Medicine

How the Sugar Industry Tried To Hide Health Effects of Its Product 50 Years Ago (theverge.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: About 50 years ago, the sugar industry stopped funding research that began to show something they wanted to hide: that eating lots of sugar is linked to heart disease. A new study exposes the sugar industry's decades-old effort to stifle that critical research. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, recently analyzed historical documents regarding a rat study called Project 259 that was launched in 1968. The study was funded by a sugar industry trade group called the International Sugar Research Foundation, or ISRF, and conducted by W. F. R. Pover at the University of Birmingham. When the preliminary findings from that study began to show that eating lots of sugar might be associated with heart disease, and even bladder cancer, the ISRF pulled the plug on the research. Without additional funding, the study was terminated and the results were never published, according to a study published today in PLOS Biology. The study in question investigated the relationship between sugars and certain blood fats called triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease. The preliminary results from the research, called Project 259, suggested that rats on a high-sugar diet, instead of a starch diet, had higher levels of triglycerides. The rats that ate lots of sugar also had higher levels of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase in their urine, which at the time was thought to be potentially linked to bladder cancer, says study co-author Cristin Kearns, an assistant professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry.
Bitcoin

$31 Million In Tokens Stolen From Dollar-Pegged Cryptocurrency Tether 38

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: All eyes may be on the meteoric rise of Bitcoin at the moment, but it's far from being the only cryptocurrency on the block. Startup Tether issued a critical announcement after it was discovered that "malicious action by an external attacker" had led to the theft of nearly $31 million worth of tokens. Tether is a dollar-pegged cryptocurrency formerly known as Realcoin, and it says that $30,950,010 was stolen from a treasury wallet. The company says it is doing what it can to ensure exchanges do not process these tokens, including temporarily suspending its backend wallet service. Tether knows the address used by the attacker to make the theft, but is not aware of either who the attacker is, or how the attack took place. The company is releasing a new version of its Omni Core software client in what it says is "effectively a temporary hard fork to the Omni Layer."
Security

Sacramento Regional Transit Systems Hit By Hacker (cbslocal.com) 24

Zorro shares a report from CBS Local: Sacramento Regional Transit is the one being taken for a ride on this night, by a computer hacker. That hacker forced RT to halt its operating systems that take credit card payments, and assigns buses and trains to their routes. The local transit agency alerted federal agents following an attack on their computers that riders may not have noticed Monday. "We actually had the hackers get into our system, and systematically start erasing programs and data," Deputy General Manager Mark Lonergan. Inside RT's headquarters, computer systems were taken down after the hacker deleted 30 million files. The hacker also demanded a ransom in bitcoin, and left a message on the RT website reading "I'm sorry to modify the home page, I'm good hacker, I just want to help you fix these vulnerability."
The Internet

FCC Will Also Order States To Scrap Plans For Their Own Net Neutrality Laws (arstechnica.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service. This detail was revealed by senior FCC officials in a phone briefing with reporters today, and it is a victory for broadband providers that asked for widespread preemption of state laws. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposed order finds that state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the U.S. government's policy of deregulating broadband Internet service, FCC officials said. The FCC will vote on the order at its December 14 meeting. It isn't clear yet exactly how extensive the preemption will be. Preemption would clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections. Pai's staff said that states and other localities do not have jurisdiction over broadband because it is an interstate service and that it would subvert federal policy for states and localities to impose their own rules.
Transportation

Uber Fined $8.9 Million In Colorado For Allowing Drivers With Felonies, Motor Violations To Work (jalopnik.com) 80

Uber has been fined by a Colorado regulator on Monday for nearly $9 million, after an investigation revealed that 57 people with criminal and motor vehicle offenses were allowed to drive with the ride-hailing company. Jalopnik reports: States across the U.S. have been considering laws to require additional background checks for individuals who drive for Uber and competitors like Lyft. In Colorado, the state's Public Utilities Commission investigated the company's drivers after an incident this past March, reported The Denver Post, when a driver dragged a passenger out of a car and kicked them in the face. The commission said it found 57 drivers had issues that should've disqualified them from driving for Uber, including felony convictions for driving under the influence and reckless driving, while others had revoked, suspended or canceled licenses. A similar investigation was conducted on Lyft, the Post reported, but no violations were revealed. An Uber spokesperson said the situation stems from a "process error" that was "inconsistent with Colorado's ridesharing regulations." The spokesperson said Uber "proactively notified" the commission. "This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action," the company said in a statement to the Post. "Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans."
Businesses

