garlic and it let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then add it to the lemon juice with the cayenne pepper.

Step 4 – Add the honey to the mix and stir all ingredients well.

Step 5 – Pour the entire mixture back into the lemon half (which you extracted the juice from in Step 2)

Consume the finished product in its entirety including all the lemon pulp. Hold it in your hand and cup it as if you’re holding a fruit. Repeat recipe in 4 hours with the other lemon half.

Viruses hate this information, so spread the word.


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Tangerang Mayor: Instant noodles can make your baby gay

Ok, we were just joking before, but now we seriously do think that Indonesian politicians are competing to see who can say the crazies, most scaremongering thing possible about LGBT issues. After Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu recently declared that the pro-LGBT movement was more dangerous than nuclear warfare, today we have Tangerang Mayor Arief R Wismansyah saying that feeding your baby canned milk and instant noodles might make them gay.

We wish we were joking.

Arief talked about the LGBT issue during a seminar on pregnancy at the Tangerang City Health Office on Tuesday. The seminar, titled “The First 1,000 Days of Life for Tangerang City,” was focused on the importance of providing proper nutrition for babies, especially in their first 1,000 days of life.


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Morgan Freeman Is Finally a GPS Navigation Voice

Life is full of questions: Where are we going? How do we get there? Who will guide us? Experience has taught us there’s really only one person we can fully trust for those answers: POTUS, Red Redding, and the voice of God himself, Morgan Freeman. And now he’s ready to firmly-but-gently give us the advice we so desperately need – as a GPS navigation voice.

Freeman is the latest celebrity voice to be added to Google’s free navigation app, Waze. So now you can rely on Freeman’s dulcet tones to explain that you need to make a left turn in half a mile to get to Starbucks.


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Mattel’s new ThingMaker is a $300 3D printer for toys

We’ve been waiting years for 3D printing to finally be simple enough for mainstream consumers — and now, it looks like Mattel might be the first company to make that happen. At NYC’s Toy Fair this weekend, Mattel unveiled ThingMaker, a revival of its 60’s era toy maker using modern 3D printing technology. It’ll also do much more than the original model: Instead of just spitting out fairly simple Creepy Crawlers, you can design complex objects like figurines, jewelry and accessories using the ThingMaker Design app, which Mattel developed together with Autodesk. ThingMaker will start shipping this fall for $300, and Mattel also started taking pre-orders today.


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Transcending Overpopulation With a Bionic Future

Recently, in response to the article, “Humai’s Vision of the World of Tomorrow,” I was asked an excellent question by Jaspreet Saluja; he asked: Why would the govt. want to allow HUMAI, given the unsustainable population that it will bring given that nobody dies?

This is a question that is asked all too often. It certainly has some merit to reality, given the constant bombardment of the topic by global media outlets. Unfortunately the conversation which surrounds the topic of overpopulation is flooded with both hype and misunderstandings.

So I’m hoping to address the question in this brief blog post, which will look at both overpopulation and how Humai’s vision of the future will actually address the problem forthright.

Population Bomb Myth

Firstly, one of the biggest misunderstandings about overpopulation is in the idea that it has everything to do with population size. Fact of the matter is that it rather has everything to do with the means of which we can accommodate the population size with available resources. Thus the fear of overpopulation has an unfortunate Malthusian side-effect to it — that is, the fear of overpopulation has a subsequent fear of losing resources.

This idea was originally devised by that of 18th century cleric and scholar Thomas R. Malthus. He believed that, as populations increase, resources will then decrease as a result. Even to this day neo-Malthusian scholars, such as Paul R. Ehrlich, have perpetuated this “population bomb” myth. What Malthus and his followers didn’t accommodate, however, was how science and technology would not only proliferate our access to previously acquired resources, but would subsequently develop newer resources which would replace one or more previous resource in both access and efficiency.


