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Submission + - Soviet cover-up of nuclear fallout worse than Chernobyl (newscientist.com)

schwit1 writes: It was a nuclear disaster four times worse than Chernobyl in terms of the number of cases of acute radiation sickness, but Moscow’s complicity in covering up its effects on people’s health has remained secret until now.

We knew that in August 1956, fallout from a Soviet nuclear weapons test at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan engulfed the Kazakh industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk and put more than 600 people in hospital with radiation sickness, but the details have been sketchy.

After seeing a newly uncovered report, New Scientist can now reveal that a scientific expedition from Moscow in the aftermath of the hushed-up disaster uncovered widespread radioactive contamination and radiation sickness across the Kazakh steppes.

The scientists then tracked the consequences as nuclear bomb tests continued — without telling the people affected or the outside world.

The report by scientists from the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow was found in the archive of the Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME) in Semey, Kazakhstan. “For many years, this has been a secret,” says the institute’s director Kazbek Apsalikov, who found the report and passed it on to New Scientist.

More nuclear bomb tests were conducted at Semipalatinsk than anywhere else in the world during the 1950s and early 1960s. Western journalists have reported since the breakup of the Soviet Union on the apparent health effects on villagers downwind of the tests. And some recent studies have estimated radiation doses using proxies such as radioactivity in tooth enamel.

The newly revealed report, which outlines “the results of a radiological study of Semipalatinsk region” and is marked “top secret”, shows for the first time just how much Soviet scientists knew at the time about the human-health disaster and the extent of the cover-up.

Submission + - SPAM: Modified Gravity vies with Planet9 to explain Solar system structure- and fails.

RockDoctor writes: One of the serious contenders to the majority opinion Matter/ Dark Matter/ Dark Energy hypothesis for explaining the structure of the universe is the "MOdified Newtonian Dynamics" or MOND hypothesis in which the gravity field strength decreases not according to a 1/(radius^2) factor, but according to some other function of (radius), which would then explain the movements ("Dynamics") of galaxy-scale structures — the original evidence for postulating the existence of Dark Matter. This hypothesis dates back to 1983 — before the observations that prompt the Dark Energy hypothesis — and has been championed mainly (but not only) by physicist Mordehai Milgrom. While it is definitely not "mainstream" physics, it is certainly a respectable hypothesis.

One way to look for MOND effects is to look closely at the outer Solar system, where distances are larger than can be examined on Earth, but things are close enough for small effects to be measurable from Earth. And in a new paper published on Arxiv, people have done just that. The known "Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects" ("ETNO"s — closest separation from Sol outside Neptune's orbit ; furthest separation 150 ~ 1500 AU) are closely clustered in direction — the evidence that Batygin, Brown, Sheppard and Trujillo have used in the last five years as evidence for a ninth planet in the Solar system. (No, Pluto is not a planet. Unless you want it to be about 10th or 11th in a 100+ planetary system.) It was possible that the MOND hypothesis might explain the orientation of the ETNOs, so the idea has been examined in detail (paper) — and found it less than 1% likely to explain the observations.

MOND remains an attractive type of hypothesis to explain the observational evidence of the universe's structure without postulating major changes in our understanding of physics. But again, it has failed at the test of new data types. Which still leaves physics with no viable alternative to the Matter / Dark Matter/ Dark Energy hypothesis.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - EFF needs your help to stop Congress dismantling Internet privacy protections! (eff.org)

Peter Eckersley writes: Last year the FCC passed rules forbidding ISPs (both mobile and landline) from using your personal data without your consent for purposes other than providing you Internet access. In other words, the rules prevent ISPs from turning your browsing history into a revenue stream to sell to marketers and advertisers. Unfortunately, members of Congress are scheming to dismantle those protections as early as this week. If they succeed, ISPs would be free to resume selling users' browsing histories, pre-loading phones with spyware, and generally doing all sorts of creepy things to your traffic.

The good news is, we can stop them. We especially need folks in the key states of Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to call their senators this week and tell them not to kill the FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules.

Together, we can stop Congress from undermining these crucial privacy protections.

Submission + - NY bill would require removal of inaccurate, irrelevant or excessive statements (washingtonpost.com) 1

schwit1 writes: In a bill aimed at securing a "right to be forgotten," introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and (as Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella), New York politicians would require people to remove 'inaccurate,' 'irrelevant,' 'inadequate' or 'excessive' statements about others...
  • Within 30 days of a "request from an individual,"
  • "all search engines and online speakers] shall remove ... content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is 'inaccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate' or 'excessive,'' "
  • "and without replacing such removed ... content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice."
  • " '[I]naccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate', or 'excessive' shall mean content,"
  • "which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication,"
  • "is no longer material to current public debate or discourse,"
  • "especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information ... is causing to the requester's professional, financial, reputational or other interest,"
  • "with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester's role with regard to the matter is central and substantial."

Failure to comply would make the search engines or speakers liable for, at least, statutory damages of $250/day plus attorney fees.

Submission + - Canadian privacy czar examines border agency's searching of electronic devices (ottawacitizen.com)

wlssenatus writes: Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which has enforcement powers over federal agencies governed by the Privacy Act, has launched an investigation into the Canada Border Services Agency's practice of searching the electronic devices of travellers at the Canadian border. Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection searches have gone up by a factor of five over the past year (23877 Oct 2015-2016) and are increasing even more under the new administration, with 5000 in February alone. EFF reports that agents use a Cellebrite device to copy the electronic information for later perusal and analysis.

Submission + - Unproven Stem Cell Treatments Blind 3 Women (npr.org)

An anonymous reader writes: 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.

Submission + - James Comey: "There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America" (cnn.com) 1

Bob the Super Hamste writes: Last week, pretty recent by /. standards, FBI Director James Comey at the Boston College conference on cybersecurity stated:

While that quote in the article is taken out of context it is even more disturbing when taken in context. The included video puts the quote in context where Comey is arguing against widespread access to strong encryption with the public. There are other quotes included as well that are just as disturbing such as:

Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America... ...In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any one of us to testify in court about those very private communications.

Is this the "adult conversation" on encryption he was getting ready for last year.

Submission + - Lawmakers Try To Create Minimum Seat Size Requirement On Planes (consumerist.com)

AmiMoJo writes: A group of lawmakers Thursday introduced a pair of bills that would create a seat-size standard for commercial airlines, as well as a minimum distance between rows of seats. The text of the bill does not specify any dimensions for seat widths or legroom. Rather, if the legislation is passed, the particulars would be left up to the FAA to sort out. Though seat size may vary from airline to airline, Cohen notes that the average distance between rows of seats has dropped from 35 inches before airline deregulation in the 1970s, to around 31 inches today. Your backside is getting the squeeze, as well, as the average width of an airline seat has also shrunk from 18 inches to about 16.5 inches.

Submission + - Burkina Faso Weighs Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in Malaria Fight (scientificamerican.com)

omaha393 writes: A public engagement campaign is underway in the hopes of convincing Burkina Faso residents to allow the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat deadly mosquito borne pathogens. GM mosquitoes rely on a technology called "gene drives.” Different gene drives offer different solutions, typically leading to subsequent broods being sterile, predominantly male, resistant to infection or nonviable due to toxic traits. Researchers in this case are only in the preliminary stages of releasing sterile males but hope to begin wider releases of GM mosquitoes in about 6 years.
        Burkina Faso is not the only country to pursue GM mosquitoes in efforts to prevent disease. Brazil has become a testing ground for wide release, and last fall voters in Florida Keys approved measures to begin releasing GM mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika. Both the WHO and the US FDA have approved the technique, but skeptics are critical of the method.

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