Why Apple's HomePod Is Three Years Behind Amazon's Echo (bloomberg.com) 78

Apple unveiled the HomePod, its first smart speaker to take on market-leading Amazon's Echo lineup of speakers, in June this year. Despite being three years late to the party, the HomePod has largely been pitched more as a speaker that sounds great instead of a device that sounds great but more importantly can also help you with daily chores. On top of this, Apple said last week it was delaying the shipment of HomePod from December this year to "early 2018." So why does a company, the market valuation of which is quickly reaching a trillion dollar, so behind its competitors? Bloomberg reports on Tuesday: Apple audio engineers had been working on an early version of the HomePod speaker for about two years in 2014 when they were blindsided by the Echo, a smart speaker from Amazon with a voice-activated assistant named Alexa. The Apple engineers jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together. They quickly deemed the Echo's sound quality inferior and got back to work building a better speaker. More than two years passed. In that time Amazon's Echo became a hit with consumers impressed by Alexa's ability to answer questions, order pizzas and turn lights on and off. Meanwhile, Apple dithered over its own speaker, according to people familiar with the situation. The project was cancelled and revived several times, they said, and the device went through multiple permutations (at one point it stood 3 feet tall) as executives struggled to figure out how it would fit into the home and Apple's ecosystem of products and services. In the end, the company plowed ahead, figuring that creating a speaker would give customers another reason to stay loyal. Yet despite having all the ingredients for a serious competitor to the Echo -- including Siri and the App Store -- Apple never saw the HomePod as anything more than an accessory, like the AirPods earphones.
Businesses

FCC Announces Plan To Repeal Net Neutrality (nytimes.com) 285

FCC on Tuesday said it plans to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. From a report on the New York Times: The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service. Note from the editor: the aforementioned link could be paywalled; consider the alternative sources: NPR, ArsTechnica, Associated Press, BBC, Axios, Reuters, TechCrunch, and Slate.

FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny criticized the move. She said, "So many things wrong here, like even if FCC does this FTC still won't have jurisdiction. But even if we did, most discriminatory conduct by ISPs will be perfectly legal. This won't hurt tech titans with deep pockets. They can afford to pay all the trolls under the bridge. But the entrepreneurs and innovators who truly make the Internet great won't be so lucky. It will be harder for them to compete. The FCC is upending the Internet as we know it, not saving it."

This is what the internet looks like when there is no net neutrality. Earlier today, news outlet Motherboard suggested we should build our own internet if we want to safeguard the essence of open internet.
Businesses

Apple's New iPhone Built With Illegal Overtime Teen Labor (bloomberg.com) 135

Apple's main supplier in Asia has been employing high-school students working illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X in an effort to catch up with demand after facing production delays, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing several teenagers involved. From a report: A group of 3,000 students from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent to work at the local facility run by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry, known as Foxconn, as part of a three-month stint that was billed as "work experience," and required to graduate, the Financial Times reported. Six of the students told the FT they routinely worked 11-hour days assembling Apple's flagship smartphone, which constitutes illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law. Apple said an audit did find instances of student interns working overtime, adding that they were employed voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but that they shouldn't have been allowed to work overtime.
Communications

To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet (vice.com) 173

In light of reports that FCC plans to announce a full repeal of net neutrality protections later this week, Jason Koebler, editor-in-chief of Motherboard, suggests that it is time we cut our reliance on big telecom monopolies. He writes: Net neutrality as a principle of the federal government will soon be dead, but the protections are wildly popular among the American people and are integral to the internet as we know it. Rather than putting such a core tenet of the internet in the hands of politicians, whose whims and interests change with their donors, net neutrality must be protected by a populist revolution in the ownership of internet infrastructure and networks. In short, we must end our reliance on big telecom monopolies and build decentralized, affordable, locally owned internet infrastructure. The great news is this is currently possible in most parts of the United States. There has never been a better time to start your own internet service provider, leverage the publicly available fiber backbone, or build political support for new, local-government owned networks. For the last several months, Motherboard has been chronicling the myriad ways communities passed over by big telecom have built their own internet networks or have partnered with small ISPs who have committed to protecting net neutrality to bring affordable high speed internet to towns and cities across the country. Update: FCC has announced a plan to repeal net neutrality.
Businesses