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Teacher Brings First Graders To Tears Over Brutal Lesson In White Privilege

You’re never too young to feel guilty for a crime your great-great-great-great grandparents may have committed…

A first grade teacher in Florida is under investigation for an unapproved, controversial “lesson on racism” that left some students in tears.

Parents are complaining about a “lesson on racism” for first grade students at Minneola Elementary Charter School the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in which the teacher segregated her 7- and 8-year-old student by eye color then discriminated against some for several hours, WESH reports.

The teacher, who was not named in media reports, gave students with blue eyes candy and hugs, and ignored students with brown eyes, according to WFTV.

“I think the teacher probably … intended good for it, but the only problem with that is that the kids being so young and not understanding the point she was trying to bring across,” parent Michael Ruffin told the news site.

Other parents were far more upset.

“It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard that a teacher did to teach a child something,” Lychelle Bland told WESH.


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Scientists create ‘nano-reactor’ for the production of hydrogen biofuel

Artist’s rendering of P22-Hyd, a new biomaterial created by encapsulating a hydrogen-producing enzyme within a virus shell. Credit: Indiana University

Scientists at Indiana University have created a highly efficient biomaterial that catalyzes the formation of hydrogen—one half of the “holy grail” of splitting H2O to make hydrogen and oxygen for fueling cheap and efficient cars that run on water.

A modified enzyme that gains strength from being protected within the protein shell—or “capsid”—of a bacterial virus, this new material is 150 times more efficient than the unaltered form of the enzyme.

The process of creating the material was recently reported in “Self-assembling biomolecular catalysts for hydrogen production” in the journal Nature Chemistry.

“Essentially, we’ve taken a virus’s ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas,” said Trevor Douglas, the Earl Blough Professor of Chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry, who led the study. “The end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as a highly sophisticated material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen.”

Read more at:

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China’s Curious Dream of Floating Nuclear Plants on the Ocean

The family of nuclear reactors found on the seven seas is about to grow—China recently announced plans to build a floating, ship-based nuclear power plant. Construction of the ship will begin next year, and if things go to plan, it will start producing electricity by 2020.

If you’re wondering whether that’s such a good idea—you probably aren’t alone.

chinese-floating-nuclear-plant-2But nuclear reactors at sea aren’t uncommon. The US Navy alone currently has around 100 reactors powering its submarines and aircraft carriers. However, the idea of floating nuclear reactors generating energy for uses other than powering their home vessel is relatively untested.

China isn’t the only country exploring nuclear power plants at sea.

Russia’s ‘Project 20870’ involves placing two nuclear reactors on 140-meter long, 30-meter wide barges. The plan would use these nuclear barges’ 300MWt (thermal energy production) or 70 MWe (electrical energy production) to power remote cities and industrial sites throughout the Russian Arctic.

Both projects might owe inspiration to the first ship-based nuclear power station, which was decommissioned in 2014. The American MH-1A, ‘Sturgis’, was constructed back in the 1960s and towed to the Panama Canal region, where it supplied essential electricity between 1968 and 1976.


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Couple sued after giving one star to company on Yelp

A Plano couple is facing a lawsuit for posting a negative Yelp review of a pet sitting company.

Robert and Michelle Duchouquette used Yelp to help them choose Prestigious Pets in Dallas to care for their two dogs and fish when they went out of state, according to KTVT-TV (Channel 11).

Michelle Duchouquette said she chose the company based on its positive reviews. Although she didn’t like some of the business’s policies, she said, she signed a contract because the trip was coming up soon.

Michelle Duchouquette left a negative review of Prestigious Pets on Yelp. She and her husband now face a lawsuit.

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The Yak in the Room a free spech documentary

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Fake hate: Muslim behind fabricated bomb threat at Dearborn, Michigan,

A woman has been charged with making a false police report after she allegedly fabricated a plot to blow up Dearborn Fordson High School to retaliate against the November terrorist attacks in Paris.

Saida Chatti was arraigned Thursday in Dearborn’s 18th District Court on charges of false report or threat of a bomb/harmful device, a felony punishable by more than five years in prison. Bond was set at $2,500.

Police say Chatti called Dearborn investigators Nov. 19, six days after Islamic extremists killed 130 people in Paris. Suicide bombers and gunmen struck a sports stadium during a soccer match, a theater during a rock concert, cafes and restaurants.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Chatti “contacted the Dearborn Police Department to report that an ‘anonymous’ friend had overheard a group of individuals at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi threatening to bomb Fordson High School in retaliation for the attacks in Paris,” according to a Dearborn police press release.


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Real Reason the FBI Wants a Backdoor into the iPhone

Jake Anderson

(ANTIMEDIA) The FBI versus Apple Inc. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object — the feverish momentum of American technocracy accelerating into the cavernous Orwellian entrenchment of the surveillance state. You thought the patent wars were intense? The ‘Battle of the Backdoor’ pits one of America’s most monolithic tech conglomerates against the Department of Justice and, ultimately, the interests of the national security state. And this case is likely only the opening salvo in what will be a decades-long ideological war between tech privacy advocates and the federal government.
On its face, the case boils down to a single locked and encrypted iPhone 5S, used by radical jihadist Syed Rizwan Farook before he and his wide Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino on December 2nd. The DOJ wants Apple to build a backdoor into the device so that it can bypass the company’s state of the art encryption apparatus and access information and evidence related to the case.

At least, that’s the premise presented to the public. As we are learning, the FBI and the federal government have a far more comprehensive end-game in mind than merely bolstering the prosecution of this one case.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted last week that “crucial details [of the case] are being obscured by officials.” Specifically, he made the following trenchant points:
Journalists: Crucial details in the @FBI v. #Apple case are being obscured by officials. Skepticism here is fair:
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 19, 2016

Now, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that there are actually 12 other iPhones the FBI wants to access in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to an Apple lawyer, these cases are spread all across the country: “Four in Illinois, three in New York, two in California, two in Ohio, and one in Massachusetts.”

With each of these cases, the FBI’s lawyers cite an 18th-century law called All Writs Act, which they say is the jurisprudence needed to force Apple to comply and bypass their built-in proprietary encryption methods. Is it any wonder the only case the public hears about is the one that involves terrorism?

While law enforcement authorities claim these 12 additional cases are evidence that encryption has become a major hindrance to investigations across the country, privacy advocates say it is, conversely, evidence that national security is not the only factor at play in the government’s desire to circumvent encryption. This is further evidenced by the fact that the government has been pressuring Apple to create iPhone backdoors since long before the San Bernardino attack.

Rather, information privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) say the push for bypassing encryption — specifically, compelling Apple to build a backdoor operating system — involves a large-scale campaign to use the threat of terror to overreach their legal authority, breaching civil liberties in the process. We saw this in the wake of 9/11, when NSA’s PRISM program conscripted Google, Microsoft, and Facebook in a covert data mining campaign to collect metadata from American citizens.


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Which Hairstyles Dominate Online Dating?


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A Bold Upstart With CIA Roots

WASHINGTON — In the burgeoning field of intelligence contractors, an especially aggressive upstart is Abraxas Corp., a privately held company that has assembled a deep roster of CIA veterans to handle a wide range of clandestine assignments — including secret work for an elite team of overseas case officers.

The company was founded by a group of former high-ranking agency employees, led by Richard “Hollis” Helms, a longtime overseas officer in the Middle East and onetime head of the CIA’s European division, and Richard Calder, who was the agency’s deputy director for administration.

In a radio interview last year, Calder said the firm was launched shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks by a group of retirees who felt spurned that the agency had not called to enlist their help. “We were all eager to do whatever we could do,” Calder said. But, he said, “the phone never rang.” Company officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The company occupies an unmarked, third-floor office suite in McLean, Va., two miles from CIA headquarters. It has mainly specialized in providing veteran operatives and reports officers for positions in overseas stations and at CIA headquarters.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, “they went and signed up all these retired, Arabic-speaking officers and sold them back to the agency on contract,” said a former CIA official familiar with the company, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That’s how Abraxas was born.”