Trump Administration Tightens Scrutiny of Skilled Worker Visa Applicants (inc.com) 226

wyattstorch516 writes: The Trump administration is tightening the scrutiny on the H-1B visa program (Warning: paywalled; alternative source). Changes would undo actions by the Obama administration. There are two big regulatory changes looming that would undo actions by the Obama administration. "The first change allowed spouses of H-1B workers the right to work. That regulation is being challenged in court and the Trump administration is expected to eliminate the provision rather than defend it," reports WSJ. "The second change affects the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign graduates from U.S. colleges in science and technology an extra two years of work authorization, giving them time to win an H-1B visa. The Trump administration could kill that benefit or reduce the two-year window, according to people familiar with the discussions." The Journal highlights a "series of more modest changes that have added scrutiny to visa processing":

- "USCIS directed last month that adjudicators no longer pay 'deference' to past determinations for renewal applications. This means an applicant's past approval won't carry any weight if he or she applies for a renewal.

- The agency is conducting more applicant interviews, which critics say slows the system. The agency spokesman says this process will ramp up over several years and is needed to detect fraud and make accurate decisions.

- In the spring, the agency suspended premium processing, which allowed for fast-track consideration to those who paid an extra fee. This option wasn't resumed until October, meaning many workers who qualified for a coveted H-1B visa had to wait months for a decision.

- State Department officials have been told to consider that Mr. Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' executive order directs visa programs must 'protect the interests of United States workers.' And the Foreign Affairs Manual now instructs officers to scrutinize applications of students to ensure they plan to return to their home countries. A State Department official said the official rules haven't changed but said a 'comprehensive' review is under way."
Graphics

Google Cloud Platform Cuts the Price of GPUs By Up To 36 Percent (techcrunch.com) 28

In a blog post, Google's Product Manager, Chris Kleban, announced that the company is cutting the price of using Nvidia's Tesla GPUs through its Compute Engine by up to 36 percent. The older K80 GPUs will now cost $0.45 per hour while the more powerful P100 machines will cost $1.46 per minute (all with per-second billing). TechCrunch reports: The company is also dropping the prices for preemptible local SSDs by almost 40 percent. "Preemptible local SSDs" refers to local SSDs attached to Google's preemptible VMs. You can't attach GPUs to preemptible instances, though, so this is a nice little bonus announcement -- but it isn't going to directly benefit GPU users. As for the new GPU pricing, it's clear that Google is aiming this feature at developers who want to run their own machine learning workloads on its cloud, though there also are a number of other applications -- including physical simulations and molecular modeling -- that greatly benefit from the hundreds of cores that are now available on these GPUs. The P100, which is officially still in beta on the Google Cloud Platform, features 3594 cores, for example. Developers can attach up to four P100 and eight K80 dies to each instance. Like regular VMs, GPU users will also receive sustained-use discounts, though most users probably don't keep their GPUs running for a full month.
Software

Google Is Working On Fuchsia OS Support For Apple's Swift Programming Language (androidpolice.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report from Android Police: Google's in-development operating system, named "Fuchsia," first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time "Magenta" kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language. If you're not familiar with it, Swift is a programming language developed by Apple, which can be used to create iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS applications (it can also compile to Linux). Apple calls it "Objective-C without the C," and on the company's own platforms, it can be mixed with existing C/Objective-C/C++ code (similar to how apps on Android can use both Kotlin and Java in the same codebase). We already know that Fuchsia will support apps written in Dart, a C-like language developed by Google, but it looks like Swift could also be supported. On Swift's GitHub repository, a pull request was created by a Google employee that adds Fuchsia OS support to the compiler. At the time of writing, there are discussions about splitting it into several smaller pull requests to make reviewing the code changes easier.
AT&T

US Sues To Block AT&T Purchase of Time Warner (reuters.com) 62

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing AT&T to block its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. "The legal challenge was expected after AT&T rejected a demand by the Justice Department earlier this month to divest its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting -- which contains news network CNN -- in order to win antitrust approval," reports Reuters. From the report: AT&T's chief executive said then that he would defend the deal in court to win approval, and the company criticized the Justice Department's case on Monday. The lawsuit is "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent," said AT&T lawyer David McAtee, arguing that so-called vertical mergers, between companies that are not direct competitors, are routinely approved. "We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently," he said, adding that AT&T is confident a judge will reject the Justice Department's case.
Bitcoin