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NIH to review its policies on all nonhuman primate research


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is about to take a closer look at the use of nonhuman primates in all federally funded U.S. research labs. ScienceInsider has learned that, in response to a congressional mandate, the agency will convene a workshop this summer to review the ethical policies and procedures surrounding work on monkeys, baboons, and related animals. The move follows NIH’s decision to end controversial monkey experiments at one of its labs and the termination of its support for invasive research on chimpanzees.

“This is great news,” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D–CA) tells ScienceInsider. “I’ve been very concerned about the ethics and oversight of primate research, and so have many of my colleagues in the House [of Representatives]. Members of both parties have been supporting this review, because there’s nothing partisan about animal welfare.”

Roybal-Allard and three other members of Congress first contacted NIH in late 2014 in response to a campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The animal rights group had run numerous ads alleging that researchers at an NIH lab in Poolesville, Maryland, were traumatizing baby rhesus macaques by taking them away from their mothers and addicting them to alcohol. Roybal-Allard and her colleagues asked NIH to conduct a bioethical review. NIH Director Francis Collins responded that an investigation had found no major problems with the research. Still, in December of last year the agency announced that it would phase out monkey experiments at the lab, though it blamed finances, not animal rights or congressional pressure.

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Tor Users Are Actively Discriminated Against by Website Operators

Computer scientists have documented how a large and growing number of websites discriminate against people who browse them using Tor.

Tor is an anonymity service that is maintained with assistance from the US State Department and designed in part to allows victims of censorship in countries like China and Iran to surf the web. New research show how corporations are discriminating against Tor users, in some cases partly because it’s harder to classify anonymous users for the purpose of pushing ads at them.

Many websites block access from the Tor network, either deliberately or because they are reacting to malicious traffic originating from the Tor network. One particular problem is that content distribution networks (CDNs) like CloudFlare are used by many popular websites and these very often block Tor users, occasionally to the surprise of website operators who enabled CloudFlare.

A (heated) discussion thread on the Tor website, involving the Cloudflare staff, can be found here.. El Reg’s interview with CloudFlare boss Matthew Prince on the controversy can be found here.

But the issue extends far beyond CloudFlare and affects surfers visiting popular websites using anonymisation software much more generally.

You’re not getting in with jeans

Tor users face various annoyances in their web browsing experience in general, ranging from pages saying “Access denied” to having to solve CAPTCHAs before continuing. These hurdles disappear if the same website is accessed without Tor.

The growing trend of websites extending this kind of “differential treatment” to anonymous users undermines Tor’s overall utility, and adds to the traditional threats to Tor, such as attacks on user privacy, or governments blocking access to Tor, etc.

Computer scientists tried to quantify these problems and answer related questions such as how prevalent anti-Tor discrimination might be and whether there is any pattern in where these Tor-unfriendly websites are hosted (or located).


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FBI Wants Apple to Create Software to Assist with Brute Forcing Password on iPhone

So… have you heard the story about how a magistrate judge in California has ordered Apple to help the FBI disable encryption on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters? You may have because it’s showing up everywhere. Here’s NBC News reporting on it:

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Apple to give investigators access to encrypted data on the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, assistance the computer giant “declined to provide voluntarily,” according to court papers.

In a 40-page filing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles argued that it needed Apple to help it find the password and access “relevant, critical … data” on the locked cellphone of Syed Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, California on December 2.

And you’d be forgiven for believing that the court has now ordered Apple to do the impossible. After all, for well over a year, the DOJ has been arguing that the All Writs Act of 1789 can be used to force Apple to help unlock encrypted phones. And that’s an argument it has continued to make in multiple cases.

Many people are now mocking this ruling, pointing out that with end-to-end encryption it’s actually impossible for Apple to do very much to help the FBI, which makes the order seem ridiculous. But that’s because much of the reporting on this story appears to be wrong. Ellen Nakashima, at the Washington Post, has a more detailed report that notes that Apple is actually required to do something a little different:


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Footwear forensics device could catch criminals

Imagine the scene of a household burglary or murder where the criminals have left no other evidence than a series of footprints on the kitchen floor. If the perpetrators were caught, would the police have enough information to arrest and convict them, or would they simply be allowed to walk free? My colleagues and I have developed a new forensic imaging technique for analysing shoeprints that could help police to identify the criminal in such a situation.

How could a shoeprint be so useful to a criminal investigation? Clearly, it would not be nearly as effective for identifying a person as their DNA or fingerprints. Shoe soles are rarely unique and aren’t inherently connected to a suspect. But each person does have their own style of walking or moving, known as their gait. This is because we each distribute our weight differently when we walk and so we wear down our shoe soles in different ways. So if two individuals were to wear an identical type of shoe, then over time they would each wear them down differently.

It is these differences which police forensic services hope to exploit when they find shoeprint evidence at the scene of a serious crimes. The hope is that by matching contact images of shoe prints obtained in custody with marks found at crime scenes, police will rapidly be able to identify or eliminate suspects in their enquiries.


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California Highway Patrol needed nearly four hours to catch a runaway ‘unicorn’

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Free robot lawyer that has appealed $3 million in parking tickets

Hiring a lawyer for a parking ticket appeal is not only a headache — it can also cost more than the ticket itself.

Depending on the case and the lawyer, an appeal (a legal process where you argue out of paying the fine) can cost between $400 to $900.

But with the help of a bot made by British programmer Joshua Browder, 19, it costs nothing.

Browder’s bot handles questions about parking ticket appeals in the UK. Since launching in late 2015, it has successfully appealed $3 million worth of tickets. robot lawyerJoshua BrowderJoshua Browder’s robot can help answer questions about parking tickets.

Once you sign in, a chat screen pops up. To learn about your case, the bot asks questions like, “Were you the one driving?” and “Was it hard to understand the parking signs?” It then spits out an appeal letter, which you mail to the court. If the robot is completely confused, it tells you how to contact Browder directly.

The site is still in beta, and the full version will launch this spring, Browder, a Stanford University freshman, tells Tech Insider.

Since laws are publicly available, bots can automate some of the simple tasks that human lawyers have had to do for centuries. Browder’s isn’t even the first lawyer bot. The startup Acadmx’s bot creates perfectly formatted legal briefs. The company Lex Machina does data mining on judges’ records and makes predictions on what they will do in the future.


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Abducted Teen Found Thanks to ‘Find My iPhone’

Joseph Boller   (Centre County Correctional Facility via NBC)

(Newser) – When an 18-year-old Pennsylvania woman went missing in East Stroudsburg on Tuesday, her mother used technology to help police rescue the teen. The unnamed woman texted her mother for help and told her she’d been abducted by her ex-boyfriend, NBC News reports. “The mother was able to track the victim’s cellphone by utilizing the iCloud [and] Find My iPhone app,” per the Pennsylvania State Police statement. Police found the woman 154 miles away in a car in a McDonald’s parking lot with her hands, feet, and mouth duct-taped. Joseph Boller, also 18, was arrested and charged with kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and false imprisonment, the Centre Daily Times reports.


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How 17th Century Fraud Gave Rise To Bright Orange Cheese

Shelburne Farms' clothbound cheddar has a bright yellow color because it's made from the milk of cows that graze on grasses high in beta-carotene.

Shelburne Farms’ clothbound cheddar has a bright yellow color because it’s made from the milk of cows that graze on grasses high in beta-carotene.