An Ethereum Startup Just Vanished After People Invested $374K (vice.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A startup on the Ethereum platform vanished from the internet on Sunday after raising $374,000 USD from investors in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraiser. Confido is a startup that pitched itself as a blockchain-based app for making payments and tracking shipments. It sold digital tokens to investors over the Ethereum blockchain in an ICO that ran from November 6 to 8. During the token sale, Confido sold people bespoke digital tokens that represent their investment in exchange for ether, Ethereum's digital currency. But on Sunday, the company unceremoniously deleted its Twitter account and took down its website. A company representative posted a brief comment to the company's now-private subforum on Reddit, citing legal problems that prevent the Confido team from continuing their work. The same message was also posted to Medium but quickly deleted.

"Right now, we are in a tight spot, as we are having legal trouble caused by a contract we signed," the message stated (a cached version of the Medium post is viewable). "It is likely that we will be able to find a solution to rectify the situation. However, we cannot assure you with 100% certainty that we will get through this." The message was apparently written by Confido's founder, one Joost van Doorn, who seems to have no internet presence besides a now-removed LinkedIn profile. Even the Confido representative on Reddit doesn't seem to know what's going on, though, posting hours after the initial message, "Look I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. The removal of all of our social media platforms and website has come as a complete surprise to me." Confido tokens had a market cap of $10 million last week, before the company disappeared, but now the tokens are worthless. And investors are crying foul.

Businesses

Dark Side of Gig Economy: Some Instacart Workers Go On Strike Over Pay That Can Be as Low as $1 Per Hour (fastcompany.com) 416

From a report: Instacart shoppers and drivers -- the people who gather your groceries and deliver them to you after you order via the Instacart app -- are on strike. While independent contractors can't technically strike, via a Facebook group some of the company's thousands of employees have organized a "no delivery day" in the hopes of getting higher wages, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The strike is only taking place in a few of the 154 cities nationwide that Instacart operates in. The action may be small, but the grievances are big. While Instacart, the 5-year-old San Francisco startup, is valued at $3.4 billion, it allegedly pays its workers as little as $1 per order. Ars Technica has a great breakdown of all the issues surrounding how Instacart employees get paid and it's complex, with three different income streams coming together Voltron-like to form a wage. The result, though, is that some shoppers are being paid less than the federal minimum wage, like a Jackson, Miss., worker who put in a 19-hour week in Jackson, Mississippi, that paid out $37.75 (roughly $2/hour). That's far below the $14/hour wage that Ars Technica says Instacart is targeting.
Firefox

Another Tor Browser Feature Makes It Into Firefox: First-Party Isolation (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Unbeknown to most users, Mozilla added a privacy-enhancing feature to the Firefox browser over the summer that can help users block online advertisers from tracking them across the Internet. The feature is named First-Party Isolation (FPI) and was silently added to the Firefox browser in August, with the release of Firefox 55. FPI works by separating cookies on a per-domain basis.

This is important because most online advertisers drop a cookie on the user's computer for each site the user visits and the advertisers loads an ad. With FPI enabled, the ad tracker won't be able to see all the cookies it dropped on that user's PC, but only the cookie created for the domain the user is currently viewing. This will force the ad tracker to create a new user profile for each site the user visits and the advertiser won't be able to aggregate these cookies and the user's browsing history into one big fat profile. This feature was first implemented in the Tor Browser, a privacy-focused fork of the Firefox browser managed by the Tor Project, where it is known as Cross-Origin Identifier Unlinkability. FPI was added to Firefox as part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to bolster the Firefox codebase with some of the Tor Browser's unique privacy-focused features. The feature is not enabled by default. Information on how to enable it is in the linked article.

Spam

Spam Is Back (theoutline.com) 149

Jon Christian, writing for The Outline: For a while, spam -- unsolicited bulk messages sent for commercial or fraudulent purposes -- seemed to be fading away. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act mandated unsubscribe links in email marketing campaigns and criminalized attempts to hide the sender's identity, while sophisticated filters on what were then cutting-edge email providers like Gmail buried unwanted messages in out-of-sight spam folders. In 2004, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told a crowd at the World Economic Forum that "two years from now, spam will be solved." In 2011, cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs noted that increasingly tech savvy law enforcement efforts were shutting down major spam operators -- including SpamIt.com, alleged to be a major hub in a Russian digital criminal organization that was responsible for an estimated fifth of the world's spam. These efforts meant that the proportion of all emails that are spam has slowly fallen to a low of about 50 percent in recent years, according to Symantec research.