Courtesy of A. Blake Gardner

The news from Kraft last week that the company is ditching two artificial dyes in some versions of its macaroni and cheese products left me with a question.

Why did we start coloring cheeses orange to begin with? Turns out there’s a curious history here.

In theory, cheese should be whitish — similar to the color of milk, right?

Well, not really. Centuries ago in England, lots of cheeses had a natural yellowish-orange pigment. The cheese came from the milk of certain breeds of cows, such as Jersey and Guernsey. Their milk tends to be richer in color from beta-carotene in the grass they eat.

So, when the orange pigment transferred to the cow’s milk, and then to the cheese, it was considered a mark of quality.


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How Virtual Reality Could Soon Help Stroke Victims Recover

Doctors could soon start prescribing an unusual solution to help stroke victims in the US: virtual reality goggles.

That’s the hope of Switzerland-based MindMaze, which on Wednesday got a $100 million investment to bring its blend of virtual reality hardware and neuroscience to market. The four-year-old startup’s technology has already won approval from regulators in Europe, where its applications for brain injury victims showcase what could soon be possible in the United States.

MindMaze’s 34-year-old founder and CEO Tej Tadi explains how: Imagine a stroke victim who’s lost control of her left hand but can still move her right hand. After putting on MindMaze goggles, the patient sees a 3-D image, or avatar, of her left hand that moves as she moves her right hand.

“That triggers areas in the brain to say, ‘Wait, let’s regain control of this hand’,” says Tadi. “ The hand that was not working now works .” And that process of tricking the brain into seeing something that’s actually not there in the real world accelerates recovery, he says.

Already in use in Europe, virtual reality technology could be used to treat stroke victims in the US this year. Garo/Phanie Sarl/Corbis

This is the year that VR is set to take off. Almost every major tech company — from Samsung and HTC to Facebook’s Oculus and Sony — has either released a VR headset or plans to do so. Their investments, as well as those made by smaller but well-funded startups like Jaunt, NextVR and Magic Leap, are expected to change the way we play video games and how we watch sports, presidential debates, porn or a Hollywood movie.

The investment in MindMaze, led by multinational conglomerate Hinduja Group, underscores just how VR could shake up medicine. In fact, Hinduja’s nine-figure bet places MindMaze, a 55-person company, among the top three best-funded virtual reality startups in the world, according to PitchBook, a venture capital research firm.

“If there’s a short list of areas where virtual reality will be really helpful or usable, health care is on that list,” says Brian Blau, vice president of research at information technology research firm Gartner.

For Blau, who’s been studying virtual reality since the 1990s, the potential impact on health care makes sense. VR works by tricking the brain into believing what it’s seeing is three-dimensional and, often, lifelike. More than most other professions or markets, health care demands realism.


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Our Blood Can Change From One Drop to the Next

(NEWSER) – As doctors shift away from drawing vials of blood from patients and rely on lab-on-a-chip diagnostics that identify a myriad of conditions using a single drop of blood, there’s now concern that not all of your blood is equal. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology suggests “caution when using measurements from a single drop of fingerprick blood,” write researchers at Rice 360° Institute for Global Health: Our blood can change rather dramatically from one drop to the next. Researchers tested seven drops of blood from each of 10 participants and analyzed them for basic health metrics such as platelet counts and hemoglobin, and found a pretty wide range of results—so much so that they had to average the results from six to nine drops to rival the accuracy of a larger blood draw from a vein, reports the New York Times.


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Plane food sees pilot grounded by explosive undercarriage

Australia’s Transport Safety Bureau has published a study analysing incidents that incapacitated pilots in flight and found that gastrointestinal issues were the runaway leader.

The study only covers Australian incidents between 2010 and 2014, producing a sample size of 113 incidents at a rate of one each 34,000 commercial flights. Of the 113 incidents, 45 were characterised as “gastrointestinal illness” and 11 as “laser strike.” Other causes of pilot incapacitation included motion sickness, feeling ill due to unspecified “aircraft fumes (that new Airbus smell?), appendicitis and even “partial paralysis.”

Plane food caused at least one of the food poisoning incidents. A case study in the report records that “During pre-flight preparation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the second officer of an Airbus A380 ate a crew snack chicken roll and commented that it did not sit well. Approximately 8 hours after departure, the second officer was affected by severe diarrhoea and could no longer continue with their duties on the flight deck.” Another officer ate the same snack and also felt unwell, but was able to continue their duties.

Another gastro incident was caused by a pilot’s son, who had the malady and thoughtfully passed it on to his parent just in time for it to manifest somewhere between Australia and Fiji. On that occasion another of the airline’s pilots was known to be a passenger and was able to assume the stricken officer’s duties.


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‘Jeopardy!’ bans Canadians from becoming contestants

Canadians who know an unnecessary amount of random trivia are up in arms over a recent announcement that they are not eligible to take the “Jeopardy!” online test, which is the first step in becoming a contestant on the game show. This may result in host Alex Trebek feeling somewhat lonely, as he himself is Canadian.

If you go to the “Jeopardy!” website and look under the eligibility section for becoming a contestant, this is the second rule:


The ban is being attributed to a difference in internet privacy laws in Canada versus the United States. In an email to the Toronto Star, “Jeopardy!” spokesperson Alison Shapiro explained, “As international laws governing how information is shared over the internet are ever-changing and complex, we are currently investigating how we can accept registrations from potential Canadian contestants. The Jeopardy!


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GOP Says Right to Know What You Eat is Burdensome to Corporations

GOP Says the Right to Know What You’re Eating is Burdensome to Corporations

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement Friday on House passage of H.R. 2017, sponsored by Rep. Cathy Rodgers (R-WA) the so-called Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, arguing that it’s just too expensive to inform consumers, and showing once again that House Republicans don’t care about the burden – cost or health-wise – to the general public:

“The government should not be placing more harmful barriers in the way of hardworking small businesses. This important legislation would roll back the FDA’s burdensome menu labeling rule, giving American restaurants, grocery and convenient stores the flexibility they need to be successful. I commend Cathy for her work on this measure.”

Right. Calories? Who cares? Never more, if congressional Republicans get their way, will restaurant, convenience store, grocery store, and pizzeria chains, have to tell you what you’re eating. If you’re on a diet – especially when it is a medically necessary diet to you know, keep you alive – you’ll just have to take your chances and forget that night out or game-day pizza.

This is not about small businesses. There is not even a pretense that this is not a giveaway to big corporations who want to rake in profits at your expense.

Paul Ryan argues it’s only “common sense” that Americans don’t need to know what is in the food they’re eating. Apparently, being able to make your own choices is “burdensome.” But what else to expect from a party that thinks even having access to healthcare is burdensome.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) claimed in defense of this nonsensical piece of legislation that, “We have a classic example of the administration overreaching with a top-down, big government approach.”

Because a top-down, big corporation approach is so much better. At least the government wants to protect us while corporations just want to make money.


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Zuckerberg Claims More Facebook Sharing Leads To World Peace

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes the social network’s pluses go beyond even those lovely scenarios.

Speaking this week at a ceremony where he was receiving an award for entrepreneurial spirit from German publisher Axel Springer, Zuckerberg made an interesting claim.

“Facebook’s mission, and what we really focus on giving everyone, is the power to share all of the things that they care about, what they’re thinking about, what they’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “And the idea is that if everyone has the power to share those things, then that makes the world more understanding.”

As I look around the world, I’m not sure I find people terribly understanding at all.

Loathing seems to be even more dominant than fear — or perhaps the latter merely stems from the former. Sides are being drawn all over the world with such rigid certainty that soon there will be thousands of very high walls that need building.

Yet everyone’s on Facebook, so shouldn’t they have shown a little more careful thought about, and understanding toward, others by now?

Why hasn’t this happened?