But it's 2017, and spam has clawed itself back from the grave. It shows up on social media and dating sites as bots hoping to lure you into downloading malware or clicking an affiliate link. It creeps onto your phone as text messages and robocalls that ring you five times a day about luxury cruises and fictitious tax bills. Networks associated with the buzzy new cryptocurrency system Ethereum have been plagued with spam. Facebook recently fought a six-month battle against a spam operation that was administering fake accounts in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Last year, a Chicago resident sued the Trump campaign for allegedly sending unsolicited text message spam; this past November, ZDNet reported that voters were being inundated with political text messages they never signed up for. Apps can be horrid spam vectors, too. Repeated mass data breaches that include contact information, such as the Yahoo breach in which 3 billion user accounts were exposed, surely haven't helped. Meanwhile, you, me, and everyone we know is being plagued by robocalls.

Music

Stock Music Artists Aren't Always Happy About How Their Music Is Used (wired.com) 144

mirandakatz writes: If you're a stock music composer, you sign over the rights to whatever music you put up on a variety of hosting sites. That can get complicated -- especially when your music winds up being used to soundtrack hate speech. At Backchannel, Pippa Biddle dives into the knotty world of stock music, writing that stock music is 'a quick way for a talented musician to make a small buck. But there's a hidden cost: You lose control over where your work ends up. In hundreds, if not thousands, of cases, a tune becomes the backing track to hate speech or violent videos. Often such use violates the license the buyer agrees to when purchasing the track. But nobody reads the licenses -- and, more importantly, no one enforces them.'
Earth

Upsurge in Big Earthquakes Predicted for 2018 (theguardian.com) 87

hcs_$reboot writes: "Scientists say the number of severe quakes is likely to rise strongly next year because of a periodic slowing of the Earth's rotation," reports the Guardian. "They believe variations in the speed of Earth's rotation could trigger intense seismic activity, particularly in heavily populated tropical regions. Although such fluctuations in rotation are small -- changing the length of the day by a millisecond -- they could still be implicated in the release of vast amounts of underground energy, it is argued."

The theory goes that the slowdown creates a shift in the shape of the Earth's solid iron and nickel "inner core" which, in turn, impacts the liquid outer core on which the tectonic plates that form the Earth's crust rest. The impact is greater on the tectonic plates near some of the Earth's most populous regions along the Equator, home to about a billion people. Scientists from the University of Colorado looked at all earthquakes registering 7 and up on the Richter scale since the turn of the 20th century. In this timeframe, the researchers discovered five periods of significantly greater seismic activity.

The seismic activity follows a five-year period of slowing in the earth's rotatio, and "This link is particularly important because Earth's rotation began one of its periodic slowdowns more than four years ago," according to the article.

"The Earth is offering us a five-year heads-up on future earthquakes," says one of the researchers, adding "The inference is clear. Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes."
The Media

Net Neutrality is Essentially Unassailable, Argues Billionaire Barry Diller (broadcastingcable.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo Finance: The billionaire media mogul behind such popular sites as Expedia, Match.com and HomeAdvisor has a one-word forecast for traditional media conglomerates concerned about being replaced by tech giants: serfdom. "They, like everyone else, are kind of going to be serfs on the land of the large tech companies," IAC chairman Barry Diller said... That's because Google and Facebook not only have such massive user bases but also dominate online advertising. "Google and Facebook are consolidating," Diller said. "They are the only mass advertising mediums we have..." He expects Facebook, Google and maybe Amazon to face government regulation, simply because of their immense size. "At a certain point in size, you must," he said. "It's inevitable."

He did, however, outline one positive for Big Tech getting so gargantuan. Big Telecom no longer has the economic leverage to roll back today's net-neutrality norms, in which internet providers don't try to charge sites extra for access to their subscribers. "I think it's hard to overturn practically," he said. "It is the accepted system."

Even if the U.S. government takes moves to fight net neutrality, Diller told CNBC that "I think it is over... It is [the] practice of the world... You're still going to be able to push a button and publish to the world, without anybody in between asking you for tribute. I think that is now just the way things are done. I don't think it can be violated no matter what laws are back."

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