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Nuclear Fruit: How the Cold War Shaped Video Games

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FBI ,Calls People Who Doubt 9-11 Story, Potential Terrorists…

The FBI is instructing local police departments and “communities against terrorism” to consider anyone who harbors “conspiracy theories” about 9/11 to be a potential terrorist, in a circular released to local police departments.

Screenshot from 2013-09-19 00 51 04-1

The circular thus adds 9/11 official story skeptics to a growing list of targets described by federal law enforcement to be security threats, such as those who express “libertarian philosophies,” “Second Amendment-oriented views,” interest in “self-sufficiency,” “fears of Big Brother or big government,” and “Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties.”

A newly released national poll shows that 48% of Americans either have some doubts about the official account of 9/11, or do not believe it at all.

The FBI circular entitled “Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Sleepers” says that people who should be ‘considered suspicious’ of possible involvement in “terrorist activity” include those who hold the “attitude” described as ” Conspiracy theories about Westerners.” The circular continues: “e.g. (sic) the CIA arranged for 9/11 to legitimize the invasion of foreign lands.”


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The false hope of free college

College affordability looms large on the campaign trail this presidential election, as candidates in both parties try to appeal to young voters and their parents, who are increasingly frustrated with runaway tuition prices. Bernie Sanders has attracted the most attention on this topic because he has been consistent on one promise throughout his campaign: to make college free.

The simplicity and universality of his message is reminiscent of a promise of free college from another politician more than two decades ago: Zell Miller. Miller was running for governor of Georgia in 1990, and he was worried that the best and brightest students were leaving the state for college and never coming back.

A Marine Corp veteran, Miller — along with his political consultants, including James Carville — hatched a plan, what they called a G.I. Bill for Georgia. The result was the HOPE Scholarship (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally), which would pay for tuition and fees at a public college in Georgia and partial tuition at a private college to any student who graduated high school with a B average. The scholarship would be funded with another centerpiece of Miller’s campaign for governor, a new lottery.


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Software Piracy Hurts Linux Adoption, Research Finds

New research suggests that software piracy has a detrimental effect on the adoption of Linux desktop operating systems. Piracy is one of the reasons why Windows has been able to maintain its dominant market position, making open source alternatives “forgotten victims” of copyright infringement.

microsoft-pirateIt’s no secret that the Windows operating system is one of the most widely pirated pieces of software in the world.

Microsoft is not happy with this fact as it costs the company millions in lost revenue, but new research suggests that Linux adoption is being hurt as well.

New findings published by Norwegian economics researcher Arne Rogde Gramstad show that software piracy significantly decreases the adoption of desktop Linux distributions.

In a paper titled “Software Piracy and Linux Adoption” Gramstad examines the relationship between local software piracy rates (based on BSA’s data) and the use of Linux as a desktop operating system, while controlling for potentially interfering factors such as the gross domestic product per capita and local anti-piracy efforts.


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Defenestration: The Bloody History throwing someone through a window


The origin of the term defenestration — the Latin word ‘de’ meaning ‘out of’ and ‘fenestra’ meaning ‘window’ — comes from an incident in Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), in 1419. A group of anti-Catholic rebels (the Hussites) marched upon the New Town Hall in Charles Square, demanding the release of some of the Hussite prisoners. When the request was refused and a stone was hurled at their leader, Jan Zelivsky, the Hussites angrily stormed the hall and started tossing the council members out of the windows.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the incensed mob gathered below the windows held up spears for the men to fall upon. Those that weren’t killed by the fall were hastily despatched with the spears.

200 years later, it happened all over again. Fittingly titled The Second Defenestration of Prague, the 1618 act was fuelled by the religious altercation between the protestant Bohemian aristocracy and the ruling catholic Hapsburgs, whereupon members of the former threw two Hapsburg regents out of the windows of Wenceslaus Hall in Prague Castle. Amazingly, however, they survived the 70-foot drop.


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